Model of Salesian missionary zeal,
Fr. Nicosia - passed to the Salesian garden!
By Fr. Lanfranco Fedrigotti, SDB
Hong Kong, 7 November 2017 -- On Monday, 06 November, 2017, at 17:15 hours Hong Kong time, the oldest Salesian confrere in the history of the China Province of Mary Help of Christians died, aged 102 years and 1/2. He died holding the hand of Salesian Fr. Denis Kong Che Chiu and surrounded by a dozen brothers and sisters who were praying at his bed-side in the St. Mary’s Home for the Aged of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Wong Chuk Hang, Aberdeen, Hong Kong.
The day had begun with the alert issued in the late morning by Fr. Gaetano himself to the Little Sisters, telling them in a very low voice: “Please, the Anointing.” He made this request even if he had already received the Anointing of the Sick several times before. The Little Sisters begin searching all around Hong Kong for the Provincial, who is doing the Annual Visitation to the Tang King Po School Salesian Community, or some other Salesian priest. Finally, they find young Salesian priest Fr. Carlos Cheung Sam Ioi who, from the near-by Aberdeen Technical School, rushes to Fr. Gaetano’s bed-side giving him the Anointing of the Sick, surrounded by the Little Sisters.
As he does so, Salesian Card. Joseph Zen Ze Kiun, who had arranged one or two days before to go and celebrate the Holy Mass at his bed-side on Monday afternoon, arrives and joins the dozen or so people already gathered in prayer. Among them is Miss Sophia To, the nurse that has been like the guardian angel of Fr. Nicosia for the last 50 years. After some time, the Rector of Tang King Po School, Fr. Peter Pong Ping Fai, informed of the critical condition of Fr. Nicosia, arrives together with Br. Aloysius Tam Chaik Kei, long-time pastoral assistant of Fr. Nicosia in his work for the Hansenian patients. A few minutes later, also Fr. Francis Hung Chi Kong, the Head of Casa Braga, and Fr. Provincial arrive. Together they sing Ave Verum and other songs and pray the Rosary. Fr. Provincial gives Fr. Nicosia the Apostolic Blessing and the Blessing of Mary Help of Christians. After the doctor has come to check the situation of Fr. Nicosia, Fr. Provincial, some time before 14:00 hours, leaves for his Bible class in the neighbouring Holy Spirit Seminary College, after the doctor has come and checked the situation of Fr. Nicosia.
At 15:00 hours Card. Joseph Zen celebrates the Holy Mass by the bed-side of Fr. Nicosia, giving him the Viaticum Holy Communion with a few drops of Precious Blood. At about 16:00 Card. Joseph Zen succeeds in contacting by phone in Catania (Sicily, Italy) the family of Fr. Nicosia’s elder brother (who died just three months ago, aged 104). His relatives are thus able to speak through the phone in the ear of their dying dear one. Card. Joseph Zen notices a tear coming out from his eye. At about 16:10, Fr. Provincial returns from the Seminary and, with Card. Joseph Zen, the Little Sisters, and Fr. Francis Hung, reviews the situation of Fr. Nicosia. They decide to take turns to assist Fr. Nicosia in his last hours. Fr. Denis Kong Che Chiu volunteers to be the first in the row of assistants in what will be the last hour of Fr. Nicosia’s long life. Fr. Provincial, Fr. Francis Hung, and Card. Joseph Zen go back to their places. They have hardly reached home that they receive the news of dear Fr. Gaetano Nicosia’s death.
Card Joseph Zen and Fr. Provincial then meet in Tang King Po School and decide the funeral arrangements as follow: Friday 10 November, Vigil Requiem Mass, presided over by Fr. Provincial, at 20:00 hours in St. Anthony’s Church West Point. Saturday 11 November, Funeral Requiem Mass, presided over by Card. Joseph Zen, at 17:00 hours in the same Church. The Burial will take place next week in Macau’s St. Michael Cemetery, where the first Salesians to die in China “expect the resurrection”. Hopefully, the Burial Funeral Mass will be presided over by the Bishop of Macau with the participation of Card. Joseph Zen. If at all possible, the Funeral will be celebrated in the Cathedral of the city that saw Fr. Nicosia’s Cottolengo-like services to the poor sick from 1963 to 2013.
Have a good rest in the Salesian Garden, dear Fr. Nicosia!
We pray that many Salesians will learn from his strong missionary life model and zeal!
Resource - spiritual profile of Fr. Nicosia: