After various attempts to settle in the city, in 1554 the Capuchin friars took up residence in the Santa Croce neighbourhood, where the nuns of the convent of Sant’Agata and Santa Cecilia had a large house with outbuildings and an extensive vegetable garden. Here, the Capuchins founded a monastery which, due to the size of Padua and the prestige of its university, would become the ideal place for beginning a programme of serious religious study. Almost immediately, the Capuchins were holding courses to train preachers, as well as giving lessons in theological dogma and then in moral theology (mainly intended for father confessors). The monks also provided spiritual assistance in the city’s hospital and prisons. One figure who centuries later performed his precious work as a confessor and spiritual guide within the Santa Croce monastery was Father Leopold Mandic, who came from Herceg Novi in Montenegro (which up to 1797 was known by the Italian name of Castelnuovo).
The Capuchin church itself was seriously damaged by a bombing raid on 14 May 1944, but – as Father Leopold had prophesied – the monks themselves were miraculously unharmed. The bombs also spared a statue of the Madonna and the small cell when Leopold Mandic had heard confessions and witnessed God’s mercy. In spite of the perilous circumstances, the number of the faithful coming to the monastery did not diminish.
“People come to us as before, even more than before…. They want to see once more a Capuchin friar go from door to door asking for people’s charity, and – even more important in these times – offering them words of faith and encouragement.”