FATHER CARLO BRAGA
“Fr. Carlo Braga enchanted everybody with his large-hearted goodness and super-abounding gratitude” (Fr. Luigi Ferrari).
BeginningsFr. Carlo Braga was born in the year after Don Bosco died and on the day before the annual solemn feast of Mary Help of Christians, in 23 May 1889. He lived his boyhood and early adolescent in Tirano, of the Valtellina zone of the Lombard Region of Northern Italy. His mother (Maddalena Mazza) died alone in a hospital while her Carlino was merely age six.
Nonetheless, in these moments of unwanted losses, Fr. Braga found providential substitutes in the Salesians, in both the masculine and feminine. The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians took him in their kindergarten and elementary school in Tirano.
But it was during Fr. Braga’s stay with the Salesians in Sondrio that Providence extraordinarily gave him the opportunity to encounter St. John Bosco’s successor, the Blessed Michael Rua, who opened to him the way to be one day to emulate St. John Bosco by becoming a Salesian himself.
And so began Carlo’s journey of becoming a Salesian. In 1904, he was sent to the novitiate of the Provincia Centrale (Foglizzo, August 1904), when the original plan was to send him to the novitiate of the Lombarda-Veneta Province which he was his Salesian province of origin. Finally, he made his profession (30 July 1906). In 11 April 1914, he was ordained, but not after some delay in his admission to the orders.
He hardly made it in time to receive the missionary cross (April 1919) from the Rector Major, Fr. Paolo Albera, in Valdocco, together with eight other Salesians and ex-soldiers like him. Again, after more delays, he left Italy in 23 August and arrived in China in 29 September 1919.
The China Experience“Father Braga had a soul sparkling with optimism and healthy enthusiasm, with missionary zeal and cultural sensibility” (Fr. Egidio Vigano).
Fr. Carlo Braga divided into two periods what he considered as the “summa capita” of his missionary life which he spent beside the Salesian bishop and martyr Luigi Versiglia: the first, from 1919-1924, when he was assigned as superior of the orphanage “St. Joseph” of Ho Sai; the second, from 1925-1929, when he was rector of “Don Bosco College” of Shiu Chow. In 1930, he was made provincial, following the nomination of the Superior of the Mission, Fr. Ignacio Canazei, as bishop of Shiu Chow, in the place of the deceased Bishop Luigi Versiglia (+February 1930).
ConclusionFr. Braga was a “popular figure with an unmistakable optimism of his own [… one of those] dynamic celebrities that have kept the Salesian Congregation going” (Fr. Luigi Fiora, Procurator General).
During the 65 years of his religious profession as Salesian and 57 years as priest, Fr. Braga was rector for 14 years, provincial for 23 years and “Visitatore” for 5 years. He passed away in the early morning of 3 January 1971, Solemnity of the Epiphany, in Don Bosco Juniorate of San Fernando, Pampanga. The next day, I, who was then a second year aspirant, was there to pay homage to his mortal remains.
The death of Fr. Braga was a first in the history of the Salesians in the Philippines. But it would remain a first of those who would wish to reminisce the taste of a true and authentic Salesian.
Fr. Nestor C. Impelido SDB
BRIEF CHRONOLOGY OF LIFE OF FR BRAGA
1889 Birth of Fr. Braga (23 May, Tirano, Sondrio, Italy)
1904 Novitiate in Foglizzo (August)
1906 First profession (30 July)
1914 Ordination to the priesthood (11 April)
1915 Conscripted by the Italian Army (May)
1918 Invited to join the missionary expedition (November)
1919 Left Italy for China (23 August) and arrived in China (29 September)
1919-1924 Superior of Orphanage of St. Joseph Ho Sai
1925-1929 Superior of Don Bosco College Shiu Chow
1930-1952 Provincial of China
1953 Arrival in the Philippines (Rector of Don Bosco Victorias)
1955 Delegate of the Provincial of China in the Philippines
1958 Visitor of the Philippine Visitatoria (Vice-Province)
1963 End of term as Visitatore
1971 Death of Fr. Braga (3 January, Bacolor, Pampanga, Philippines)
Prayer to implore the beatification and canonization of Father Carlo Braga
Almighty and merciful Father:
in the footsteps of St. John Bosco,
you wanted Fr. Carlo Braga to be your Salesian,
who imitated his examples, inherited his spirit
and propagated his works in China and in the Philippines.
Now that you have welcomed him in heaven,
please make him a worthy intercessor
to those who invoke him,
and give stimulus to his glorification
here on earth as an example of holiness, to your people,
to the Salesians and the Salesian Family,
and to the young.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary Help of Christians
whom he loved and honored with the heart of a son.
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