AFTER GRADUATING from high school, like most young people, I started looking for a good job. This, however, was not a simple matter, even in those days. After a few months, I eventually found work in a small firm specialising in vacuum manufacturing where I was the sole employee. But I was unsatisfied with this job for a number of reasons: it was very far from home with frequent, unpaid overtime and a meagre wage, and the job did not really give me any inner gratification.

This was the darkest period of my whole life, but I had faith, and in my heart of hearts I knew that St. Anthony was going to help me. And help me he did!

At the age of 20 I was finally hired by a major bank in Padua. I had actually given up on that bank because, applying to them two years previously, I had been told that it was unlikely that I would find work with them as the advent of computers had made many jobs redundant.

As luck would have it, an employee suddenly decided to leave the bank to work with an in-law, and it was important to replace this employee immediately.

I can still remember quite vividly my first day at work. The general manager led me around the bank and introduced me to the various departments and to the people who were to become my colleagues. He finally led me to the office where I was to remain for the next six years.

The office manager was a very strict lady without any makeup who always wore a long black dress. She came up to me and looked me up and down. “How old are you?” she asked inquisitively, and when she learned that I was 20 she added, “This won’t do. You’ll never move up the ranks with that teenage look.”

From that day on I started sporting a beard, the continuation of which you can see from my photo.

Bruna, the office manager’s name, soon became one of my closest friends, and when I later left the bank to become a Conventual Franciscan friar she followed all the stages of my formation closely and was always sitting in the front row in church at all the major steps of my vocation: solemn profession, diaconate and ordination to the priesthood.

Bruna was a good teacher, carefully instructing me on all the bank procedures with great skill and competence. While at the bank, I saw that she was so good at her job that even top managers often sought her advice on difficult and complicated matters. And she always managed to find a way out of every impasse. A few months before I decided to leave the bank to follow my religious vocation, she said to me, smiling, “Neither you nor I will ever have a career in this bank; you because you will have a new employer soon, and me because I am a woman.”

Exactly 40 years have passed since I left the bank to enter the Conventual Franciscan Friars’ seminary college. Unfortunately, the gap between men and women still remains significant as evidenced by an annual report from the World Economic Forum. The Global Gender Gap Report, released at the end of last year, looks at 142 countries, measuring the gap between men and women in four areas: economic participation & opportunity (including salaries), education, political empowerment, and health & survival.

The report found that Iceland has the smallest difference between men and women; Ireland comes 8th, Canada 19th, the United States 20th, Australia 24th, the United Kingdom 26th, while Italy lags way behind in the 69th position. Assuming that progress continues at its current pace, women will not attain equal economic participation levels and opportunities until 2095.

“Why should it be taken for granted that women must earn less than men?” This is the question that Pope Francis asked tens of thousands of people during the General Audience of 29 April this year. He called the disparity a “pure scandal,” and once again condemned the damage that the macho culture causes in our world. Another example of this scandal, the Pope claims, is the common misconception that the emancipation of women is the cause of the crisis within the family and the drop in marriages. “This is an insult. It’s not true,” he added. “It is a form of chauvinism: the man must always dominate.” This reminds us of Adam who, when God asked him why he was eating the forbidden fruit, replied, “She gave it to me…” Commenting on this situation, the Pope said sarcastically, “It is always the woman’s fault,” and concluded, “Poor woman! We must defend women.”

Even though it’s a complex issue, and I do not have the competence to deal with it in an adequate way, I believe employers should be more sensitive to this problem because, after all, shouldn’t people doing the same task be receiving the same wage?

Bruna passed away ten years ago, and I miss her very much. Incidentally, she was good at giving me the right advise even in my work as editor of the Messenger of St. Anthony!




Updated on October 06 2016