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FRA DIEGU BONANNO Institute Founder

Gioacchino Bonanno was born in 1831 in Valletta and had a fairly good education for his day. He had just finished a tailor apprenticeship but felt the calling for a religious life. In 1858 at twenty-five he entered the Tertiary Order of St.Francis, and four years later he joined the Order of Friars Minor (Ta Giezu) as a lay-brother, taking solemn vows and the name of Diegu.

He was assigned to walk the streets asking for alms for his convent, and here Fra Diegu became aware of the needs around him. In 1860, following an incident in St.Julians, he asked for and was granted permission to begin to look for destitute girls, taking them in the shelter of a home he set up at Cospicua.

At this stage he also started work among orphan girls who begged for a living. In 1885 he opened another small house for them at Balzan under the care of his sister Giovanna Marmara. For the girls in these shelters Fra Diegu used to provide food and also dowries, all this from what he collected from benefactors.

With the ever-increasing numbers to care for, Diegu opened a shelter in Hamrun made up of two adjacent houses. He called it Institute of St.Francis of Assisi and the buildings gave service for a number of years. Meantime, the institute, because of the popularity of the founder, became more popularly known as Fra Diegu Institute.

Between 1898 and 1905, beautiful and spacious new premises on the plan of architect Lupi, were built in Villambrosa str. through the generosity of Marquis Joseph Scicluna. This edifice, which is still in use, has a large imposing iron gate as an entrance into a spacious garden through which the building is accessed. Nowadays, because of the size of the facilities, special parties for underprivileged children are sometimes organized and held here by philanthropic groups or companies. Fra Diegu Bonanno did not see the new institute ready because he died two years before it was finished on the 14th May 1902 and was taken privately to the Franciscan motherhouse.

On the occasion of his burial in the Franciscan church at Ta Giezu in Rabat, the most senior of the priests of the order carried the coffin.

On the 16th October 1932, a statue of Fra Diegu made by Censu Apap was unveiled in the middle of St.Paul Square Hamrun in the presence of the Archbishop, Governor, clergy and other dignitaries. The St.Joseph Band Club played A special hymn composed by Mro C.Camilleri for the occasion.

ANTON BUTTIGIEG Poet, President of Malta

Born in Qala Gozo on the 19th February 1912, he was educated at the local Government Primary School, the Gozo Seminary, St.Aloysius College Malta and the University of Malta, where he graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1934 and Doctor of Laws in 1940. In 1944 he married Carmen Bezzina and they had three children. In 1953, after her death, he married Connie Scicluna. His poetry seems to reflect the tragedies of the deaths of his first two wives. In 1975 he married Margery Patterson.

Since his University days Dr.Anton Buttigieg also distinguished himself in the field of Maltese literature. He was one of the founding members of the University Students Ghaqda tal-ilsien Malti. He was also a Member of the Akkademja tal-Ilsien Malti among many other illustrious writers and in the 1970s he won a multitude of awards and distinctions for his poetry and cultural involvements. From the 1940s through the 1970s he published a great number of collections of poems he had written.

During the WWII he served as Inspector in the Police Force and after that he practiced Law. In 1955 he also served as an acting Magistrate. He was the Law reporter and leading writer of the Times of Malta in the 1940s and the Editor of The Voice of Malta from 1959 to 1970. He embarked on a political career and was first elected to the House of Representatives in the Labour Party in 1955.

He was re-elected in all subsequent elections and held a seat in Parliament up to the time of his resignation in October 1976 to become the second President of the Republic of Malta, a post which he kept till 1981. During his political career he occupied the positions of President, Deputy Leader, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Affairs within the Malta Labour Party. From the 1950s right through the time of his becoming President of the Republic, he represented Malta abroad as delegate to the Malta Constitutional Conferences in London and was also a representative to the Consultative Assembly in the Council of Europe where he was elected Vice-President.

Dr.Anton Buttigieg was also President of the St.Cajetan Band Club of Hamrun for a number of years and lived in Hamrun. Around 2006 the presidency of the band club was in the hands of his son.

