How one man from Timor Leste was lead to his Salesian Vocation – and the challenges and joys he experienced along the way.

Leopoldo Pinto, aged 31 and from Timor Leste in South-East Asia, joined the Irish province just over a year ago and is now completing his novitiate in Pinerolo, northern Italy.

He was one of 19 novices from seven countries, who began their novitiate in Pinerolo in September 2018 and will end it in 2019, in the house being renovated in Don Bosco’s birthplace at Colle Don Bosco, Castelnuovo Don Bosco, Asti.  Leopoldo made his First Profession as a Salesian of Don Bosco on 8th September 2019.

Leopoldo came from a large family of four brothers and three sisters which helped him grow and deepen his Christian faith. When he was a youngster, Leopoldo had difficulty walking due to a problem with his leg. To help him, a Salesian missionary from Mexico, Fr Andrés Cervantes, took Leopoldo to the Salesian orphanage in Los Palos. On his first night at the orphanage a Salesian priest told him that “anyone who came to the orphanage was brought here by one of us Salesians but it was Mary Help of Christians who brought her children to the house.”

Leopoldo stayed among the orphans for six years, and during this time he learned a lot about Don Bosco. He was inspired by Don’s teaching and particularly enjoyed praying to Mary Help of Christians, who helped him overcome his difficulty.

Leopoldo as a Missionary

Leo Pinto

As a missionary in Europe, Leopoldo explored Christian faith amongst the young who still have faith, but are not practising. He believes that European young people need someone to be present amongst them and be a witness to the Gospel by their way of life.

Looking back, Leopoldo is grateful to the Salesians in his home land of Timor Leste – especially provincial and former Rector of the Los Palos Orphanage, Fr Apolinário Neto. Leo says “he really cared for, and loved us, as Don Bosco loved his children.”

As he visited England and Ireland, Leopoldo encountered many missionaries from East Asia and Oceania – who had been sent all over Europe to do their work. He also discovered many Asian missionaries, from countries such as India, Vietnam and South Korea.

In 2018, Leopoldo took part in the 149th Salesian missionary expedition in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, in Valdocco (Turin). While there, he met a Salesian missionary Sister from Timor Leste and felt very proud to be a missionary evangelising in Europe and bringing the Gospel to the young.

It is a great privilege to be a living witness of the Gospel, and a joy to bring good news to others.  I pray that God will guide and send many Salesians from Asia to Europe and all over the world.

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