EAO Pilgrimage to the roots - St Louis Versiglia's birthplace
Oliva Gessi (Pavia - Italy), 23 February 2020 -- Thanks to the help of many benefactors, most of the EAO participants at GC28 were able to visit the beautiful small village of Oliva Gessi for the first time, the birthplace of Saint Louis Versiglia. Close to the 90th anniversary of the Martyrdom of our Saint Missionaries and Protomartyrs - Sts Versiglia and Caravario (25 February) a school bus from the Salesian school (Chieri) with the Rector, Fr Eligio Caprioglio with 23 Salesians reached this small village.
After the initial welcome to Oliva Gessi by the parish priest, Fr Marco Danieli and the civil authorities and parish community represented by Mr Andrea Defilippi in front of the parish church of Saint Martin, the pilgrims walked to the house where Saint Louis Versiglia (at the heart of the Oliva Gessi) was born, with three rooms now 'Museum', and where there was a photo session. The historical documents from 1930 (Martyrdom according to the Italian newspapers) and the journey towards Beatification (1983) and Canonisation (2000) presented by fellow citizens from Oliva Gessi (65 families, population 165 in 2020).
The solemn Eucharist in the parish church at which the Regional Councillor presided and which was concelebrated by another 20 EAO Salesian priests and attended by Br. Jean Paul Muller (Economer General) and other 3 EAO Salesian Brothers was animated in a special way by the local choir. There was a blending of Italian and Chinese hymns (Our Father). In the homily Fr Vaclav expressed gratitude for the keenfaith of this small but very united and enthusiastic Catholic community, and gratitude for the multiple fruits of the witness of missionary life and martyrdom of Saint Louis Versiglia. Indeed after 114 years after his arrival in Macau and 90 years after his martyrdom, the 1,500 Salesians of the EAO region are spreadacross 23 countries, a good number whom consider China as their mother province.
The 90th anniversary celebrations reminds us of the Gospel wisdom: "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24). 90 years after the martyrdom of Bishop Versgilia we find around the world many parish communities under his protection, we also find many SDB communities and even one Salesian vice-province (Indonesia) that is dedicated to this great saint. At the end of the well-animated solemn Eucharist there was an exchange of gifts between the EAO Salesians and Oliva Gessi parishioners.
Before returning to Turin, the whole pilgrim group was offered dinner in the nearby small town of Fumo, and during the dinner there was a lively exchange among the Salesians and Oliva Gessi faithful. We came to know each other and understand a little bit more of the background, history and present impact of our great Saint the martyr - bishop Louis Versiglia.
Saint Louis Versiglia, pray for us!
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