Dr.Anton Buttigieg died on the 5th May, 1983. Exactly two years later to the day, a monument for his honour was unveiled at Blata l-Bajda. This is the work of the sculptor Anton Agius and was cast in bronze in Italy by the company Luigi Tommasi of Lucca

ORESTE KIRKOP Tenor

Born in Hamrun on the 26th July 1923, he made his operatic debut on the 24th February 1945 at the Radio City Opera House, Hamrun in Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni in the part of Turiddu. Up to 1950 he sung leading tenor roles with Maltese and visiting Italian opera companies. During this time, his repertoire was 10 operas among which was a Maltese opera Il figlio del sole. He also appeared in concert with Tito Gobbi and Maria Caniglia in 1949/1950. After starting his career overseas in 1950 and increasing his repertoire, he became the leading tenor and the first Maltese to sing a major principal role at the Covent Garden Royal Opera House, London between 1954 and 1958. During this time in 1953, he represented Malta for the Coronation Commonwealth Gala and then in 1956 - 1957 he was a guest star at the Hollywood Bowl concerts in Los Angeles.

For some, his title role in Hollywood's musical movie The vagabond king was the peak of his career, but for others it seems to have been its ruin. For a little while between 1957 and 1958 he was the leading tenor of the NBC Opera Company, New York and toured some of the major cities of the U.S. Here he also appeared on shows and as the Duke in the first Rigoletto on T.V. He retired in Malta in 1960.

Writing in Opera magazine, music critic Harold Rosenthal said "The Maltese tenor Oreste Kirkop proved himself to be a singer of real merit. Good tenors are scarce everywhere and worth their weight in gold. Not since Gigli's appearance in Cavaradossi's role, has this been so beautifully sung." In 1979, Malta's state radio won an international competition "Portrait of a Prominent Performing Artist." featuring the career of Oreste and in March of that year, Oreste was honoured by the Malta Society of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce, and presented with a Gold Medal. In 1996 a double CD album containing 41 tracks of opera and song sung by Oreste Kirkop was issued in Malta. He died on the 10th May 1998 and soon a monument in his honour in the form of his bust was raised in the Schembri Street area. The area was refurbished in 2010 and a small public garden erected in his name.

A bronze bas-relief of Oreste Kirkop was unveiled in 2006 in the Manoel Theatre courtyard at Valletta. He is shown in the role of the duke in Rigoletto. Minister Dr.Zammit Dimech said that Malta's history revolves around characters like Oreste who dedicated their lives to art and music. "Due to their culture, the Maltese distinguished themselves from personalities from other countries," he said.

MRO.CHARLES CAMILLERI Composer and Conductor

Born on the 7th September 1931 in Hamrun, he started improvising on the piano at an early age and then composing pieces.
He always had music in his house, his mother playing the guitar, and the rest being quite musical. He wanted to be creative and not just play the music of someone else, something which his parents thought rebellious and often got him into trouble with his piano teacher. His early childhood was spent practicing the piano and being told off for daring to "rearrange" Mozart or Beethoven.

He had his break when he was eleven when he was allowed to compose his first piece. The result was a lively festa march which was played at the village feast and for which he was paid the sum of $4. Both his mother and father were scared that the teenager would abandon his academic studies in favour of music. Frequently his father used to give away his piano, hoping to discourage him, but his mother would always rent it back while his father was away on business.
At least his father succeeded in persuading him to complete his academic studies at the Lyceum before dedicating his life to music. At the Lyceum he would spend most of his allowance on biographies of well-known composers, which made him all the more eager to follow suit. The young Charles accompanied the family on business trips to Tunis and it was there that he first became acquainted with Eastern folk music. On a trip to London with the school, he listened to the music at the Royal Albert Hall and here he made the firm decision that his life would take a musical direction. His eighteenth birthday was a turning point, when the whole family emigrated to Australia, which at the time lacked everything in the art of music.

Two years here were more than enough for him and at 20 he left for London on his own. There he met Harold Fielding the impresario and ended up spending some five years touring theatres there. He composed, conducted and managed to integrate himself in the musical circle getting to know the right people.

In his mid-twenties he flew off to North America, graduated from the University of Toronto in composition, was asked to do some programmes there and spent what he described as the most exciting 10 years of his life conducting, writing film scores, and being appointed conductor with CBC, earning good money. Even so, around 1965 he decided to quit and dedicate the rest of his life to composition. He went back to London, where he was introduced to Basil Ramsey of Novello publications and Bernard Hermann the composer. He was signed up with them as a composer and from then on dedicated himself full time to this art, traveling from London to Malta and other countries.

His compositions number over 300, of which half are recorded on CDs and sold all over the world. His family too has caught some of his enthusiasm because his wife Doris is an established writer, his daughter Anya works in the movie industry while his son Charles became a composer in his own right. Prof.Camilleri nowadays lived both in London and Malta and traveled extensively.

