29 March 1922 – 1 November 2020. A Jesuit priest and long-standing Focolare member, he was a great educator and spiritual director.
Just before dawn on the feastday of All Saints, in the infirmary of the Jesuit Fathers in Rome, Fr Paolo Bachelet left for his Father’s House. He had celebrated his 98th birthday on 29 March 2020. Fr Paolo entered the Society of Jesus on 7 December 1941. He was ordained priest on 7 July 1951 and completed his formation with solemn final vows on 3 February 1958.
He got to know the Focolare Movement and the spirituality of unity in the 1950s while studying theology at the Gregorian University. Among his fellow students was Pasquale Foresi, co-founder of the Movement. Immediately a spiritual bond formed between them which never waivered. Focolare founder, Chiara Lubich “entrusted” a phrase of the Gospel for him to live in a particular way in his daily life, so that it could become his own Word of Life: “He must increase but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).
He welcomed the spirituality of the Focolare and became part of the group of religious men belonging to the Movement. For many years he worked in the regional seminary at Anagni, Italy, then in the University Chapel of La Sapienza in Rome. He was a great eduator and spiritual director. Many seminarians continued to turn to him for spiritual guidance even after they left Anagni, including those who later became bishops.
In the University Chapel of La Sapienza, where he lived from 1987 to 2003, he was much loved and sought after as a spiritual accompanier by both students and academics alike. It was a constant source of edifying spiritual enrichment to live a strong spiritual relationship with him. He had a great capacity to listen. He really knew how to set himself aside in order to fully welcome the other person. When he communicated what was in his soul with the small group of other religious men who shared the life of the spirituality of unity with him, he often commented that in many conversations he would find himself faced with issues for which he had no pre-prepared answer. This never concerned him, because he would always experience how the person who was confiding a particular problem, having been listened to discreetly and attentively by Fr Paolo, would find the light and answer within themselves. He communicated this as a fruit of the spiritual presence of Jesus in that moment between him and the person speaking, according to the Gospel promise Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them» (Mt 18:15-20). He was well primed in Moral Theology and Canon Law.
He had a special dedication to families. In the 1990s, together with a married Focolarino and other Focolare members, he was involved in the formation of the Separated Christian Families Association. He supported the association’s branch in Rome for many years until 2017, when he was transferred to the infirmary in Via dei Penitenzieri, Rome.
He followed the preparations and progress of the Synod of Bishops on the Family with close interest. And in fact some of his observations which reached the Synod General Secretary made their way into the final document, Amoris Laetitia.
We recall Fr Paolo as a spiritual son of Chiara Lubich and as a true brother sharing the Spirituality of Unity. He is surely continuing to follow us from heaven.
Fr. Armando Ceccarelli S. J.