Mario Borzaga a martyr

“I prayed, I succeeded at my studies, and I dreamed…” Mario BORZAGA was born in 1932 in Trent, at the foot of the mountains in northern Italy. He was the youngest of a family of four children: three boys and a girl. He had an lively personality and the solid build of the mountain people.

He was just 20 years old when a missionary came to speak to the seminarians. Mario listened to him attentively and he became aware that God was calling him to the foreign missions: his vocation would be that of a Missionary Oblate. The Oblates, a congregation founded in France in 1816 by Saint Eugene de Mazenod, was, in fact, sending missionaries into many countries.

Mario was ordained a priest in 1957. It was a beautiful celebration for his family and his parish. The same year, the Oblates of Italy sent their first team of missionaries to Laos.

Arriving in one of the poorest countries in the world, with a small number of Christians, was a shock for him. He spent his first year in the mission of Kengsadok. There, he had to learn the language, the local culture and missionary life. His missionary zeal was just waiting to be used. He loved to be with the people; he wanted to learn everything from them as quickly as possible so he could proclaim to them the Gospel of salvation.

Mario Borzaga was 26 years old when he was sent to his first mission post. Kiukatiam was a Hmong village, some 80 km from Louang Prabang, along the route that goes in the direction of Xieng Khouang and Vietnam and which they then called the Astrid Road. From 1959, he was in charge. Teaching catechism, teaching how to pray, visiting families, receiving the sick persons who daily gathered at the door of the mission dispensary: that is how Mario spent his time and his strength. He was also put in charge of the formation of young Hmong catechists.

The missionary experience of Mario Borzaga was brief: he would never arrive at his 28th birthday. From the end of April till the beginning of May 1960, the adventure was going to come to its climax in the solitude of the forest, along a mountain path, as he returned from an apostolic journey with one of his students – undoubtedly the biggest rebel of them all – the young Hmong, Thoj Xyooj (ທໍຂົງ, Shiong). Mario gave his life on Sunday, April 24, 1960.

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