Fr Atanazij Kocjančič

Fr Atanazij Kocjančič

Kliknite za povečavo Fr Atanazij, Kristjan by the name given to him at baptism, was born in a peasant family at Hrastovlje in the parish of Kubed on 20 April 1911. His father was a tertiary himself and when his son was thirteen, he entrusted him to the Franciscans of the Venetian province in the monastery of St Anne. Then came the years of schooling, novitiate and studies in various Italian places. He took his solemn vows in the Franciscan order on 13 November 1932. In the monastery S. Francesco della Vigna in Venice he studied theology and also attended a two-year medicine course for missionaries. In the church of this monastery he was ordained a priest on 4 July 1937. On the following day he celebrated his first mass in the Capucin church with his friend and confessor St Leopold Mandić. The fascists wanted to prevent his first mass in his native village and so he could only celebrate it on 15 August 1937 at the chapel of Virgin Mary at Vzroček at the source of Rižana.

Several positions followed: Motta di Livenza, Gemona. He was very glad when he came to St Anne’s where he was religion teacher and hospital chaplain at Valdoltra. In 1940 he was first a medical military chaplain and then a chaplain to prisoners of war and civilian internees in Treviso, Padua and Monselice. Accusations were brought against him with the Minister General of the Franciscan order and he had to go to Rome to justify himself. He seized the opportunity to seek an audience with the pope Pius XII, to whom he described the conditions in the internment camps and asked him for food ration stamps. He received them and posted them to the camp because he was afraid the police would search him on the train and take them away. He was really searched but the ration stamps safely arrived by post. After the capitulation of Italy he moved to Pazin where he held several pastoral posts until 1947. In 1947 he was, though innocent, sentenced to four years of hard labour at Stara Gradiška. The reason for bringing charges against him was that he had prevented a public rally intended to prevent confirmation. Namely, when he had heard about the plans for the rally on Sunday, he told the candidates for confirmation, their parents and godparents that they should obligatorily turn out already on Saturday. The bishop’s delegate Jakob Ukmar confirmed the candidates already on Saturday and the rally planned for Sunday was cancelled.

When he returned from Stara Gradiška in 1952, Fr Atanazij asked to be transferred to the Slovenian Franciscan province that gladly accepted him on 7 April 1952. First he worked in the monasteries Ljubljana Vič and Kostanjevica in Nova Gorica. Then he was the rector of the Marian shrine at Strunjan and from 1961 on the first parish priest there. After a three-year intermediate period as confessor at Kostanjevica and Sveta Gora, he returned to the Littoral in 1968. He was at first a confessor and then the parish priest in Strunjan and the rector of the church in Koper, where he also moved in 1974. He lovingly cared for St Anne’s church up to 1995 when he retired to his cell due to illness. He continued receiving people and carrying out his priestly mission until 16 July 1996 when he was taken to the Izola hospital where he died on 29 August 1996 at the age of 85.

He was a simple, modest and humble son of St Francis. Following the example of his friend and confessor St Leopold Mandić, he tirelessly received the faithful and administered the sacrament of reconciliation. The celebration of the Holy Mass was for him the high point of the day. Nobody could ever hear him say any unkind word against anybody, not even against those who had unjustly sentenced him to imprisonment. He loved solitude, but enjoyed every visit. He loved poverty and was happy in his small and extremely simple room. He found happiness in serving and helping others. He never sought standing and praise. And he considered the illness he suffered during the last years of his life as the last grade in the school of the Cross.

He is buried in the tomb under the choir of his beloved St Anne’s church.

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