Monday, May 27th, 1929.
It was on this day that the ninth child was born to the Canterucci family in a small house located on Scott Street in Niles, OH. It was a boy whom they named Anthony. Just a few months later, Black Tuesday would take place causing the Great Wall Street Crash and ushering in the Great Depression.
As young Anthony grew up he, along with the ‘Gang of the East End’ became actively involved in the local parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which was established and run by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
They served as altar boys in addition to helping with cleaning and other chores like shoveling walkways, simply as an act of obedience and out of respect for the priests which served in their community.
But, to this young boy who would often not have much to eat, if anything at all some days, something wonderful took place.
After he did all of the work that the Fathers asked of him, they would provide a meal, often hearty & warm and definitely filling.
This was amazing to young Anthony.
He did enter the seminary to become a priest but his health was a persistent obstacle. However, he was devoted and confident in his call to the religious life.
He became a Brother and over the years, realized that this was exactly how he was to serve God.
Being a Brother, as opposed to a priest, meant that he did not have a specific congregation to minister to or parish responsibilities to manage and with that, he was provided more latitude to travel and serve where he was most needed.
Being a member of the Precious Blood, who are missionary at their core, often means being called to the edges of society to act as ambassadors of Christ and witnesses for both the renewal of the Church and transformation of the world.
As a Brother, Anthony was able to do just that.
Initially, Brother Anthony would serve in his hometown of Niles, OH before moving on to serve in Chicago, IL and Rochester, NY initially working as a cook then concentrating his efforts on administration and youth ministry before finally heading to Rome, Italy.
In 1972, Brother came to St. Alphonsus Church in Toronto, ON.
Here he would begin the work that would act as the foundation for C.PP.S. Mission Projects as we know it today.
He would travel to different parishes and schools throughout Ontario and share details of how dire the situation was in Tanzania.
He would share how it was the vast majority that struggled to acquire even the smallest amount of the most basic needs, such as clean water, let alone have access to medicine that could save people afflicted with waterborne illnesses like typhoid, dysentery and cholera that often resulted in death, particularly among children under the age of five.
Beyond the woeful depiction of abject poverty, seemingly insurmountable without access to clean sources of water, proper equipment to till and irrigate lands so food could be grown, or access to education that could assist in creating locally developed solutions to the many other issues faced day in and day out by our brothers and sisters, was a possible and tangible way to help, even from a world away-to have us sacrifice a little so that others could have a lot.
Just as the Precious Blood priests provided a young and hungry boy with a simple meal almost every day, each of us can also give as we are able. When dozens, hundreds or thousands join together, those individual contributions create the means to actualize real solutions that transform lives for the better.
And so it was.
There was the first Starve-a-thon in 1975, where 120 students from across Ontario descended upon Catholic Central High School in London, ON in an effort to raise enough funds to buy a tractor-and they succeeded.
The following year, Brother took 17 students with him to Tanzania and thus, a tradition of lay missionaries traveling to work alongside our brothers and sisters in need was established.
Simply because, as Brother explains, no one can truly understand the extreme poverty, or just what not having access to clean water really is like, until one can see it for themselves. And the more people who saw it for themselves, the more people who could speak to it in an effort to share their experiences and build up the level of support necessary to help even more people in a broader capacity.
Over the next few decades, groups would sacrifice summers off and time with their family and friends to serve in the mission field. It was under Brother Anthony, who affectionately became known as ‘Bro’, that close to 200 Canadians traveled to Tanzania bringing equipment, delivering medicine, digging trenches, washing and folding linens in orphanages and leper colonies, building maternal health clinics, drilling wells, creating schools and more thanks to the incredible financial support that donors provided year in and year out.
Gradually the work was focused on providing access to clean water, and drilling deep bore hole wells to ensure that the community had a clean and reliable water source for many years to come.
Why water? As Bro says, water is the miracle of life.
When one has access to water, they have the ability to properly care for themselves and their families, they are able to grow food and not risk sickness and disease from bacteria laden water. They are given the gift of time and safety as a well which serves a community means there is no longer the need to walk for hours in search of water, sometimes twice a day, and with this, they are able to focus on other things, like getting an education or starting businesses that better support their families and contribute towards improving their community.
WATER IS LIFE!
For Bro, each act of giving on behalf of the donors and supporters here who had entrusted him with the means to help more than a million people over the years, is profound even after close to 40 years.
This is because each new well, each new student sponsorship affects the person or community receiving it for the first time in a manner that is profoundly humbling to experience-every time!
It was never about Bro as an individual, or even particular mission trip participants and dedicated volunteers. It wasn’t about the recognition gained from receiving the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award or the Presidential Medal of Honour from Tanzania. It was about serving those in need as Jesus taught us.
Yes, he was able to meet and befriend an awe inspiring group of people ranging from Pope Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, to Mother Teresa and long time and dear friend, President Nyerere of Tanzania.
But when asked what his most profound memory is over all the years, all the trips and all the people served, he goes straight back to one of his earliest experiences back in 1977.
A well had been drilled a few months before and on a return visit to check in and see how things were progressing, a nearly naked blind leper from the community approached Brother Anthony. Neither spoke the other’s language but through the help of a friend, they figured out that the man wanted them to follow him to his home. They did so, and upon their arrival the man proudly brought them to his garden.
Bro says he can still close his eyes and see the perfect rows, all lined up like German soldiers. Then, the man did something that still brings Bro to tears as he recalls it.
The man took two shillings and insisted upon giving it to Bro as a thank you for the well and the water which allowed him to have a garden that flourished and which provided food for his family and friends. Bro resisted. Pleaded that it wasn’t necessary. Brother knew it was likely all the man had, so he wanted him to keep it.
But his friend encouraged him to take the offering so as to honour the gift the man was trying to give; the seed he wanted to sow in order that others could benefit like him. So, Bro humbly accepted the two shillings but had to give him something, too. All Bro had with him was his rosary so, he gave it to the man who joyously accepted it.
Bro has many stories to be sure.
Rich and colourful tales spanning the spectrum of light and joy-filled to wrenching and profound.
Over the decades, there have been wonderful experiences, trying times and many challenges.
On every trip though, each was greeted with such gratitude and love. It made the times of lost luggage or delayed shipments of supplies worth it.
And Bro has a deep love for Tanzania, one that will never fade, as he says Africa is part of him. It’s in his blood.
As Bro celebrates his 87th birthday, and C.PP.S. Mission Projects, its 40th anniversary, a time of reflection is natural.
While Bro is now retired, the Mission Projects and the work that has been done along with the work which remains are always front of mind.
Essentially though, he knows that he along with the many who worked alongside him and steadfastly supported the Mission Projects, did all they could to care for their fellow humans.
We took what we had and shared it with others as God’s work was done, and continues to this day.
If you would like to share your stories about Brother Anthony or C.PP.S. Mission Projects or send a longer message to Bro, please do! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!