In 1948, Rev. Rafael Maria Fabretto, a Salesian missionary from Venice, Italy, arrived in Nicaragua. Concerned about the number of impoverished boys and girls he met, he founded a group of children's homes in the rugged countryside of northern Nicaragua, known collectively as “La Familia Padre Fabretto.”
Father Fabretto's philosophy was to give a home and hope to children who had been abandoned, abused, or orphaned. The organization grew to include five centers, or “oratorios” in Managua and in areas north of the city that offered daily schooling, farming, sports, arts and crafts, and spiritual reflection.
For more than four decades, Father Fabretto sustained the centers despite many adversities, like massive earthquakes, severe hurricanes and of course, the war of 1980s. The war was indeed the hardest challenge to overcome as a lack of financial resources and the uncertain social, political and economic climate imposed ever increasing strains on the organization. Yet, as the war ended, the organization suffered its greatest blow with Father Fabretto’s unexpected death at the age of 70 in March 1990. His death left the organization in limbo and its future – and that of the children it served – was uncertain.
The Legacy Continues
In June 1989 a young volunteer, Kevin Marinacci, went to Nicaragua to work for a year with La Familia Padre Fabretto. Upon Father Fabretto’s death the following spring, Kevin agreed to stay on for another year to help the organization. His one year extension turned into a lifelong commitment to the Fabretto organization and the children of Nicaragua. Today, Kevin is the Executive Director of La Familia Padre Fabretto whose staff includes many alumni of the Fabretto program.
In the last 20 years, the Fabretto organization has grown tremendously in numbers of children served, in staff size, and in the variety of program offerings. Fabretto today is a vibrant, self-sustaining organization that has grown more than 10 fold since the time of Father Fabretto. We keep his memory alive and continue to try to emulate his good works with the poor of Nicaragua. Indeed, his legacy will survive for years and decades to come.