East Boston native and Francisan Priest Father Falvian Mucci, who dedicated his life to helping the poor and less fortunate in his adoptive country of El Salvador, died on Saturday, Sept. 25 in El Salvador after contracting COVID-19. He was 86 years old.
With his trademark Boston Red Sox hat and stories of his beloved East Boston, Father Mucci inspired countless immigrants arriving in the US to choose Eastie as their final destination.
Born in Eastie as Dominic Mucci in 1935, Father Mucci grew up in a poor Italian family. It was this experience that shaped his view of the world in later life and sparked a lifelong passion to care for the disenfranchised.
“I was born in poverty and know how it feels to be poor,” he once said of his humanitarian work on behalf of the people of El Salvador. “I know how these people feel when they have nothing. I want to improve their lives and show them that they too can follow their dreams and accomplish what they want to in life. I must say, love which comes from knowing my people and wanting to help them. With love all is possible. Love keeps us going and we never stop, we are always looking for ways to help them.”
Father Mucci graduated from the Francisan Seminary in Lowell and became an ordained Catholic Priest in 1963. In 1964 he began humanitarian work in Central America and took the name Father Flavian after Flavian the Confessor, the Patron Saint of Constantinople.
In the late 1960s Father Mucci arrived in El Salvador and lived there during much of the country’s conflict, witnessing the consequences inflicted upon the population. Under his ministry, the SOS Children’s Villages programme was coordinated. Feeling that something was still missing in his life, he decided to open a dining facility for the elderly, which became known as the Agape Association.
The Agape Association of El Salvador became a nationwide endeavor and developed 54 programmes in the areas of education, religion, environment, communications, and hotel and restaurant services. It also runs a home for the elderly, a university for students from low-income families, a communal restaurant, several clinics, a TV station and a publishing house. One of Agape’s more recent initiatives has been a training centre in the eastern city of Usulután where unemployed workers can take courses ranging from computer training to cooking lessons.
Father Mucci quickly became a huge figure in El Salvador and the beloved priest’s sermons and stories of his hometown of Eastie inspired many, like NOAH’s Manlio Mendez, to settle here.
In his youth, Mendez was transfixed by his pastor’s hometown. Mendez remembers his office being adorned with photos and newspaper clipping of Eastie. Father Mucci would also travel home once a year to visit his mother who lived in the Lyman School Apartments.
“As a boy, East Boston stuck in my head as a place that must be wonderful and I knew I wanted to go there someday,” said Mendez.
Eventually, with Father Mucci’s encouragement, Mendez, who was an accountant, left El Salvador during the civil war and arrived in Eastie, a place he had heard so much of from his pastor.
It was here Mendez found a new life as a community organizer for NOAH but remained close to Father Mucci and regularly visited the priest’s mother.
On the Tuesday following his death, The Legislative Assembly of El Salvador approved three days of national mourning for Father Mucci. The initiative was proposed by the government New Ideas party, led by President Nayib Bukele, and approved with the votes of 78 out of 84 in Congress.
The national mourning is in “a demonstration of regret for his death, to honor his memory and as a way to celebrate his legacy by virtue of the altruistic work carried out in the country,” read the legislative decree.
Before his death Father Mucci was asked what he thought his legacy should be.
“I always tell the people after sermons, after telephone calls or after conversations with them…..I love you,” he answered. “They are three simple words that express what I think of them no matter who they are. I try to love everyone as best as I can and I would love to be remembered as the priest who loved me.”