His work has been performed throughout the world and the list includes Piano Improvisation books, Piano Sonatinas, a Brass Quintet, his now famous Malta Suite, his Maltese Dances, a Maltese Overture Din l-Art Helwa, operas in Maltese, a ballet based on the Knights of Malta and over 100 works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, voice and solo instruments. His latest composition is Dun Gorg, an oratorio honouring the now Saint George Preca and has lyrics by Oliver Friggieri. It is similar to his other Oratorio Pawlu ta Malta though with some distinctive differences.

He died on 3 January 2009 at the age of 77. His funeral took place two days later at Naxxar, his long-time town of residence.

EGIDIO LAPIRA Dentist

He was born in Hamrun 16th February 1897. He studied at the Lyceum and Dentistry at the Universities of Malta and Rome. In 1925 he was the first Maltese dentist working and teaching at the General hospital. He later became head of the faculty of Dentistry and was one of the founders of the Association of Dentists. He was serving at the military hospital through both World Wars. He was honoured by a D.SC. Honoris Causa by the University of Malta and later with the Order of the British Empire. Egidio Lapira died on the 8th December 1970.

Clergy

Gaetano Pace Forno Bishop

He left his indellible mark on Hamrun by giving it a Patron Saint of his namesake. We have dwelt on the controversies of the time about this choice and how he appeased the faithful by contributing towards the altar in the sanctuary. He was was an Augustinian from Rabat and was ordained Bishop of Malta in 1857 and kept this office till he died in 1874.

Count Carmelo Scicluna Bishop

He had the spiritual welfare of the people of Hamrun at heart. It was he who insisted that the work on the church stop as soon as it was viable to receive the faithful and leave the extras like the dome and embellishments for afterwards. He was installed in 1875, opened and blessed the church the same year.

Don Mauro Caruana Bishop

He consecrated the St Cajetan parish church on the 26th September 1930. He was the one who installed Fr.Fortunat Valletta as the first Pastor. He was of the Benedictine order and ordained and appointed Bishop of Malta in 1914 till he died in 1943, being succeeded by Archbishop (then still Bishop) Michael Gonzi who inaugurated the Dome in the 1950's.

Dun Fortunat Valletta First Pastor

He was from Birkirkara, as we have seen, was already ministering to the spiritual needs of the faithful since 1859 from the small chapel of Porto Salvo. It was he who saw the population increase and the need for a much bigger temple. He was in the middle of it all when the first committees were formed and the first petitions signed. It was not surprising that the Bishop installed him as the first Parish Priest (Pastor) of the new Parish of St.Cajetan. He served the Parish first as Vicar curate from 1881 till 1884 when he was installed as Pastor till his death in office in 1895.

Dun Gwakkin Grech Pastor

He did not last too long as Pastor of the St.Cajetan church because only three months after he took possession in 1896, he was transferred to Birgu as Archpriest of that Parish. He died in 1924.

Dun Guzepp Muscat Pastor

He hailed from Rabat took possession as pastor of St Cajetan’Äôs on the 30th December 1897. He died in office 8th December 1928.

Dun Gejtanu Mifsud Pastor

He had the namesake of the Patron and was from Valletta. He took possession on the 30th June 1929 and died in office 30th August 1933.

Dun Nerik Cordina Perez Pastor

He was the first pastor who was born in Hamrun. He was Pastor of Naxxar before being transferred to Hamrun. He took possession of the parish on the 19th August 1934. He was the driving force behind the building of the dome in the mid 1950's. He was made Canon of the Cathedral of Mdina on the 29th Sept. 1956 but died on the last day of 1956 just a day after installation.

Dun Mattew Chircop Pastor

From Marsa. Ordained priest on the 19th June 1943. He served the Parish as a regular priest until he took possession as Pastor on the 22nd April 1957. He continued the work of his predecessor in embellishing the church. He became Canon of the Cathedral of Mdina on the 30th Dec.1979. He was still coming over to celebrate mass at St.Cajetan for the festa in 2006 when in his 90's. He passed away at 92 on July 20th 2008.

Dun Guzepp Pace Pastor

From Marsa. Was already serving as priest in the St.Cajetan Parish. Took possession as pastor on the 28th January 1979. He was in office when the Church celebrated its first centenary as a Parish. In 1991 became Archpriest of Floriana. When his term in Floriana was over, he came back to Hamrun and is now (2006) taking care of the Atocia Church.

Dun Pawl Camilleri Pastor

He was born in Floriana on the 30th April 1943. He was ordained priest on the 22nd March 1969 and took possession of the Parish on the 5th January 1992.

Dun Pawl Fenech Pastor

He was born 13th September 1955 and celebrated his first Mass on the 11th July 1981. He was the pastor of St Cajetan’Äôs up to Nov 2008.

