Beatified; May 15, 1983
Canonized: October 1, 2000
Callistus Caravario was born at Cuorgné, in the province of Turin, on June 18, 1903. From his earliest years, everyone thought of him as an excellent child for his meek and reflective nature. He seemed naturally inclined to prayer and loved his mother very much, as witnessed by the many letters he wrote. At five years of age, he and his family moved to Turin close to the Porta Nuova Oratory.
He was amongst the first in his class at school, and served Mass each morning. On the advice of Fr. Sante Garelli, the Rector of the Oratory, he entered the Novitiate and became a Salesian. In 1922, Bishop Louis Versiglia was in Turin and spoke of the missions to the Brothers. Callistus told him: “Bishop, you will see me in China.”
Fr. Sante left for China and Callistus insisted so much, that after a short time, he followed him there. He kept his word. His mother told Fr. Sante: “I am willing to leave my son in Don Bosco’s hands.” “With all the affection I am capable of,” Callistus would write, “thank you Lord, for having given me such a good mother.” “Mother, here is news that will make you happy: This morning I gave my first catechism lesson in Chinese.”
Callistus was sent to Macao, and then for two years, to Timor, where he edified everyone, including the Rector, for his goodness and apostolic zeal. “My good mother,” he wrote, “pray that your Callistus may not be just a half priest but completely the priest.”
Back to China – Linchow mission
On May 18, 1929, he returned to Shiuchow, where bishop Versiglia ordained him priest and entrusted him with the mission at Linchow. In a short time, he had visited all the families and earned the sympathy of the school children. Meanwhile in China, the political situation had become very tense, especially for Christians and foreign missionaries. Persecutions began.
On February 13, 1930, Fr. Callistus was in Shiuchow to accompany the bishop on his pastoral visit to the Linchow mission. Some young boys and girls went with them; they had been studying in Shiuchow. On February 25, a group of Bolshevik pirates stopped the bishop’s boat, wanting to take the girls. Bishop Versiglia and Fr. Callistus stopped them. They were taken by force and ultimately shot, but before they were killed they heard one another’s confessions. Their last breath was spent for their beloved China. Paul VI declared them martyrs in 1976, John Paul II declared them Blessed in 1983 and canonized them on October 1, 2000.