On the 8th of May, 1972, Don Stefano Gobbi, an Italian priest was taking part in a pilgrimage to Fatima and was praying in the little Chapel of the Apparitions for some priests who, besides having personally given up their own vocations, were attempting to form themselves into associations in rebellion against the Church's authority.
An interior force urged him to have confidence in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady, making use of him as a poor and humble instrument, would gather all those priests who would accept her invitation to consecrate themselves to her Immaculate Heart, to be strongly united to the Pope and to the Church united with him, and to bring the faithful into the secure refuge of her motherly heart.
Thus, a powerful cohort would be formed, spread throughout every part of the world and gathered together, not with human means of propaganda but with the supernatural power which springs from silence, from prayer, from suffering and from the constant faithfulness to one's duties.
Don Stefano asked Our Lady interiorly for a little sign of confirmation. She gave it to him promptly, before the end of that same month, at the Shrine of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
The origin of the Marian Movement of Priests stems from this simple and interior inspiration which Don Stefano received in prayer at Fatima.
In October of the same year, a timid attempt was made, by way of a gathering of three priests for prayer and fraternal sharing, in the Parish of Gera Lario in Como, Italy; a notice of the Movement was given in some papers and Catholic reviews.
By March, 1973, the number of priests inscribed was about for ty. In September of the same year, at San Vittorino, near Rome, the first national gathering took place, with twenty-five priests taking part, out of the eighty already enrolled.
Beginning in 1974, the first cenacles of prayer and fraternal sharing among priests and faithful took place. These gradually spread throughout Europe and every part of the world.
By the end of 1985, Don Stefano Gobbi had already many times visited the different continents to preside at the Regional Cenacles, involving a good 350 air flights and numerous journeys by car and by train. By that time, he has conducted 890 cenacles, of which 482 took place in Europe, 180 in America, 97 in Africa, 51 in Asia and 80 in Oceania.
The Marian Movement of Priests has now succeeded in expanding in a silent and extraordinary way. In practically all the countries of Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Oceania, National Directors (or "Priest Responsibles") have already been appointed and entrusted with the task of gathering the membership and assisting in the formation of cenacles.
To them has been entrusted the task of appointing the various Regional and Diocesan Directors, taking every care that all be carried out with the greatest fidelity to the spirit of the Movement.
From its humble beginnings, the membership of the M.M.P. has now reached 400 cardinals and bishops, more than 100,000 priests and millions of religious and faithful around the world.
The Marian Movement of Priests is a little seed planted by Our Lady in the garden of the Church. Very quickly it has become a great tree which has spread its branches into every part of the world. It is a work of love which the Immaculate Heart of Mary is stirring up in the Church today, to help all her children to live, with trust and filial hope, the painful moments of the purification which has now arrived for mankind.
According to Our Lady herself, as told to Fr. Gobbi, "I have chosen you because you are the least apt instrument; thus no one will say that this is your work. The Marian Movement of Priests must be my work alone. Through your weakness I will manifest my strength; through your nothingness I will manifest my power." (July 16, 1973)
The M.M.P. is not therefore just a laudable association with a lot of statutes and directors, but a "spirit", as the late Holy Father John Paul II happily and intuitively perceived.
The M.M.P. becomes a reality not by numbers, or the resonance of names, or the efficiency of organization, but in the measure that one listens to Our Lady and cooperates with the work of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.
IN THE PHILIPPINES. . . .
The Movement started in the Philippines in 1983, with four priests holding monthly cenacles in a private home. This group eventually grew to about twenty priests and six nuns.
At present, there are several cenacles of priests being held in the country; in the military and police, in Antipolo, and even as far away as Cebu among others, not to mention that which is regularly being held in the diocese of Cubao as well as countless cenacles of members of the religious and lay faithful from Luzon to Mindanao.
To date, there have already been eleven M.M.P. Priest Responsibles for the Philippines; namely, Rev. Fr. Mendoza, Rev. Fr. Charlie Pras, OMI, Rev. Fr. Guerrero, SJ, Rev. Fr. Clarence Bertelmann, Rev. Msgr. (Gen.) Castillo, Rev. Fr. Antonio Olaguer, Rev. Msgr. Francisco Tantoco, Rev. Fr. Romerico "Omer" Prieto, Rev. Msgr. Cesar Salomon. Rev. Msgr. Cesar B. Pagulayan and Rev. Msgr. Ruben Espeno.
Invited by the various groups of lay Marian workers all over the country and overseas, Fr. Omer continues to attend to Our Lady's Work by spreading her messages within and beyond the limits of the Philippine archipelago, giving Formation on Living the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart to different Marian groups and parish organizations with the support and endorsement of their respective parish priests, holding lay orientations and retreats, spearheading family consecrations, training promoters to inject the spirituality in their respective "Basic Ecclesial Community (B.E.C.)" groups and improving the dissemination of information by means of the various media, particularly that of the internet with the Facebook Page "Living Our Consecration to Mary" https://www.facebook.com/livingourconsecration/ and on radio with the weekly Cenacle program titled "CENACLE SA VERITAS" airing nationwide every Thursday evening at 8 PM to 9 PM Philippine Standard Time on Radio Veritas 846 kHz AM band.
Live streaming of the Cenacle is available worldwide through the following link: http://www.veritas846.ph/livestream/
Fr Omer is likewise occupied in giving retreats and formations for the clergy and religious in and out of the Philippines upon the invitation of the Bishops in the region.