The early days of the Society
The enthusiasm of young Fr Preca to give sound formation in the faith to this group of youths led him to rent a small one-room house in the main street of Hamrun. It was here that the Society of Christian Doctrine officially began on 7 March 1907. The early members gathered there for their religious formation, and soon after opened the doors to the teaching of children and adults of the same locality.
The second Centre was rightfully opened at Cospicua with the personal initiative of Eugenio. During his lunch break from work at the Dockyard, Gege used to gather around him a number of his fellow workers and explain to them parts of the Gospel or of the Church's teaching. He realised, however, that gathering people in wine bars and at work was not the best way to teach them. He looked forward to rent a house in Cospicua, close to the Dockyard. This he did in early 1908, ten months after the opening of the Hamrun Centre, with the help of the locals.
After that early beginning, Gege, already recognised by all as the first leader of the Society, was appointed by Fr Preca himself as the first Superior General of the Society in 1911. Eugenio, still very young, was the ideal man that Fr Preca required. Gege offered that determination and initiative necessary for the running and expansion of the new Society, and the spirituality required for the spreading of the Word of God in Malta and Gozo. He was tall and had a very slow, stately walk. His humility endeared him to everybody, children and adults alike. Once he had decided to follow in the footsteps of Fr Preca, Gege immediately quitted smoking and embraced all the ideals that Fr Preca presented to the SDC members, including celibacy.
With great enthusiasm and conviction, the early members of the Society took every opportunity to gather and teach people, whether in wine and coffee bars, parish squares or other places. From then onwards, under the leadership of the Founder Fr Preca, and driven by Eugenio's dynamism and initiative, the Society opened gradually other Centres in almost every town and village in Malta, where religious formation could be given to adults and children alike.
The first Superior General, a man of prayer and zeal for the apostolate, was also of a good example on his workplace at the Dockyard. He was obedient to his masters, and cautious in his work. He was esteemed by all and he was referred to as "il-qaddis" (the saint). The work place, or shop, where Eugenio and other Society members worked at the Dockyard, was also referred to as the "il-ħanut tal-appostli" (the apostle's shop), because of the atmosphere of fraternity and fellowship which could be seen and felt by the other fellow workers.
A Dockyard English inspector, a personal friend of Gege, who used to visit him regularly after retirement, once promised him a normal salary if he returned to the Dockyard without working, as his presence was enough to instill and encourage the other workers. After retirement from work, Eugenio, though very sick with diabetes, dedicated his whole energy to the Society which by then had established itself well in Malta and sent its first members to Australia. In 1958, the then Archbishop of Malta, His Excellency Mgr. Sir Michael Gonzi, with the Holy Sea's approval, presented Eugenio Borg with the title Pro Ecclesia et Pontificate in recognition of his work towards the Church.
Eugenio died at the venerable age of 80 on 12 March 1967, five years after the sad loss of his closest friend Fr George Preca in 1962, a friendship of more than half a century. Through a life dedicated to evangelisation and the apostolate, Eugenio Borg affirmed what the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) had just promulgated on the role of the laity in the Church.
Thirty years to the day after his death, on 12 March 1997, the Archdiocese of Malta and the Diocese of Gozo issued the official decree initiating the process for the Cause of Beatification of Eugenio Borg. He is presented to all the laity and to all workers as a model of how to witness to Jesus and to his Gospel everywhere and to everyone. May his example inspire us in our active preparation of the Great Millennium and may God be glorified through him.