Salesian Holiness

Ottavio Ortiz

Declared Venerable: 27-02-2017

At the oratory in Benigna Coya, Peru

Ottavio Ortiz was born in Lima on 19 April 1879, eighth son of Manuel and Benigna Coya. In 1892 the Salesians opened the first professional school in Peru. Ottavio, who had been attending the oratory for a year, entered as a carpenter student. He was a careful and profound boy. One day Ottavio was helping in the kitchen, mixing soup with one hand and reading the catechism with the other.

"Instead of a carpenter, he could become a priest! "

Providence wanted Bishop Costamagna to notice him and he observed: "Why don't you get that boy to study? Instead of being a carpenter he could become a priest! " And so it was. He went to the novitiate in Callao and made his perpetual vows into the hands of Fr Albera, the Extraordinary Visitor. He did his practical training in the same house, having among his students the future Bishop Vittorio Alvarez.

The first Salesian priest from Peru

In 1907 he became the first Salesian priest from Peru. He was sent as Rector to found the professional school at Piura, where he founded the weekly La Campanilla. He was respected Rector in Cuzco and Callao. In 1921, to his great surprise, he was appointed bishop of Chachapoyas north of the Andes. The territory is as extensive as a third of Italy, rugged and without connections with other cities. Ottavio wanted to be a bishop in the style of Don Bosco. In fact, he chose as his episcopal motto "Da mihi animas", which expressed his zeal for souls at the cost of every effort

Bishop in the style of Don Bosco

In Don Bosco's style he encouraged the authorities to give Chachapoyas roads, hospitals, water and electricity; he saw to schools: for boys, for adults and for women. He fostered good press and cultural initiatives. He immediately wanted the teaching of catechism in the city churches every Sunday, established the Union of catechists, organsed the teaching of religion in schools, took care of the formation of his priests.

Visits all the people of the diocese

He traveled continuously on horseback and on foot, through forests, mountains and rivers to meet all his faithful in the villages. Every 5 years he was able to visit them all: there were 120,000 people in the diocese! During his time a part of his territory was elevated to the rank of Apostolic Prefecture and another to that of a Prelature "nullius". With many difficulties he set up a seminary in his diocese. On two occasions he refused a diocese of greater prestige and that was less tiring.

In 1953 Pius XII appointed him assistant to the Papal throne. Following an operation, on 1 March 1958 the good bishop died. He is buried in his cathedral. He has a tremendous reputation for holiness.