TRIBUTE TO REV. FATHER PIETRO RAVASIO, COMBONI MISSIONARY
It is days since the worst happened on the day of Pentecost in which our beloved Dad in Christ returned home to his Father and our Father! I have just learnt of the sudden pass on of Rev. Fr. Pietro Ravasio, a Comboni priest from Italy. Fr. Pietro Ravasio worked in my diocese of Tombura-Yambio, South Sudan, for over 23 years and also continued to work with our diocese when he returned back to his home in Italy. He is that missionary who never gave up on our diocese since he left our diocese but kept a very active link with the diocese and the people he knew here when he returned to Rome.
Fr. Ravasio, known in my diocese as ‘Basangbaambori’, literally meaning that one who speaks of God everywhere he goes. He was a classmate of my great Predecessor Bishop Joseph Gasi who passed away in 2013. Their friendship really enhanced the growth of the church in my diocese.
Fr. Pietro Ravasio comes from Bergamo in Italy, it is the same city the Good Pope, John de 23rd came from, as such Bergamo is an Italian city which gives birth always to holy people and kind individuals.
I remember very vividly the first time that I ever saw Fr. Ravasio Pietro when I was in the Minor Seminary back in 1982. I was in a Senior Secondary Seminary. I do not want to say anything to give anybody pain – certainly not a priest of the Church, whose office it is to minister in the land of Catholics (Azande-land); but I was wandering about the town of Nzara the Industrial town of Western Equatoria Region, I remember – to find, if I might, centre for pastoral programs mainly for Catechists’ training which he build nicely well. He impressed me with great sign of love receiving me to their dinning of the catechists and gave me refreshments. I was saying to myself this must be the brother of Jesus Christ, since I was young. I think it was the first time to close to a white person and to be ministered to by a white man, all was a shock! When I got up to leave him, he blessed me, gave me a Rosary, a prayer book and some money for my trip on to the Seminary.
When I was in Rome for my studies I met Rev. Fr. Ravasio another time, this time I was already a priest. He was the same man of God full of holiness and generosity. He helped me greatly! And when I making some research since he was placed in-charge of the archive he opened wide for me the library and archives to enable my research.
Then I came finally into the relation which Fr. Ravasio and I have sustained all this time until he has passed on! And in which, let me say in this writing, I never parted from him without a new sense of the singular sweetness, transparency, purity, and elevation of his character.
He was a most lovable man, of inexhaustible tenderness, and the rare grace and charm with which he moved his hand was an expression and type of his mind. He could not be harsh – at least I could not conceive of him as harsh. He could not be bitter. And in all of life he had a singular philosophy of vision. He looked at things in a large and lofty way. He judged men with an inexhaustible charity. And when we were together, some of us who are in my diocese, in Nakindo Zereda Nzara Parish and Our Lady Mary Help of Christians where he was a parish priest, I believe, his death is a big loss.
Fr. Ravasio could easily be differentiated from other Missionary men by what he was not; but I prefer to remember what he was; to remember how he moved to and fro among all sorts and conditions of men, making life sweeter because he was part of it and human speech more tender, and our judgments of men more forbearing, by the exquisite patience which I sometimes think was the finest note of his character, however imperfectly we imitate and reproduce it. Fr. Ravasio never made walls around himself, but he was out there into the lives of the people he lived among.
I thank God for his great ministry; and I beseech you, my brethren, including all the Comboni Missionaries, to whom especially he spoke, shared, experienced and for whom especially he lived, to carry forward the power of his life by the strong and consistent and ardent faith with which you follow and serve your Master, even as he followed and served his!
It seems to me that his interest in and his companionship with the young made him ever ready to give a welcome to new thoughts and ways, and kept him from the tendency of age to disparage the new in comparison with the old. I still have five catholic priests he sent as seminarians to seminary and now are priests, he touched them (Fr. Bazawi, Fr. Gbemboyo, Fr. Sangu, Fr. Minisare, etc). It means Fr. Ravasio is still alive as he will continue to be active through these energetic priests in my diocese he touched firmly!
