On Friday morning of the 26th of February, the death of Mgr Saverio Calleja was announced. Dun Saver – as he was known by one and all –had been living with a family in Nadur for the past decade or so. However, he used to be brought to St George’s to say Mass in the church annexe from time to time.
Francis Xavier Calleja was born in Victoria, Gozo on 21 July 1926, the son of Luigi and Maria Antonia née Sammut and was baptised at St George’s Parish Church. He attended the Victoria Primary School and the Lyceum. In 1945 he entered the Major Seminary where he studied Philosophy. He proceeded to the French College in Rome in 1948 to continue his priestly formation. He did his Theology at the Gregorian Pontifical University in the Eternal City.
Dun Saver was ordained a priest at St James Church in Victoria on 8 March 1951 together with Rev. Joseph Mercieca who eventually became Archbishop of Malta and with Fr Anton Bajada from Ta’ Sannat. He celebrated his First Solemn Mass at St George’s on 20 April 1952. In 1953 he received his licentiate in Theology from the Gregoriana.
He taught French at the Seminary from 1953 to 1966 and then continued to teach the same language together with Religious Studies at the Agius De Soldanis Secondary School for Girls. His teaching career came to an end in 1978. For three years he was chaplain for the Sisters of Charity at the Bishop’s Conservatory.
In the meantime he was always read to help in his native parish especially as a confessor. For many years he celebrated the earliest mass at St George’s. In 1976 he was installed as a Canon when St George’s Basilica was made a Collegiate Church. He served as Penitentiary within the College of Canons and in 2009 he was made Primicerius within the same Collegiate, which is the fifth dignity.
In these last years, Fr Saverio was living in Nadur with a family who looked after him with dedication and love. He was also seen quite often saying mass at St George’s accompanied by members of the same family. He was the oldest priest of the parish and one of the oldest in the diocese.
His Funeral Mass took place on Saturday 27 February and was presided by Bishop Anton Teuma. A good number of priests concelebrated. He will continue to be remembered as a reserved man of great warmth. When he was younger, one would notice him visiting his little orchard next to St Francis’ Square in Victoria or driving one of his sisters around. He will be sorely missed!
May God grant him eternal rest!