A few days ago Fr. Benjamin Galea OFM passed away. We heard in the news that he was the founder of Portiuncola Retreat House in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq. I am writing for the sake of fairness and giving everyone his due.
Fr. Galea was not the founder of Portiuncola Retreat House, but the builder, the one who was entrusted with the job of building the new House at Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq. The real founder of the Retreat House was Fr. Alphonsus M. Camilleri OFM, who was Minister Provincial at the time. He had got his idea from the retreat houses he has seen in America run by the Franciscans there. He came back full of enthusiasm for the new apostolate which was being offered not only to religious and priests, but mostly to lay people.
Fr. Alphonsus entrusted the job to Fr. Benjamin who happened to be the Provincial Procurator at the time. Unfortunately not much was known as to what is needed to have a functioning retreat house, and the whole project had to be a compromise. If it didn’t succeed as a retreat house, it could revert to being a normal friary!
One must remember that Portiuncola Retreat House was the first retreat house to be built in Malta, and this was done by the Franciscans (ahead of the Jesuits who followed suit). It was a new venture into a new kind of apostolate and there were many unanswered questions. However the work did go ahead because Fr. Alphonsus wanted it, and it became a reality which is still functioning today.
So, in order to get the facts right, we have to affirm that Fr. Camilleri was the Founder of the Retreat House, while Fr. Galea was the one who got the job done. A bust to Fr. Camilleri would be appropriate at the Retreat House to give everyone his due.