Callistus Caravario was the priest who accompanied the Salesian Bishop Versiglia, about the previous article of the blog talks of, on his journey when he was martyred . He was born at Cougne, a small town in Northern Italy on 8 June 1903. His family was not rich but hardworking and God-fearing. The family shifted to Turin in 1908 and Callistus came into contact with the salesians. In the Oratory he was known for his piety, study and good character. Moreover, he was attracted by the salesian way of life. He also had the chance of meeting the salesian missionaries. Thus he was sent to Foglizzio to do his novitiate. On 19 September 1919 he made his religious profession and continued philosophical studies at Valsalice.
In 1922 when he was in Italy for the General Chapter, Bishop Versiglia, then Vicar Apostolic of Shiu Chow, spent a few days in Turin. During these days Bro. Callistus along with his companions met the Bishop and expressed their desire to become missionaries in China. Although the superiors did not allow him in the beginning looking at his missionary zeal they sent him to China. And so on 10 November 1924 he reached Hong Kong. He was asked work in Shanghai and East Timor. He learned the language and was attached to the people. On 18 may 1929, on the eve of Pentecost, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Versiglia. On that day he wrote the following memorable words to his mother: “Now your Callistus is no longer yours, he must be entirely the Lord’s, wholly consecrated to his service…. On your part, from now on, think only of praying that I may be a holy priest, setting good example to all entirely dedicated to the cause of the Lord.”
Soon after his ordination he was sent to Linchow mission along with the bishop. He began the mission with the same fervour of the mission in Timor. He learned the language well in a short period of time and engaged himself in various activities for the faithful and the young of the missionland. However, his primary motive was to lead a holy life. In fact, two days before his martyrdom he wrote to his mother, “Pray, I repeat, pray much for me that I may be a holy priest… I know that so far you prayed that I might become a priest. Now that I am one, pray that I may be a holy priest…”
The holy priest was martyred along with Bishop Versiglia on their way to Tin Chue Tong Mission by the fanatic pirates. Both the clergy fell unconscious with the strong hit by the rifle butts. They were forced to come to the land and they did so with the help of the catechists. Fr. Caravaio tried to negotiate, offering money but the brigands were interested in taking their lives and abusing the women catechists. Bishop asked the pirates to take his life and spare the young priest but his plea fell in deaf ears. The two knelt down in deep prayer and the women who sat down a few meters away could see that the two priests making their confession to each other. Moments later the silence of the place was shattered by five rifle shots.
Their martyrdom was recognized by the church and they were proclaimed Saints on 1 October 2000. The mortal remains of St. Caravario is kept at Ho Sai in the church of St. Joseph.