Blessed Fr Mario Borzaga

00june saint cqMario was born in Italy in 1932. From a young age, he wanted to be a priest and he studied middle and high school at a minor seminary. He joined the Missionary Oblates of Mary when he was 20 years old. He completed his studies and was ordained a priest at the age of 25. Shortly after, in 1957, he was sent on his first mission to Laos, a country in Southeast Asia, which borders China, Thailand and Vietnam. At that time the communist revolutionaries called Pathet Lao were backed by North Vietnam and had begun a civil war four years earlier. Fr. Borzaga spent the first year of his missionary life studying the Lao language. He kept a diary (which is now a book called “To be a Happy Man”) where he described the difficulties he encountered daily which was aggravated by the revolutionaries. He would visit the communities and people in the nearby villages, offering the sacraments and caring for the sick. He would travel with lay catechists many times so that they could help teach the children. Sometimes the journey would take days to get to the villages and they had to travel through the mountains. In April 1960, after he had lived in Laos for 3 years, he set out on one of these journeys to a nearby village with a lay catechist named Paul Thoj. It took them three days to get to the mountainous village where they spent two weeks teaching the faith, celebrating the sacraments and helping those who were ill and dying. On their journey home, they disappeared and were never to be seen again. The people searched in vain and soon discovered that they were killed by the communist revolutionists in hatred for the faith. Fr Mario and Paul Thoj were two of the  fifteen missionaries who were killed for their faith in Laos between 1954 and 1970. In 1975, Lao forces took over the government and Laos became a  communist country. Most foreign missionaries were expelled or fled that year. Fr Mario was declared a martyr in 2015 and beatified by Pope Francis is December 2016.