In Memory of the 105th Anniversary of the Priestly Ordination
Servant of God Don Carlo Braga SDB
(11 April 1914 – 11 April 2019)
by Fr. Lanfranco M. Fedrigotti SDB
In the last page of his “autobiography” (written in 1962), Don Carlo Braga, after a grateful look at the past, looks hopefully to the future, uniting in indissoluble unity his double “missionary falling in love” with China and with the Philippines:
“In the Philippines too, I found much work and a truly enticing future: a situation which invited work and which presented a great future. It was the work especially of His Excellency Archbishop William Piani [SDB], Apostolic Delegate for 26 years [1922-1948], who made the names of Mary Help of Christians and Don Bosco so loved, known, and invoked. Eight houses were founded over a period of eight years. Within this period, land was obtained for further three works. […] Certainly, the prayers and the blessing of Archbishop Piani had been useful for success in our endeavor. I had asked him which works he thought more useful for Filipino youth. He answered without hesitation: ‘Open technical schools and festive oratories’. […] We look with confidence to the future of this wonderful nation. I am certain that the future province of the Philippines will have a marvelous development. I also foresee that this Catholic country will one day send missionaries to other lands. Transplanting Don Bosco’s work from China to the Philippines was certainly part of Providence’s plans.
In conclusion, I cannot forget the generous Salesians who have offered their blood for the cause of the Church in China. There are four: Fr. Giovanni Matkovicz who was slaughtered by a group of criminals who thought he had so much money in a basket that was in fact empty; Fr. [François] Dupont who was a victim of the Communists in Hanoi who, after they had murdered him, threw his corpse into the river; Fr. [Lareno] Faccini Bassano, victim of his own charity, supplying salt to Christians behind Japanese lines; and, finally, Fr. Vincenzo Munda, who as a boy thought of dying as a martyr in China. He was bringing back [deposits of] money and materials made by Chinese in danger during the war. He was on his way back to them after Japan’s surrender. He was kidnapped and everything was taken from him; then he was shot and killed.
The Chinese came to know the truth about those killings and were edified by them. I consider that our contribution in blood, beginning with Bishop Versiglia and Fr. Caravario in 1930 to the martyrs of the persecutions in China now, will not be useless. Perhaps, when I am no longer on this earth, others will return to paths already followed [in China] and will be able to bring to completion the titanic enterprise of evangelizing [even] China. I am not accustomed to making prophecies; but I believe that it will be precisely from the Philippines that groups of missionaries will depart to bring the light of the Gospel to their Asian brothers.”
These are the last, genuinely prophetic, words of Don Carlo Braga’s “autobiography”. The CIN Province, since 1994, has been receiving Filipino missionaries, now it has 4: the Parish Priest of St. John Bosco Parish in Taipei, Taiwan, is a Filipino; the Diocesan Director of Migrant Pastoral of the Tainan Diocese, Taiwan, is a Filipino Salesian; the Director of Boystown in Chaozhou, Taiwan, is a Filipino; the CIN-SD Provincial Secretary is a Filipino; in the past years, three of the above four Filipinos have had experience of missionary forays in our great motherland; moreover, in the last 15 years, the FIN and FIS Filipino Salesian Provinces have been giving the CIN Province an invaluable help in the Salesian formation of her aspirants, prenovices, and novices.
The THA Salesian Province has grown strong with young Salesian Filipino missionary blood. The FIN Province has generated the Salesian presence in Papua New Guinea and is generating one in Eastern Malaysia. The FIN-FIS Provinces have sustained the resurrection of the ITM Province and the birth of the INA Vice-Province. The FIS Province has sustained the Salesian presence in Pakistan.
Looking outside our pale, the recently deceased first Bishop of the newly established Catholic Mission in Outer Mongolia was an SVD Filipino missionary. The hundreds of thousands Filipino migrant workers, with their faith and endurance, are giving a splendid Gospel witness to numberless Asians, many of them Chinese. In Hong Kong, for example, several Chinese families join in their entirety the catechumenate and are baptized, moved, they say, by the life example of the truly Christian Filipino maid serving in their family. A few years ago, during the Annual Diocesan Celebration in Hong Kong Stadium with 20/30 thousand Catholic faithful, the then Bishop of Hong Kong, Card. John Tong Hon, bore public witness to this remarkable phenomenon of Filipino grass-root evangelization.
As for our missionary motherland, we are prayerfully waiting for the realization of Don Carlo Braga’s prophecy regarding “even China” [“anche la Cina”].
