Interview with Nov. Leopoldo Pinto
Pinerolo, Torino, Italy, 24 January 2019 -- Leopoldo is one of 19 novices at Pinerolo (Piedmont, Italy-ICP Province) who come from seven different countries. He began his novitiate last September 2018.
Brief family background and faith journey in Timor?
My name is Leopoldo Pinto, 31 years old, son of Antonio Pinto and Elisa dos Santos. I was born in Timor Leste. I have four brothers and three sisters. I grew up in a Christian family and my family nurtured the Christian faith i me. When I was still very young, Fr Andres Cervantes invited me to go and stay in the orphanage where I lived for 6 years. In the orphanage I learned so many things and also deepened my faith. The Salesians in Lospalos taught me how to be a good Christian and honest citizen, just as Don Bosco taught his children 150 years ago. The Christian faith in East Timor is quite strong, especially among young people. I am grateful for the presence of the Salesians and other religious who brought Christianity to so many people through their witness and evangelizing mission.
Where and how did you met for Don Bosco for the first time?
Before I met Don Bosco at the orphanage, I had a beautiful dream in which I met Our Lady. On August 1999, I went to Don Bosco’s orphanage run by Salesians in Lospalos (East Timor). It was just two weeks before the vote for the referendum for independence or special autonomy within Indonesia. On my very first night at the orphanage a Salesian priest gave a good night and said that “Anyone who comes to the orphanage, was not brought there by any of the Salesians but rather it was Mary Help of Christians who had brought her children to that house.” I still remember clearly that very first good night I heard in orphanage. Actually, I entered there not because I was an orphan, but rather because I had a difficulty walking properly because of an ailment in my leg. It was Fr Andres Cervantes, SDB missionary from Mexico, who one day took pity on me and brought me to the orphanage. During my six years living among the orphans, I learned a lot about Don Bosco from the good morning and evening talks from the Salesians. I was inspired very much by Don Bosco’s teaching, but what I liked most was praying to Our Lady Help of Christians who helped me overcome my difficulty.
How come you went to Ireland?
There are many people who have asked me how I joined the Irish province. I always answer by saying that ‘I do not know!’. But as my provincial Fr Eunan McDonnell said one day, it is not important that I or he know the reason; what is more important is that God himself knows and He sent me to Ireland. I strongly believe that joining the Irish Province was not my choice but it was God’s will.
Salesian vocation journeys in Ireland?
It is wonderful to be a part of the Salesian journey in Ireland: The Irish Salesians are very welcoming, making everyone feel at home just as the Salesian founder welcomed all young people. They are caring and assist young people who are willing to answer their vocation and they are quite open to anyone who wants to talk or share thoughts about religious life. When I reached Ireland and met the first Irish Salesians I felt very much at home.
What did you learn from European young people?
During my time in Ireland, I have been learning many things from Irish and European young people, such as their great talent in playing music, singing during Mass and adoration. Quite a number of them spent so much time in the church in prayerful reflection. I was very surprised and delighted to see young people still came to Mass despite the heavy snow storms that hit Ireland in March. Furthermore, there are some very active youth prayer groups, participating in sharing and discussing to deepen their faith. I have met young people who were faithful in prayer, particularly on Friday at three, when they always find time to pray for mercy and unborn babies.
What dreams do you have as missionary in Europe?
As a missionary candidate in Europe, I would like to explore Christian faith among the young who still have faith but are not practising. I think that (they) European young people need someone to be present among them and be witnesses to the Gospel by their way of life.
Looking back at the young Salesians of your homeland, Timor Leste?
would like to thank the Salesians in Timor specially Fr Apolinario Neto (TLS provincial, former director of the Lospalos Orphanage), he really cared us and loved us as Don Bosco loved his children. I would also like to thank all missionaries in East Timor who worked tirelessly for young people, specially for the building up of the Catholic Church. I do not know how to thank Salesians for their great work that they had done for other young poor or abandoned youth. They have taught and generated Don Bosco’s preventive system. For me, they are Don Bosco’s own generation. May God always bless their good work and prosperous in mission in Timor.
Anything you would like to share with the young Salesians of the EAO region?
To the young SDBs of the EAO region. When I was in England and Ireland I went to different parishes and diocesan churches, and I heard of many of EAO and from Asian countries coming to Europe as missionaries (some of them are not Salesians), and who have been sent all over Europe. I am glad to hear that nowadays a big number of missionaries are from Asia, especially from India, Vietnam, South Korea and other Asian countries. Last year, I took part in the 149th Salesian missionary expedition in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Valdocco, I met one FMA missionary Sister from Timor Leste. I am proud to be one of the missionaries to evangelize in Europe and bring the Gospel to the young. It is a great privilege to be a living witness of the Gospel. I am praying and always praying that God will guide and send many Salesian from Asia to Europe and all over the world. It is indeed a great joy to bring good news to others.