BISHOP (MARCH 3, 2016)
SALESIAN MISSIONARY OF INDIA
Stephen Ferrando was born in Rossiglione on September 28, 1895. His parents were Augustine and Josephine Salvi. As a small child he attended Salesian schools, first in Fossano then Turin. He was fascinated by Don Bosco’s life and asked to become a Salesian.
He made his first profession at Foglizzo Canavese (Turin) in 1912. During World War I, he served in the medical corps, and received the Silver Medal for Valor (Versie-Corite, 1917).
At the end of his theological studies, he was ordained a priest in Borgo S. Martino in 1923.
His request to join the first Salesians going to the Assam region of India bordering Tibet, China and Burma was granted. He was Director of Novices and rector of the studentate of philosophy and theology for 10 years. As a good son of Don Bosco, he went into the villages with his young Salesians, organizing festive oratories for the youngsters and this way learned the language.
To his great surprise, on July 9, 1934, Pius XI named him first bishop of Krishnagar. The following November 10th, he was ordained bishop in Shillong by the Archbishop of Calcutta.
On November 26, 1935, the Pope transferred him to the diocese of ShiIlong. On March 14, 1936 he took possession of the new diocese, kissing the ground and entrusting its future to the Crucified Jesus.
The new Bishop asked his priests to go into the villages to preach the Gospel to the people. He continued to do this himself.
His apostolate was marked by the Salesian style: joy, simplicity and direct contact with the people. He approached young people, the poor and the needy. He accepted everyone in a spirit of loving kindness.
He rebuilt the great Cathedral and missionary complex and spread devotion to Mary Help of Christians and Don Bosco. He wanted Indians to be the first evangelizers on their own soil. He founded the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians to teach the love of Jesus, Mary Help of Christians, Don Bosco in the missions and amongst the poor. On June 26, 1969, in the spirit of the Vatican Council in whose work he had participated, he tendered his resignation from the diocese, and was given the title of Titular Archbishop of Troina by Pope Paul VI.
In 1972 he returned to Assam and consecrated the now completed Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Shillong. Back in Italy, the aging missionary bishop retired to the Salesian house of Quarto.
In 1970, he wrote, “Here in Italy they often ask me, ‘How did you ever leave Assam after 47 years of missionary life?’ I reply, ‘Because at long last the day I longed for for 27 years has dawned, and the Church in India can now stand on its own two feet!’”
He died peacefully in the Lord on June 20, 1978. Nine years later his beloved daughters, the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians wished to have the mortal remains of their founder amongst them again. Mgr Ferrando’s urn was placed in the chapel of the Convent of St. Margaret in Shillong, in the land which had become his second home.