Fr.Henry Balzan Pastor

He was appointed pastor of San Gejtanu parish church in Hamrun as of November 2008. He took possession of the parish on the 15th February 2009. Born on November 1, 1963 in Hamrun and Baptized at San Gejtanu church, Fr.Balzan was ordained a priest in 1991. He served in Chile and at Msida and Zabbar. Since the start he immersed himself in parish life, re-organizing the choir and other ministries.

Dun Edgar Vella Anastasi.

Paul Burlo who managed a small chapel of the Immaculate Conception died in 1950 and Fr.Edgar Vella, a young Hamrun priest full of energy who had already been helping for six years, was installed as rector of the oratory. His mother urged him on with his idea of a new large and permanent church to serve the ever-increasing numbers. She suggested prayer to St.Cajetan of Divine Providence. Though financial difficulties cost him all he had, with help from Archbishop Michael Gonzi and pastor Matthew Chircop of St.Cajetan parish church, a plot was found right on the area where the train used to pass, and bought from the government.

The corner stone of a new church was laid and blessed by Bishop Emmanuel Galea on the 23rd March 1958.

In the same year the basement was complete with a roof so that Mass could be celebrated there. This saw the end of activities in the small oratory.

The work continued but the untimely death of Fr.Edgar at 43 on the 20th November 1962, robbed him of the honour of seeing it completed. He had been serving at the oratory and overseeing the raising of the new church for 12 years.

Canon Dun Guzepp Vella (1874 - 1955)

From Hamrun, was ordained priest 27th August 1899 and became Assistant Pastor 1904 - 1943. In between Pastors, he was twice Vicar Curate 1928 - 1929 and 1933 - 1934. He was appointed Canon of the Bormla collegiate on the 4th August 1934, but meantime still served with the clergy in St.Cajetan's.

Saint George Preca.

Born 12 February 1880 in Valletta, He moved to Hamrun with his family while still a child. Here he went through elementary school and the Lyceum, after which he started attending the seminary. He began writing a Rule in Latin for use in a planned society of Permanent Deacons while still a student.

After his ordination on the 22nd December 1906, he modified his idea of the society and began working with a group of young male catechists, including the Servant of God Eugene Borg, and they formed the beginning of the Society of Christian Doctrine. On the 2nd February 1907 they met for the first time at the church of Porto Salvo in Hamrun and on the 7th March they rented a small room close to the parish church of St.Cajetan for regular meetings.

The Society motto is represented by the letters M.U.S.E.U.M. Magister Utinam Sequator Evangelium Universus Mundus (Master, that the whole world would follow the Gospel) and is dedicated to bringing the Bible and theology to lay people. He caused quite a stir with his plan to educate laymen and women, and send them out to proclaim the word of God to anyone who would listen in those days. Educating the working class was so revolutionary that Father George was even accused of insanity and ordered by the bishop to shut down his operation for a while.

On 7 March 1907, Fr.Preca and his group of men began to meet regularly at a rented room in St.Joseph High Street, Hamrun. Then one day, Fr.George came among his group and sent away the married ones. (Actually a few decades afterwards these formed an affiliate group and called themselves Co-operators)

In 1910 Fr.Preca started another innovation, a female section of the Society. The first two Superiors were Eugenio Borg and Giannina Cutajar. At the beginning, the response of the Church authorities in Malta to the Fr.Preca initiative was mixed, but with the help of Divine Grace, the Bishop of Malta approved the Society and its Rule in 1932 and society catechist centers sprung up in many parishes, teaching young and old, and giving children a place to stay out of trouble. Today there are about 110 Centres around Malta and Gozo. The Society today also has overseas Centres in Australia, Sudan, Kenya, Peru, Great Britain, and Albania. Apart from being the founder of the society and delivering his frequent popular outdoor sermons all over the island, Fr. George had a very good reputation as a confessor, a Sacrament that he celebrated for long hours day in day out at St.Cajetan church in Hamrun.

Fr.George died on the 26th July 1962 of natural causes. His relics are kept in the chapel of the Society's headquarters at Blata l-Bajda, Hamrun. He was Beatified on the 9th May 2001 with two other Maltese Venerables on the Floriana granaries by Pope John Paul II himself who later went to the centre at Blata l-Bajda in Hamrun to visit the remains. His beatification miracle involved the healing of an irreversibly detached retina of a member of the Society. Pope Benedict XVI who had previously approved a second miracle attributed to his intercession canonized him on the 3rd June 2007 at the Vatican. In the Parish Church of St.Cajetan one can find a real relic of St.George Preca - A vial full of his blood.

