Brother Anthony Canterucci continues his work in Toronto and Tanzania

By 
  • April 15, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - What does it mean to be a religious brother in modern society? Plenty, if you ask Brother Anthony Canterucci, a man who has served the Missionaries of the Precious Blood for 60 years. 
Canterucci, now 80, continues his work with undying passion. When he first started his vocation as a religious brother in his hometown of Niles, Ohio, his work included an assortment of tasks including administration, youth ministry and cooking. But since 1976, Canterucci has been a key co-ordinator in the order’s mission work in Tanzania, working from St. Alphonsus parish in Toronto.
Serving as a brother, he has been able to dedicate a lot of time to fundraising, working with Tanzanians to drill wells and help create a lasting infrastructure there.
A brother’s vocation is often not well understood, Canterucci said. One of his first experiences with having to explain the difference between a priest and a brother happened with a Kindergarten student in Ohio while he was driving the bus for a parish-run school.
“So here I was driving the bus one day and a kid came up and said ‘why do they call you brother and Fr. Jim father?’ So I said because I’m a brother and he’s a father. Well, he went back to his bench but after a few minutes he came back and said ‘I know now — Fr. Jim had a baby and you didn’t.’ That was good thinking,” Canterucci said with a laugh.
Although few would likely make that assessment, many people may still fail to see the “excellence of vocation” in being a brother, he said. The most obvious difference is that he doesn’t celebrate Mass and does not have the parish responsibilities of a priest. 
“I have felt freer to be able to get involved in the many things that I have been,” Canterucci said. “I could never have done it without being tied down to some of the responsibilities of a priest.”
For one thing, if he needs to raise funds for the mission projects in Tanzania or prepare the next group of teens that will be heading overseas, he can devote entire days to it.
“I was free to go with the people. I could deal with poverty and all the ramifications it has. I was able to penetrate the community,” he said.
Canterucci still spends four months in Tanzania every year, spending the other eight in Toronto at St. Alphonsus. But his heart is often with the Tanzanians.
“Africa does something to you once it gets in your blood,” he said. “Once you go you just want to go back.”
Canterucci is currently looking forward to a trip to Tanzania in the summer of 2010, when he will bring his first group of young First Nations students from Yellowknife. Since a parent first suggested he involve students in the mission work nearly 30 years ago, he has brought dozens and dozens of groups over, but this will be the first time he is joined by First Nations people.
Canterucci said he tells all students preparing to go on mission that many people just don’t have the will to solve problems like poverty or substance abuse, but they have the means. Whereas in developing countries, they have the will but don’t have the means.
“This is what we want to teach youth — it’s that if you don’t become part of the problem, you become part of the solution,” he said.
And being part of the solution has led him, with help from so many people, to purchase tractors for Tanzanian farmers, to help develop medical facilities, to fund the construction of schools, to send food, clothing and medical supplies and of course to build wells and the windmills that run them. 
Instead of just supplying goods and missionaries to do the work, Canterucci said he is proud to say they work with the local people, teaching them how the systems work and how to keep them operational. Of the wells drilled in the past 30 years, he added, all are still functional today — with the exception of one or two that have dried up beyond their control.

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