Birth in Mandello Lario, Lecco (勒高鎮),
Italy: [11 June 1905]
Death of Father Poletti, P.I.M.E.
Father Ambrose Poletti, PIME, died of a
heart attack at the PIME House, Clearwater Bay, New Territories, Hong Kong, on Wednesday,
26 December 1973, aged 68. This is sad news not only for innumerable friends in Hong Kong,
but also foe thousands all over the world who were braced by his high-spirited Kindness in
hours of very grave need.
Father Poletti was born in the province of Como, Italy, in 1905. He came to Hong Kong in 1930, having completed his studies in Milan and, as a graduate student, in the Gregorian University, Rome.
He served first as assistant priest in Waichow and later as Rector of Tam Tong District, Kwangtung. He was interned when the Sino-Japanese War reached his district.
On his release in 1942, he came to Hong Kong, first as Rector of the New Territories and later as assistant priest in St. Teresa’s Kowloon.
THE MAN HE WAS
After the War he returned to Tam Tong as Vicar Forane.
In 1950, the most memorable period of his life began with his appointment as Rector of Shatin, which then included Taipo and Fanling. Before long he was probably the best known man in the whole district. His universal friendliness and his superabundant energy shone through every word he said. He was habitually brusque, without ever offending, and the princely courtesy which replaced the brusqueness when the occasion called for it was as unstudied as his brusqueness. His dogs and his birds - above all the minah that used mix “Ave Maria” with less pious chatter-spread his fame as a character. Parishioners and police and everyone else quickly came to like and trust the flery ball of energy that shot round the New Territories in ceaseless apostolic and pastoral work.
When the stream of bishops, priests and religious began to cross the border in the early 1950s, Father Poletti took upon himself the task of meeting them. No one could have done this work better.
The police at the border knew that Father Poletti would rush to their post at any hour of day or night to greet an arrival. They were glad to be able to call on the services of a friend, for this delicate task; and they knew what he would say to, or shout at, them, if they did not call him.
The expellees, arriving weary and sad and despondent, were heartened, and invigorated by the high-spirited friendliness of their reception, and many of them will treasure the memory of that meeting till their dying days.
His most dramatic moment came when an ill-clothed expellee said “I am Bishop Bianchi.” Father Poletti popped his Bishop on the Pillion of his motor bicycle, rushed him to the presbytery, telephoned the Bishop’s House, and reclothed the bishop in preparation for his ever memorable reception at Tsim Sha Tsui.
All this did not interfere with his work in his district. It was because he was a superb parish priest and so commanded the respect and cooperation of all that he was able to accomplish this work of priestly charity.
He built the church and presbytery in Fanling and became Rector of Fanling when the growing Mission District was divided in 1957. He held this post till early 1973 when ill health forced him into reluctant retirement.
The Italian government conferred the Grand Cross of the Republic on him in 1956 in recognition of his work for Italian expellees, Very Typically, Father Poletti used the presentation of the Cross as an occasion for making it clear that the idea of a border patrol had originated not with himself but with Father Paul Duchesne, MM.
HIS LAST YEAR
His last year was a trial of spirit to Father Poletti, His heart retained its old energy and fire, but his weakening body could no longer accomplish his desires. He had had to leave his church and his famous Christmas Crib and his loving and beloved parishioners, though many of these came to him when he could no longer go to them.
He used his dwindling energies to the utmost. On Christmas Day, he celebrated two Masses. On St. Stephen’s day he suffered his final heart attack and died within half an hour dying as he had live, hurrying to God.
The Requiem Mass for the repose of his soul was concelebrated on 29 December in St. Margaret’s Church, Happy Valley, by Father Philip Commissar, Regional Superior of the PIME, and a large number of his confreres. The farewell blessing was given by Bishop Peter Lei of Hong Kong. Bishop Lei also officiated at the graveside. A large gathering of the faithful testified both in the church and in the cemetery to the abiding and widespread affection Father Poletti aroused wherever he was known.
4 January 1974
新 界 鄉 民 所 熟 悉 的 宗 座 外 方 傳 教 會 會 士 賴 法 禹 神 父 ， 於 一 九 七 三 年 十 二 月 廿 六 日 下 午 二 時 三 十 分 心 臟 病 發 ， 在 清 水 灣 會 院 去 世 ， 享 年 六 十 八 。
追 思 彌 撒 已 於 上 週 六 上 午 十 時 在 跑 馬 地 聖 瑪 加 利 大 堂 舉 行 ， 隨 即 下 葬 跑 馬 地 天 主 教 墳 場 。
賴 神 父 一 九 三 ０ 年 自 義 大 利 來 華 ， 在 廣 東 省 惠 州 工 作 ， 後 來 轉 入 新 界 服 務 ， 先 後 在 沙 田 、 大 埔 、 粉 嶺 等 堂 區 擔 任 主 任 司 鐸 。 今 年 初 因 病 退 休 ， 返 回 清 水 灣 會 院 靜 養 。
賴 神 父 生 前 對 新 界 貧 苦 鄉 民 和 兒 童 關 懷 備 至 ， 極 受 鄉 民 愛 戴 。 很 多 鄉 民 ， 雖 然 不 是 教 友 ， 也 成 了 他 的 朋 友 。
當 年 白 英 奇 主 教 自 大 陸 被 驅 逐 出 境 時 ， 代
表 教 會 在 羅 湖 橋 頭 迎 接 他 的 就 是 賴 神 父 。
1974 年 1 月 4 日
◆ From Milan to Hong Kong 150 Years of Mission, by Gianni Criveller, Vox Amica Press, 2008.
◆ 從米蘭到香港150年傳教使命, 柯毅霖著, 良友之聲出版社, 2008.
◆ 先賢錄－－香港天主教神職及男女修會會士 (1841-2010), 天主教香港教區檔案處, 2010.