Beginning of diocesan inquest: 8-2-1995
Charles Crespi Croci was born in Legnano (Milan) on 29 May 1891 to Daniele Crespi and Luisa Croci. Charles was the third of thirteen children. Like John Bosco, from the time he was a child the Lord had given him great gifts: intelligence, generosity and good will. After attending the local school, he met the Salesians when he was 12, at St Ambrose College in Milan where he finished his secondary studies. “When I was studying there" Fr Charles said "the Blessed Virgin revealed something to me in a dream: …I saw myself dressed as a priest with a long beard in an old pulpit, and I was preaching to lots of people. The pulpit looked like it was in a hut rather than a church…”.
In 1903 Charles went to the Salesians in Valsalice (Turin), and felt called by Don Bosco. He did his novitiate at Foglizzo. On 8 September 1907 he made his first vows as a Salesian, and in 1910 his final profession. He began the study of philosophy and theology at Valsalice, where the young cleric Renato Ziggiotti, future successor of Don Bosco was a companion. At the same time he taught natural sciences, maths and music.
In 1917 he was ordained priest. At the University of Padua he discovered the existence of a thus far unknown microrganism, and this aroused the interested of scientists. In 1921 he gained a doctorate in music. In 1923, following what he had seen from the Blessed Virgin, he left for the missions in Ecuador.
He disembarked at Gayaquil and went to Quito; immediately afterwards he went on to Cuenca, where he remained for the rest of his life. There he began his tremendous work for the poor: he put electric light into Macas, opened an agricultural school at Yanuncay, and had machines and specialised personnel sent out from Italy. He managed to open many workshops, creating the first School of Arts and Trades, which then became known as the Salesian Polytech University (UPS).
In Yanuncay he found a place for the novices, and in 1940 opened a Faculty of Education, becoming its first Rector. He also set up a primary school, “Cornelio Merchán”, for very poor children. He opened a College of 'Oriental Studies' to prepare Salesians going to the Western side of Ecuador.
He founded the Carlo Crespi museum, well known also outside of South America. He was energetic in spreading devotion to Mary Help of Christians.
His confessional, espeically in the final years of his life, was always crowded and people spontaneously called him “Saint Charles Crespi”. He was always amongst the poor: on Sunday afternoons he taught catechism to street children giving them their 'daily bread' as well as a time to enjoy themselves.
He organised sewing workshops for poor girls in the city. He received many honours amongst which: Gold Medal of Merit from the President of the Repblic of Ecuador; honorary Canon of the Cathedral in Cuenca; Gold Medal for Education from the Minister of Education; he was also honoured by the Italian Republic; declared “most illustrious citizen of Cuenca of the 20th century”; Doctorate Honoris Causa post mortem from the Universidad Politecnica Salesiana.
He died in Cuenca on 30 April 1982. All Ecuador wept at the death of a true and holy son of Don Bosco.