Oliva Gessi celebrates 100 years of St Louis Versiglia’s episcopal ordination


By Ms Giovanna Bruni


Oliva Gessi, Pavia, Italy, 6 January 2021 — The home village of Saint (Bishop) Louis Versiglia, Oliva Gessi (PA, Italy) remembers the upcoming Centenary of episcopal ordination of their beloved ‘compaesano’ in it’sthe parish publication ‘Oliva Mese’. Through the two main photo archives we gain a clearer insight into the wide involvement of bishops, clergy in the Cathedral of Guangzhou (Canton) on 9 January 1921 as well the ‘home’ photo of Bishop Versiglia after returning to Shiu Chow (now Shaoguan) in front of the orphanage at Hosai on 17 January 1921. Enjoy the complete article on BOSCOLINK.

First – historical events of 1921 in a nutshell

We can browse through the rich narrative of 1921 witnesses, including Fr Charles Braga (Servant of God, then SDB China provincial), recorded by Fr Garelli, SDB. The consecration took place in the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Guangzhou (Canton) and the Apostolic Vicar of Canton, Bishop De Guébriant, MEP was the main celebrant, assisted by Bishop Pozzoni, PIME, Apostolic Vicar of Hong Kong and Monsignor Rayssac, MEP, Apostolic Vicar of Swa-tou, in the presence of the Bishop of Macao, da Costa Nunes, the Superiors of all the Missions and Procurators of Guandong, the numerous French, Italian, Portuguese, American, Spanish and Chinese clergy, in front of a crowd of faithful who came from all over. Of course, also the Salesian missionaries with the Shiu Chow Vicariate youth and lay people were around.

The first pontifical Mass by our new bishop was celebrated in Macau, where Fr Versiglia had arrived with the first five missionaries 15 years previously (13 February 1906). On the occasion the Salesians also wanted to remember the Silver priestly ordination jubilee of the first Salesian Bishop in China. The magnificent celebrations were prepared and involved Macau diocesan clergy, other religious, Salesian Cooperators, Friends of Don Bosco and young people from the Salesian school (Mother house – Instituto Salesiano). Here the new bishop received all the necessary episcopal ‘gear’ for pontifical celebrations, all artistically decorated, from the Salesian Cooperators of Macau.

On the evening of 16 Janury, Bishop Versiglia arrived at his residence in Shiu-Chow, joyfully welcomed by his beloved orphans and the local society, both Christians and non-Christians. This poor setting was in stark contrast to the Cathedrals in Macau and Guangzhou. The precious photo was taken on the next day in Ho-Sai orphanage, Shiu Chow. In this way the new Apostolic Vicariate finally had its first Bishop!

Second – the significance of St Louis Versiglia’s episcopal ordination for EAO Salesians today

Since 9 January 1921 some 25 SDBs from the 12 East Asia – Oceania provinces have received episcopal ordination, a new mission to serve the larger Catholic community in their respective part of the world. The presence of our Salesian confrere- bishops reminds us during the brief history of our Congregation of the DNA always present since the time of the first Oratory: “The Salesian vocation places us at the heart of the Church and puts us entirely at the service of her mission…” (SDB Constitutions art 6)

During the past 100 years, a further 25 EAO Salesians of Don Bosco have been ordained bishop for the good of the local Churches and 12 of them are in active episcopal ministry, while 5 of them are already living with as ‘bishop emeritus’. On the last pages of the SDB ‘Annuario’ (Volume II) we can also see the names of some 130 living SDB bishops and some 140 deceased Salesian bishops who have served the Universal Church as bishops since the first SDB episcopal ordination of John Cagliero in 1884.

So, 9 January 1921 is an important day in the East Asia-Oceania Region’s Salesian history.

Thanks to enthusiasm, zeal and hard work you can also enjoy the Bishop Versiglia Photo archive and 28 minute video about the martyrdom of Bishop Versiglia (already with English subtitles).

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