Br. Lodovico De Marchi, SDB
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 16 September 2020 -- Last Sunday, 13 September, a life-long friend of Vietnamese Youth, Salesian Missionary passed away - Brother Lodovico De Marchi (1936-2020) after 57 years of Salesian religious life. Although he spent just 16 years in Vietnam (1958-1974), until the last moments of his life he stayed closed to the Vietnamese people also in his native Italy.
Brother Lodovico was born at Toara - Villaga in the province of Vicenza, Northern Italy on 10 February 1936 and after his primary school he went to Colle Don Bosco (Becchi) to the Salesian Institute of 'Bernardi Semeria' for his 4 years of secondary school: a very dynamic, intelligent and proactive young man fell in love with Salesian life at Colle Don Bosco and started his novitiate at Villa Moglia (near Chieri) in 1952. After his novitiate he returned to Colle Don Bosco for another 3 years of 'professional formation' in carpentry and agriculture with many other Salesian Brothers, also learning mechanics and agro-mechanics.
After his studies he had a health crisis and was forced to rest for two years from his professional field of work and was in charge of the reception and phone exchange at Colle Don Bosco Salesian Institute. During these two years he took advantage of more available time for reading, and improved his cultural preparation and technical knowledge and skills.
As did many of his friends, young Salesian Lodovico wrote his request for missio ad gentes to the Superiors, to the RM Fr. Renato Ziggiotti, but due to his precarious health was not accepted. But suddenly in 1958 Fr. Mario Acquistapace (China province) who was in charge of relaunching the mission in Vietnam spent two days at Colle Don Bosco to 'recruit' some young missionaries. Br Lodovico was attracted to this specific missionary destination and approached Fr. Mario sharing his availability and situation of poor health. Fr. Aquistapace, who had just finished his 6 year term as provincial of China-Vietnam-Philippines province was able to convince the Superiors and Br. Lodovico left for Vietnam in the summer of 1958.
During his 16 years as a missionary in Vietnam he initially faced a huge challenge with the local language, to the point of nearly quitting this mission, but suddenly with his enthusiasm and faith he even overcame this obstacle. Go Vap Don Bosco Technical school in Saigon was his place of mission until 1974, with a short break for one year of professional update in Los Angeles, USA (1971-1972). He is remembered with fond memories by former students and Salesians, although he was able to return to Vietnam after 1975 only once.
After his return to Italy he spent most of his years in the Technical Institute at San Zeno (Verona) until his health did not permit him in 2009 to live an active Salesian life in the school, and the last 11 years he spent in the INE (Italia-North East) provincial community of Blessed Artemide Zatti for senior confreres.
However only five years after his return from Vietnam, since 1979 the Vietnamese refugees - families and youth - started to reach Northern Italy in larger numbers and Brother Lodovico was the only person who could communicate in Vietnamese in and around the Veneto area. Aside from his technical school commitment he dedicated all his remaining time to their service: as interpreter (civil courts, hospitals, Caritas, public offices), following their needs of accommodation, education, visiting their families and also from 1980 as 'boarding section' master for some 'unaccompanied Vietnamese youth' in San Zeno. So Br. Lodovico was able to continue his Vietnamese mission for 30 long years in Italy.
We give thanks for the life-long witness of a Salesian Missionary Brother who gave most of his 67 years of consecrated life to Vietnamese youth!