"When I suffer most, my thoughts were for all of you. I offered my sufferings to Jesus crucified for the sanctification and development of the SFP Congregation and the Associates."
Antonino (Nino) Cama was an Associate since 1994. He was married to Associate Graziella Frisone, and was the father of two daughters: Maria Letizia and Alessandra. Nino was Engine Director on the Ferries in Messina. He lived there with his family.
The Cama family met the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor at Saint Catherine Parish when his daughters were attending a CCD class taught by Sr. Beata Nigro. They became closer to the SFPs when their second daughter, Alessandra, spent time at the SFP Youth Center. Nino described his initial impression in a letter: “I was attracted by the Sisters’ charism of ‘healing the wounds of Christ Crucified in the poor,’ by their simple lifestyle, as strangers and poor just like the early Christians, and by the way they treated other people.”
In the following years there we deepened our relationships: sharing the life of Santa Chiara Community in Messina; attending Associate gatherings and Area Assemblies. Nino participated with great joy and felt these events contributed to what he called ‘his conversion’ – a time when he deepened his relationship with God’s Word.
In 1994-1995 Nino became sick and lived his illness with great faith. He said, “I didn’t feel my illness as a punishment. It was a gift from God because it made me reflect and put order in my soul, allowing me to face suffering with serenity. Faith in God and the intercession of Mother Frances healed me physically and, above all, spiritually.”
With this in his soul, Nino made his Permanent Covenant on December 8, 1995, saying “I am happy to be a part of the family of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and renew my covenant with you forever in Christ our Lord.”
Nino faithfully attended the Associate formation gatherings where he found great help, especially in the meditations on God’s word. He said: “My journey of conversion seemed difficult in the beginning. However, today I experience that by doing God’s will everything is easier. In my life I see that God the Father is infinitely good and makes everything work for the good of those who love Him.” Nino attended the Liturgy with great faith and devoted a large part of his day to prayer. He was especially devoted to Mary, Mother of all Graces. He felt he was her child, and asked her to help him live as an authentic Christian.
The period of his illness was also a time of test. In 1998 Nino said, “During this time I have found comfort in the faith that God the Father, who is Love and Mercy, has graciously given to me. In the beginning I found it hard to pray. Then, one Saturday afternoon during the Liturgy, a priest said that the prayer that is most pleasing to God is suffering. This comforted me. My illness has made me grow. Something has changed within me. I have discovered a deeper reality and have learned to reflect and contemplate. I have found the very heart of life – love and being loved. This has given me a deep sense of fulfillment and a more authentic faith.”
In his covenant, Nino expressed the desire to “. . . live our charism fully and forever, offering and praying for all the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, new vocations and for the poor.” He did this during his eighteen years as an Associate, especially in the last part of his life.
In his letters he always thanked from the bottom of his heart the Sisters and the Associates for their prayers for his healing. He often said, “When I suffer most, my thoughts were for all of you. I offered my sufferings to Jesus crucified for the sanctification and development of the SFP Congregation and the Associates.” Nino felt that the Franciscan family had given him a priceless gift, that of fraternity and unity. It is about this unity in the “Franciscan family” that he spoke at the end.
Nino’s final time of illness was for him an experience of special grace, intense prayer, abandonment to God’s will and the offering and giving of himself into the hands of God and Mary. He was constantly assisted by his wife Graziella. Nino expressed gratitude and care for her and all those who loved him. In his last days, when it was impossible for him to see all the people who were dear to him, his grandchildren found a way to make him feel their presence by sending him a phrase from the Prophet Isaiah written on a star, “Have courage! Do not be afraid. Your God is coming to save you” (Isaiah 35:4). These are the last words Nino lived by on this earth and the words that were later placed upon his coffin.
Thank you, Nino, you have been a dear brother that the Lord put along our way! Thank you because your life has been for us a luminous witness of faith and goodness!
Written by the Italian Area