COMBONI THAT DAY

In Pace Christi

Fr. Varesco Luigi

Born: 18/10/1926
Luogo di Nascita: Panchià (I)

Voti temporanei: 09/09/1950
Voti perpetui: 09/09/1953
Ordinazione: 07/06/1952

Date of Death: 06/10/2017
Place of Death: Castel d’Azzano (I)

Fr. Luigi Varesco was born at Panchià, in Trent province, on 18 October 1926. Having entered the Comboni novitiate in Florence where he took first vows on 9 September 1950, he then went to Venegono for the scholasticate. He was ordained priest on 7 June 1952 and took perpetual vows on 9 September 1953 in Sunningdale, England, where he had been sent to study English. Fr. Bruno Carollo, who entered the novitiate with him, describes him: “A peaceful character, clear and always happy; of Veneto-German physique with a tuft of hair always sticking out, broad eyes, a lover of music and director of our Florentine choir”.

They met again in Uganda, in Lira diocese. Fr. Luigi spent a while in Ngeta parish to learn the Lango language, and then went to Aber. Fr. Carollo adds: “He was also assistant to the provincial for some years. Our monthly meetings in the diocese showed he had a character suitable for the Lango, both for the language and for contacts with the catechists and the members of the tribe whether Christian or not. During that period he was frequently in contact with Italian doctors with whom he began and perfected a system that was suitable and useful to Aber Hospital. His method of evangelisation was similar to mine. We were very close also in our lifestyles: a life of poverty in the mission, ‘safari’ lasting at least two weeks to the different chapels, visits to the sick and the elderly, teaching the catechumens at the mission together with the head catechist and meetings with the parents of new Christians. Those were more than forty years of true missionary life, somewhat troubled (also in time of war), but peaceful and in deep friendship with the Lango people”.

Speaking of missionary life, it is interesting to read what Fr. Varesco wrote in a 1967 letter, while he was living at the Bishop’s house in Gulu: “Last Sunday, the magnificent Marian basilica of Lodonga (West Nile), in the care of the Combonis, was opened. There were five bishops at the celebration, thousands of people and thirteen coaches coming from some distance. The temple is dedicated to Our Lady ‘Sultana of Africa’… I have far more duties now than when I was at Aber where I was very much taken up with starting the hospital, which construction was going well. However, from here I am still helping that mission, especially with correspondence to obtain the donations that are so necessary to complete that great work. My work close to the Bishop entails no end of things: working as a secretary, the Chancellor, Vicar general and Visitor to the many parishes of the diocese”.

In 2000 Fr. Varesco returned to Italy for the Renewal Course and stayed there for good, first in Venegono, then in Verona, for treatment and finally in Castel d’Azzano where he died on 6 October, 2017.

“I remember with pleasure and deep emotions – he wrote on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, in June 2002 – my first years of missionary life spent in Uganda under the guidance of experienced confreres... It was an important period for getting accustomed to the language and the mentality of the people. After just a few years I was entrusted with various pastoral commitments such as that of Parish priest, chaplain to the catholic Action of the dioceses of Lira and Gulu, head of a group of teachers and even Director of the Catechetical Centre of Lira diocese for eight years. My final ten years of missionary life in Uganda represent, in my view, the best I could offer to ‘walk with the people’. In that period, in fact, my contacts with the people continually increased for the purpose of forming various pastoral groups. Catechumenates, churches and chapels quickly sprang up with the help of the Christians, by now able to organise themselves, to collect funds and to make the pastoral work run much more smoothly, with much participation and many fruits. In fact, before I returned to Italy for the renewal Course, the parish of Aber, in agreement with the provincial and diocesan councils, was handed over to the diocesan clergy. It was a day of celebration for all as both people and clergy took another step forward in their understanding of missionary and ecclesial life”.