Dun Guzepp Cachia.

Ordained priest with first solemn Mass celebrated at Hamrun on 2nd April 1949. By far he seems to have been the most active priest of all times in the parish church of St.Cajetan. Working behind the scenes he did an enormous variety of work for the embellishment and upkeep of the temple of the Lord and also for the enhancement of liturgy both in Hamrun and around the islands. Sadly this was work for which he was never recognized or appreciated by many even after his death. Even before he took Holy Orders, he was already active in his efforts for the liturgy.

Being a member of the M.U.S.E.U.M. during the tenure of Fr.Nerik Cordina Perez as pastor, he used to help him organize the singing of Christmas carols by the children of the group, also the general liturgy by a choir of altar boys. His greatest feat in favour of the liturgy was organizing the Hamrun Choir. This he did in the same year he was ordained and in the face of the archaic attitudes that still existed in Malta with the segregation of sexes in church. Sad to say, the interest in choral work began to wane in Hamrun in the 1980s and 1990s and towards the end of his life, this seems to have robbed him of the consolation he needed to keep going.

While organizing and nurturing his choir Fr.Cachia was also taking care of the coordination, maintenance and also administration of the material needs of the parish church. When the Choir needed a more decent place for rehearsal it was he who drew up the plans through an architect to extend a staircase and roof over one of the side aisles of the church. He rolled up his sleeves and worked with members mixing concrete, plastering and preparing the best of rehearsal spaces one could build. He was in the background when it was time to coordinate architect, mason and builders for the raising of the new dome. He was there too, with his friend Chev.EmVin Cremona and others when the inside paintings and gilding were done. Repairs on the steeples and soon after on the dome in the 1980s had him organizing meetings between architect and builders and taking care of financing. One of the last headaches he went through was the planning of the beautiful Antiporta or inner door, which had to incorporate an old complicated sculptured pelmet that already existed. This energetic priest even took care year after year to organize a crew of young people to put up the heavy outside decorations for Hamrun feast of its patron St.Cajetan.

Not only does this priest deserve recognition in the town where he gave his all, but also a monument, perhaps in a prominent position near the church he loved so much.

Dun Frans Camilleri.

Another versatile priest centred in Hamrun who though outwardly old fashioned in his attire (he was still wearing his cassock outside in the street after most of the others had switched to clergy garb post Vatican II) was one of the most open-minded people in the parish.

He was a very gentle person to communicate with and through my personal experience the best priest one could meet in a confessional. He was also the humblest while celebrating the sacrifice of the Mass.

Born in Marsa on the 29th January 1919, he studied at St.Paul school and at the seminary before being ordained priest in 1943. He taught Maltese at St.Aloysius College and at the Seminary between 1944 and 1964. He was an active member, secretary and editor of Ghaqda ta' qari tajjeb for a long while, and editor for Il-Huggiega and Lil Hutna. He was spiritual director for the Legion of Mary in 1956, for the St.Cajetan Band Club from 1943, and for the Hamrun Spartans Soccer Club from 1946. He was also involved in the Emigrants Commission from 1950, the Malta Playing Fields Association from 1956 and the Chorus Melitensis from 1958. He was also on many important committees for organizing festivities within the parish as many contemporary lineups show. He loved the Maltese language and this can be seen in his poetry, which is still studied by Maltese students in many schools. He is well known all around the island for the lyrics he wrote for hymns to patron saints of villages. Three of these are dedicated to St.Cajetan, two of which were put to music one each by the band clubs. In May 1943 he became a member of the Akkademja tal-Malti and was for a time on its committee. His writing style follows that of the Maltese National Poet Dun Karm Psaila, relating to Religion and Country. Not only did he publish whole collections of poems, hymns and essays over the years, but he was also called by the Liturgical commission to translate into Maltese all the hymns and sequences for the Maltese version of the Missal after the norms of Vatican II.

He was also one of the best photographers around and one can still find postcards and landscapes taken by him in publications and calendars. Many of these show his love for nature. He spent hours in public gardens, knew all the gardeners in charge and also dabbled a little in propagating exotic flowers. He also spent some time in craftwork based on nature like making complicated plaques out of seashells. Another of his closest friends was the Maltese tenor Oreste Kirkop. This shows that although he himself did not have a voice to boast about, classical music was in his blood too.

His last days were in stark contrast to his very active life. He was blinded by an inoperable brain tumor, which finally took him forever on the 6th December 1990. His bust in bronze sits on a shelf in his honour in the hall of a primary school named after him in Hamrun.