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By Fr Savio Yeung, SDB

Coloane - Macau, China, 14 August 2019 -- In 1906, Macau became the first territory within the EAO region where the Salesians of Don Bosco arrived with the first missionary expedition led by Saint Louis Versiglia. So the 'Mother House' of the Instituto Salesiano also becomes also the Mother house of the entire EAO region, now stretching across 23 countries - territories.

But at the 'far end' of Macau (Coloane island) the Salesian work spread thanks to one lively Italian missionary from Sicily, Fr Gaetano Nicosia. He was given permission from the superiors to live and work in the Hansens disease patients village, and over the long years of his presence in this place, Salesian work expanded in a marvellous way up to the present complex of the Don Bosco Youth Centre, Residential care for youth in need, Louis Versiglia school, public chapel and an SDB and FMA community.

The 10th successor of Don Bosco, Fr. Ángel, paid a visit to Coloane Chapel in Macau, built by Fr. Nicosia. The visit took place during the morning of 12 August 2019. Fr Nicosia is buried at Macau cemetery near Yuet Wah College, and his memory is very much alive among his former students, disciples, lay mission partners and especially among his fellow Salesians. He is loved by many. Cardinal Joseph Zen brought him to Rome on the occasion of this 100th birthday for a general audience to meet Pope Francis.

The visit of an hour, with minutes spent in Coloane chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, was a time of prayer, guided visit and shared reflection, while walking around the complex. People ask the Rector Major what this humble place means for the Salesian charism in China province - which became a DNA for the lively and dynamic growth of the Salesian charism even beyond Macau. The legacy of Fr Nicosia is really very rich and not easy to grasp immediately:

  • Preferential love for poor people and youth in need: from the small, restricted access area of the Hansens disease patients in Coloane over the years, came the present Salesian site of Coloane with its Don Bosco Youth Center, Residential Services, EDLV (Escuela Dom Luis Versiglia) for Macau's youth in need). Although these works developed gradually, the youth who need Don Bosco are always at the centre of attention.
  • His tireless and passionate mission for the poorest is deeply rooted in his deep mysticism of 'Da mihi animas, cetera tolle' expressed especially in his strong love for Jesus in the Eucharist and his devotion to Mary, Help of Christians.
  • Volunteers of Don Bosco: the first ever VDB group in Asia came precisely from among the Hansen Disease women, who became the first professed VDB in China and within the whole Region.
  • A tireless story teller of his vocation and mission, strong vocations promoter and a living Salesian model for many. A few years ago one lay group even produced a short movie about 'The Angel of the Hansenians' (link)
  • Missionary zeal, sharing the Gospel, empowered him to be 'never afraid' of any external limitations from his surroundings, or legal restrictions. Fr Gaetano was always focused on the needs of other persons, on their 'soul'.

At the end of this Coloane visit to places that Fr. Nicosia had occupied, his room, his chapel and the small village, the Rector Major asked the Salesians to collect testimonials about Fr. Nicosia in view of a possible process of beatification, which can be officially opened once 5 years after his death have arrived (2017-2022). There is not much that this holy Salesian put into writing, since he 'spoke' more through his deeds of Christian charity.

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