look at the missionary saints of the past and think the days of great
missionaries with many conversions is past. This came from the Vatican
news this week.
years,FATHER GIORGIO PONTIGGA, a 74-year-old Salesian missionary, has been
living in Pugnido, a village of eight thousand inhabitants, about a hundred
kilometers from Gambela, Ethiopia.
arrived eleven years ago,” Fr Giorgio recalls, “I found about 40 Catholics.
After about a year, I started administering baptisms again. A little at a time,
with a relatively calm situation and the many activities created in and around
the parish, the life of the Catholic community was revitalized. This year, on
Easter night, we have reached the figure of 7,569 baptisms.”
to Fr Filippo Perin's arrival three years ago, and the support of Don Bosco
Missions, the Salesian parish of Pugnido has developed significantly. Today, in
addition to the church and the parish house, there are eleven mud and
sheet-metal chapels scattered in the surrounding area. In the remote Ethiopia
region, where people live with little more than nothing, what the two Salesians
encounter is poverty, pillaging raids and refugee camps, but also the
enthusiasm of its young people.
spent a lifetime in the oratories between Sesto San Giovanni in the Milano area
and Chiari near Brescia; he has rediscovered an enthusiasm and vibrancy in the
world of Ethiopia's youth since going as a Salesian 47-year-old, after serving
in a school for disabled children and as a Master of Novices, first in Dilla,
in the South of the country, then in Pugnido.
“It is they
who are the mission's protagonists,” he says. “They have incredible strength
and enthusiasm, and they transmit joy and the desire to live. Not just the
little ones. Even when they grow up, they often attend our oratory, participate
in our masses, live with us. And even when they move elsewhere, they always
come back to visit us. These young people are a great hope for the future.”