N.B. For the original Italian text and the English translation of Don Carlo Braga’s “autobiography” (this is how Don Carlo Braga himself calls, certainly tongue-in-cheek, the 20 typewritten pages extracted from him with a financial “blackmail” by his friend and biographer Fr. Vasco Tassinari SDB), see:
Braga, Carlo, “Autobiografia”, in Vasco Tassinari, Il romanzo di un missionario valtellinese. L’avventurosa vicenda esistenziale di don Carlo Braga, in Italia, Cina, Filippine, Edizione rinnovata e ridotta del libro: “Don Carlo Braga, l’uomo che ebbe tre Patrie”, Bologna: GESP, 1994, xix-xl: “Memorie di Don Carlo Braga”. [Abbreviated: don Carlo Braga, “Memorie di Don Carlo Braga”]
Braga, Carlo, Memoirs of the Servant of God Fr. Carlo Braga (English translation of ‘Autobiografia’: no indications of editor, translator, place, publisher, year of publication, presumably published in 2014). With a Letter to the Salesian Family by FIN Provincial Fr. Anthony Paul E. Bicomong SDB and an “Introduction” by Fr. Nestor C. Impelido SDB, dated 8 September 2014. [Abbreviated: Memoirs]
 Memoirs, 33-34; don Carlo Braga, “Memorie di Don Carlo Braga”, xxxix-xl: “Anche nelle Filippine trovai grande lavoro ed un futuro veramente seducente: una situazione che invitava al lavoro e presentava un grande avvenire. Fu opera specialmente di Sua Ecc. Mons. Piani, delegato apostolico per ben 26 anni, che rese i nomi di Maria Ausiliatrice e di Don Bosco, simpatici, conosciuti ed invocati. In otto anni si poterono fondare otto case e avere il terreno per ben altre tre. […] Certo avranno giovato al successo le preghiere e la benedizione di Mons. Piani, il quale, avendogli io chiesto quali opere ritenesse più utili promuovere per la gioventù filippina, rispose senza esitazione: ‘Aprite scuole professionali ed oratori festivi’. […] Guardiamo con fiducia al futuro di questa stupenda nazione. Sono certo che la futura ispettoria delle Filippine avrà un meraviglioso sviluppo. Prevedo anche che da questa terra Cattolica un giorno partiranno missionari per altre terre. Il trapianto dalla Cina alle Filippine delle opere di Don Bosco era certo nei piani della Provvidenza. Non posso, a conclusione, dimenticare i generosi Salesiani che in Cina, hanno versato il sangue per la causa della Chiesa. Sono quattro: Don Giovanni Matkovicz, che fu sgozzato da un gruppo di malviventi, che ritenevano avesse molto denaro in una cesta che recava seco; Don [Francesco] Dupont, che fu vittima ad Hanoi dei comunisti locali, i quali, dopo averlo trucidato, ne gettarono il cadavere nel fiume; Don [Lareno] Faccini Bassano, vittima della sua carità, fornendo di sale i cristiani oltre la linea di demarcazione giappionese; e, infine, Don Vincenzo Munda, che da ragazzo pensava di morir martire in Cina. Stava riportando i depositi, in oggetti e denari, fatti dai cinesi in pericolo, per la Guerra, e riportati loro dopo la resa del Giappone. Arrestato e spogliato di tutto, venne fucilato. I cinesi vennero a sapere la verità su quelle uccisioni e ne restarono edificati. Ritengo che il nostro contributo di sangue, a partire da quello di Mons. Versiglia e Don Caravario, nel 1930, fino a quello dei martiri del sistema persecutorio che si attua ora in Cina, non sarà inutile. Forse, quando io non sarò più su questa terra, altri torneranno sui sentieri già percorsi e porteranno a compimento la titanica impresa di evangelizzare anche la Cina. Non sono abituato a fare profezie: ma ritengo che proprio da queste terre delle Filippine, partiranno drappelli di missionari, per portare la luce del vangelo ai loro fratelli asiatici”.
 A little earlier in Memoirs, 31 and don Carlo Braga, “Memorie di Don Carlo Braga”, xxxviii, Don Carlo Braga had written: “The Salesian cleric Peter Yeh was a true martyr; he sacrificed himself for the school and for the Congregation in a heroic manner” [“Vero martire fu il chierico salesiano Pietro Yeh, che si sacrificò per la scuola e per la Congregazione, in modo eroico”].
 For me, Don Carlo Braga had the gift of prophecy. Besides the prophecies in this last page of his “Autobiography”, in the 10 June 1963 Letter Braga-VascoTassinari, he prophesizes the Canonization of Pope St. John XXIII who had died one week before (3 June 1963): “The more I think about him the more I feel his greatness, I see him [a canonized] saint” [“Più lo penso e più lo sento grande, lo vedo santo”]; in the 14 October 1964 Letter Braga-CesareBrianza, he prophesies the dissolution of the block of Communist countries: “I am happy to see that the Communist giant is going to disintegrate… and that everything will turn into independent socialist countries” [“Son contento di vedere che il colosso comunista si va disgregando… e che tutto si muterà in socialismo indipendente”].