Keeping alive the memory of two Salesian Martyrs in China


Oliva Gessi – Hong Kong – Dili – Bangalore, 7 September 2020 — Not only for the provinces of China, Indonesia (St Louis Versiglia) and Timor Leste (St Callisto Caravario) – but for the whole Salesian Congregation, this year is a good opportunity to treasure the memory of our first two martyrs – St Louis Versiglia and St Callisto Caravario – 90 years after their death in China and 20 years after their canonization at the Vatican. And we experience that our martyrs’ memory lifts our missionary spirit!

After the EAO pilgrimage to the Birthplace of St Louis Versiglia, Oliva Gessi (Pavia-Northern Italy), last February 2020, communication channels between the Versiglia compatriots and the Salesians of our region were strengthened. The monthly parish newsletter ‘Oliva Mese’ has already featured the EAO pilgrimage on three occasions. They are looking ahead to the 100th anniversary of Bishop’s Versiglia episcopal ordination (January 2021) and new publication and video about ‘their’ martyr!

Two years after the successful translation of ‘Martiri in Cina’ (ed. LDC – Torino, 1976) into English, both the Chinese version (Hong Kong, CIN) and the English version (Bangalore, INK) will be published in the near future as the contribution to the 90th anniversary of the martyrdom. The English text is available on Boscolink. You can download or help with translations to other EAO major languages! Thanks to this publication you can also access high resolution photos of our Saints on the EAO Photo archive.

Also the Past pupils in Timor Leste, ahead of the Centenary celebrations of St Callisto Caravario, who was a member of the first SDB Timor Leste community in Dili (1927-1929), treasure the memory of ‘their’ Saint very much. Here is one loudly expressing a heartfelt sharing after reading Chapter 22 of the ‘Martyrs in China’ about the story of St Callisto Caravario:

“…I am so glad, even with tears and sorrow sometimes, especially when reading Don Callisto’s lovely letters to his mother. It is so much touching my heart! My office is located nearby the former residence of Don Callisto. I could see him with tears that Don Callisto might walk around, back and forth in front of my office, some 93 years ago.

I am so happy that Don Callisto was able to come and stay in my country, nearby the place where I am working now. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to meet with him. Some people, the grandchildren of those who studied with Don Callisto are perhaps still alive, and are living around here. I wish I know them, so I could past this beautiful history of Don Callisto, the first Saint that reached and lived in Timor-Leste.”

We pray that the living memory of our first two Salesian Family martyrs will move more hearts even 90 years after their sacrifice in 1930.

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