Firm in his devotion and steadfastness to the creed and truths in which he had been trained, Fr. Ravasio was ready to welcome new knowledge, and to reach forward to greet new ways. There was something very fine in his character, thus to be willing to entertain new light and bid God-speed to new thoughts, new workers, and new ways of work. He thus kept along with his generation, and because of his sympathy with it, he was able to serve it all the more effectively. Old in years, he was no “old fogy,” but in his bosom there pulsed a youthful heart beating with the music of the age, in harmony with the spirit of the time.
In striving to measure the true greatness of a character like that of our departed brother Rev. Fr. Ravasio, we stand perhaps too close to him to get the true perspective of it in its manifold and yet united completeness; our bereaved eyes are too dim to see it in its true proportions. But our loving hearts can comprehend some of its more evident and salient points, which commend it to our love and imitation.
Fr. Ravasio was, above all things, a man of God, a faithful and devoted servant of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
He was a man of prayer, of deep spirituality, which pervaded all his life, into which religion was inwrought as a matter of daily conduct, to enrich it with its charm, and to beautify it with its celestial grace.
He was a man of sympathy, with a tear for every woe, and a smile for every joy. He was a man of charity, and many of the donations went to assist seminarians, catechists, young couples. When I was in Rome Rev. Fr. Peter Ravasio never ceased from sending money and other supports to people in my diocese.
Rev. Ravasio was a man of enduring patience, of remarkable fidelity, of unwearied perseverance, and of unwavering faith. Though deeply spiritual he was intensely human, and a saving sense of humour kept him from sourness, harshness and discouragement. In the wide range of his work, in the multitude of men with whom he came in contact, in the sphere of his chosen labour, in the generation which he served, the lives he brightened, the souls he cheered, in his untiring devotion to the people of his peculiar care, he won for himself an affection which we may all envy and which we will all do well to emulate. He has left behind him a memory fragrant with the perfume of self-sacrifice, which will live in the hearts of men as a rich and cherished treasure.
The long suffering of the people of South Sudan kept Fr. Ravasio so attentive to the needs of the people here, from spiritual to social needs of these needy people.
Our dear beloved friend Rev. Fr. Pietro Ravasio will not have lived in vain, if his life, so full of labours for human good, impress upon us in the diocese of Tombura-Yambio all the duty and the privilege of serving our generation in faithfulness and quietude, without noise or fuss, forgetting self, and making the place where our lot is cast, sweeter, happier and better, doing all things according to God’s blessed will.
“The night cometh when no man can work.” May we, as the shadows gather around us, fall on sleep, in the humble hope that it may be said of us, as we say it, as the best tribute to the memory of our dear departed friend Rev. Fr. Ravasio Pietro, and as an encouragement to us to follow the Master as he followed Him: “He served his own generation by the will of God, and fell on sleep.
Finally, I want to express gratitude and appreciation on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio and entire people of Sudan/South Sudan to the Comboni Family for providing us with such a HOLY man Rev. Ravasio, who has touched permanently our lives! We shall continue to cherish him as we pray for his eternal Godly reward for job well done! Let us him to pray for True Peace in South Sudan and also in Sudan!
God bless and may Rev. Ravasio rest in Peace! St. Daniel Comboni pray intercede for your son Fr. Ravasio and Peace in Sudan/South Sudan.
Barani Eduardo Hiiboro KUSSALA
Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio
Fr. Pietro Ravasio, a Comboni missionary, was born in Bergamo, Italy, on 24 May 1932, and ordained priest on 11 March 1958. He was assigned to Ethiopia where he served as missionary for many years. He left Ethiopia in 1973 and went to Rome where he worked till 1978. That very same year he went to South Sudan and served in the diocese of Tombura-Yambio from 1979 to 1990. Then, he worked for 18 years at the General Archive in Rome and spent another five years in Rome before he went to Milan, Italy, where he died on 3 June 2017 at the age of 86.