07/21/2018, 12.12
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Revixit Spiritus Meus: the missionary life of Fr. Quirino de Ascaniis in Hong Kong and China

by Aurelio Porfiri

The Pime missionary Quirino de Ascaniis lived for 76 years in Hong Kong and in the diocese under China, from which he was expelled in 1951. A vibrant testimony of the daily life of a missionary. The publication of his diary.


Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Not long ago, I found myself in Hong Kong with the missionary Fr. Sergio Ticozzi discussing the possibility of publishing historical materials about the missionaries in China with my Chorabooks publisher and specifically in Hong Kong. When I received the text of the "diary" (it is not sufficiently systematic to be a diary, but for the moment let's call it that) of Father Quirino De Ascaniis (1908-2009), I realized that this text had to be shared, not only to bear witness to the life of Father De Ascaniis, whom everyone remembers as a "holy man", but above all to make people understand what China was in the first half of the century, the impact of the Catholic mission among the Chinese and in Hong Kong, the attitude of the communists towards religions in general. 

This is how Revixit Spiritus Meus: Notes from a Missionary in China (2018 Chorabooks, available in the original Italian both as an ebook and paperback in all Amazon stores and in all online digital libraries), was born a text edited by Father Sergio Ticozzi and with my introduction . 

Father Quirino de Ascaniis, recounting the beginnings of his vocation, says: "Once the confessor, mentioned above, in discussing the problem of missions, presented the missionary life as one of heroism of holiness. This meant that his life is to preach the Gospel, to proclaim the Good News in distant lands, he is a saint ". Certainly that confessor had said a great truth: the mission is a "heroism of holiness". Heroism, because the missionary leaves everything and everyone to be close to those who are far from him and far from what for him (or her) is most precious: the Christian faith. The missionary is not a benefactor, a psychologist, a sociologist or an anthropologist; the missionary is a man of God who goes on a mission to bring God and, as a consequence, also the good derived from Western civilization, from its Catholic matrix, then art, science and culture. The missionary is not a social or cultural worker.

Who was the Father De Ascaniis? We publish the brief profile that Franco Cumbo wrote for PIME Missionaries (found at www.atma-o-jibon.org) in March 2009, on the occasion of the death of Father Quirino:

"In the afternoon of Sunday 11 January 2009, in the House for the Elderly, held by the" Little Sisters of the Poor ", Fr. Quirino De Ascaniis quietly fell asleep in the Lord, just as he prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, where he had been led to take part in the community Eucharistic adoration. He was 100 years and 5 months old, the "dean" of the Institute, Father Quirino was born on August 5, 1908, at Giulianova, Teramo, and entered the Institute in Genoa in September 1929, coming from the diocesan seminary of Teramo. He made the definitive Promise on March 11, 1932. Ordained priest in Milan on September 24, 1932, in August 1933 he left Italy for the Hong Kong mission.After studying Chinese, in 1936 he immediately went to work in the southern districts of Wai Yeung (China). In December 1941, due to the war, he was forced to leave his district, but he returned there soon after and remained there until his expulsion from China, in October 1951. In Hong Kong he was rector of the diocesan seminary at Sai Kung until 1955, and then rector of the same district until 1961. From 1961 to 1965 he was assistant in the parish of Saint Teresa, in Kowloon, and from 1966 to 1993 assistant in the church of the Holy Rosary and chaplain of the 'Queen Elizabeth Hospital'. In 1993 he retired to the "St. Jseph's home for the elderly", run by the "Little Sisters of the Poor", where he spent calm and serene final years, in prayer and always with a smile on his face. On 10 April 2008, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the PIME's presence in Hong Kong, he also celebrated his 100th birthday ".

As we see a long life, a life that also clashed with the war, with the Japanese occupation, with hunger and the hardships of a disadvantaged life (see in the book the episode of the bugs that may seem like an innocent story but in reality, if we think about it, makes us understand the great difficulty in which these missionaries were living.) An interesting testimony that of Father Quirino, tempered by his humorous storytelling, almost as if he did not want to give too much importance to his person in being found to act in such crucial historical times. In short, an agile but dense text that reads things from the past and helps to interpret those of the present.

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