Martyrs in China – Bishop Louis Versiglia.
Luigi Versiglia was born at Oliva Gessi (Pavia) on 5th June 1873. He came to Don Bosco’s Oratory when he was twelve years old and went on to become a Salesian Priest. After his ordination in 1895 he spent ten years as novice master at Genzano di Roma.
In 1906 he led the first Salesian missionary expedition to China, fulfilling a prophecy often repeated by Don Bosco. Once he had established a ‘mother house’ in Macau, he opened a mission in the area of Shiu Chow. He became its first bishop on 22nd April 1920.
He was a man of wisdom and tireless energy, a real shepherd totally dedicated to his flock. He gave his Vicariate a solid infrastructure with a seminary, houses of formation, various residences, an orphanage and old people’s homes. He was more of a father than an authoritarian. He led by his example of hard work and Christian love and never asked people to do anything without first weighing up their capabilities.
On 25th February 1930 he was with Don Caravario and five others, all young people, on the way to visit the small Christian Community at Lin Chow.
They were stopped by a group of armed men, who first demanded protection money and then made to take away the three women in the party. Both Versiglia and Caravario stood in their way and were knocked to the ground and tied up. Their crucifixes were ripped away and were beaten. As they prayed, they were shot dead.
Bishop Versiglia and Fr. Caravario were canonized by Pope John Paul II on 1st October 2000 .
Fr. Callisto Caravario
Callisto Caravario was born at Cuorgne (Turin) on 18th June 1903. When he met Monsignor Versiglia in Turin in 1921 he said: “I will come and join you in China”. He kept his word and left for China two years later.
As a young priest, faithful to his religious consecration and fervent in charity, he was on a pastoral visit in the Lin Chow area with Mons. Versiglia, two teachers, two catechists and a student, when they were attacked by communist pirates. As they tried to protect the young people the two missionaries were brutally beaten and then shot, because of the pirates’ hatred of their Christian faith.
At their beatification, in 1983, Pope John Paul II said that they were examples of “the gospel ideal of the shepherd who gives his life for his flock… for the cause of truth and justice, defending the weak and the poor, triumphing over the evils of sin and death.”