the historybeginnings and growth of the community
The young adult group was made up of close to one hundred college students, most of which are lacking any sort of Christian formation. As a method of approach, Fr. Salvatore decided to choose a few students to invest in: those who were more open and available. To them he would offer more intensive formation, giving them the tools to grow spiritually and in turn to help their friends who were further away. It is during this period that Fr. Salvatore met a young Susan Pieper, who decided to begin spiritual direction with him out of curiosity. “I walked into that first meeting as one person, and came out entirely another,” recounts Susan. For the first time in her life she discovered that the purpose of her life was to become holy, and that this beautiful goal could be accomplished with the grace offered by God.
As she continued spiritual direction with Fr. Salvatore, the vocational question emerged. Is God calling me to consecrate my life? Convicted that she was, she and Fr. Salvatore began to discuss the dream that the Italian priest had cultivated in his heart for all these years. However, Fr. Salvatore’s time in the US was coming quickly to a close. Susan realized that following this dream would mean leaving everything: family, friends, nation, language, and financial security, in order to follow this priest and found a community that didn’t exist. After praying much about it, Susan decided to accept, despite the understandable negative reaction of her family.
In the spring of 1980 Susan moved to Rome to begin this new adventure. The evening before her arrival, Fr. Salvatore manages to find her accommodation with an elderly woman in need of company. For two years Susan adapts to this kind of lifestyle, changing family according to necessity. In the meantime she enrolls in the department of Philosophy at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), where she would receive a bachelors and masters’ degree in Moral Theology. A few months after her arrival she meets Tiziana, a seventeen-year-old girl who had just happened to stop in her parish one day. A friendship was immediately born. After her high school graduation, Tiziana decided to join Susan. She enrolled in Philosophy and Theology with a heart full of desire to serve the Lord in this mission.
Slowly a group of friends formed around these two courageous girls. In 1984, Tiziana joined. In 1989, Simona P. and Loredana, the youngest sister of Tiziana, joined, officially forming the foundation of the community on April 12, 1990 (Holy Thursday) at the Church of San Silvestro at the Catacombs of Priscilla. Already busy evangelizing among the streets of Rome, the nascent community also began other forms of apostolate, such as parish missions. In Rome a small group of married couples was born, who periodically met together to reflect on the word of God. The first benefactors also arrived; the community, in fact, desired to live solely on divine providence in order to dedicate themselves freely and completely to this work of evangelization. Fr. Salvatore acquired for them their first “convent”: an apartment that he bought for them with his own savings. Eventually, this one was sold to acquire another apartment in the Olympic Village, the quarter of Rome in which the community still resides today.
Since then God’s providence has opened the door for the Apostles of the Interior Life to be present on college campuses in the United States, including the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL; the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS; the University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI; and Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. In response to the growing interest of many lay people to share in this charism, in 2009 a Provincial House was established in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, KS, to assist the recently formed movement “Collaborators of Your Joy”.
The fruitfulness of this charism has also brought in recent years to the founding of the male branch of the Apostles of the Interior Life. In June 2012 the first five brothers were ordained to the Priesthood, thus bringing to fulfillment Father Salvatore’s inspiration to form priests that could be exclusively committed to evangelization, spiritual direction and the ministry of sacraments.