Versiglia, Luigi, St.

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Also known as Aloysius of John Bosco, missionary bishop, Salesian protomartyr; b. June 5, 1873, Oliva Gessi (near Pavia), Italy; d. Feb. 25, 1930, Lin-Chow Tsieu, southern China. Versiglia studied at the oratory of St. John Bosco in Valdocco (188589), before joining the Salesians at age 16. He earned a doctorate in philosophy from the Gregorian University (1893), received presbyteral ordination in 1895 (with a dispensation because he was only 22), then served as the rector and the demanding, but idolized, novice master at the Genzano, Rome (1896 to 1905). On Jan. 7, 1906, he arrived in Macao as head of the first Salesian mission to the Far East. In the Portuguese colony he founded an orphanage, which later became the Salesian motherhouse in the Orient. After his consecration (Jan. 9, 1921) in Canton cathedral as vicar apostolic, he took up his work in Shiu Chow. All his many skills were engaged to found schools, a seminary, two leper colonies, and medical facilities; he served as printer, catechist, sacristan, gardener, builder, painter, and barber, in addition to his priestly duties. The turmoil following the 1902 overthrow of the last emperor permitted armed bands and pirates to roam the countryside. In 1930, the river boat on which Bishop Versiglia, Fr. Caravario, and four young teachers traveled to the Lin-Chow mission was ambushed. The bishop successfully intervened to save the female teachers. He pleaded for Caravario's life to be spared, but both bishop and priest were shot to death. Versiglia's body was enshrined at the cathedral of Lin Kong-How, which was vandalized by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. John Paul II beatified (May 15, 1983) and canonized (Oct. 1, 2000) Bishop Versiglia.

Feast: Nov. 13 (Salesians).

Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 78 (1986): 13739. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, no. 21 (1983): 1. g. bosio, Monsignor Versiglia e Don Caravario (Turin 1935); Martiri in China (Turin 1977). b. lareno, Assassinio di Mons. Luigi Versiglia e di Don Callisto Caravario (Hong Kong 1933). t. lewicki, "Ten kielich mam wypelniać krwiaą": opowiesc o pierwszych meczennikach salezjanskich (Warsaw 1985). a. j. ortas, "Protomartiri Salesiani in missione," Martirio e spiritualità apostolica 12 (1983) 1765. m. rassiga, Blood on the River Bank, tr. j. carpella (Hong Kong 1980).

[k. i. rabenstein]