Birth in Cernusco (切爾努斯科), Italy: [21 November 1915]
of Studies, Cheung Chau: 
Father Luigi Colombo, from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), long time missionary to Hong Kong and former parish priest of St. Joseph’s in Garden Road, Central, died on 22 August 2010, at the PIME retirement house in the province of Lecco, Italy. He would have been 95-years-old in November this year.
Born 21 November 1915 in Cernusco Lombardone, the diocese of Milan and the province of Como, he entered the seminary in Immacolata, Treviso. He was ordained to the priesthood by the wartime bishop of Milan, Ildefonso Cardinal Schuster, on 20 June 1940, at Milan Cathedral (Il Duomo).
After working in various parishes in Genoa, Treviso and Monza during World War II, he was assigned to San Teodoro Parish, Cantu, before leaving for England on 13 June 1947 to study English. When he returned to Italy in 1949, he worked from the PIME house in Genoa and in 1950, moved to Essino Lario.
He then went to the United States of America on a pastoral assignment in New Mexico, where he remained until July 1960, when he became the spiritual director of the PIME Maryglade Seminary in Memphis, Michigan.
Father Colombo arrived in Hong Kong on 28 September 1961 and, after studying the Cantonese language was assigned as the assistant priest at St. Peter’s in Aberdeen. He was named administrator of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on 3 March 1964 and, on February 9 of the following year, took on responsibilities in the office of the diocesan procurator.
In September 1964, Father Colombo became provisional rector of the study house near the former minor seminary of the diocese in Taikoolau, Pokfulam. On 6 June 1965, he was named parish priest of St. Teresa’s, Kowloon, then on 15 July 1977, he moved to St. Joseph’s as parish priest, a job he remained in until he retired back to Italy in 1999.
Two decades well remembered and appreciated
Friends and parishioners gathered at St. Joseph’s in Garden Road, Central, on 19 September, to pay their respects to a former Parish Priest, Father Luigi Colombo, who passed away in his native Italy at the retirement house of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), in Lecco, on 22 August.
Father Colombo came to St. Joseph’s on 15 July 1977 from St. Teresa’s in Kowloon. In his 22 or so years he transformed the parish. His coming coincided with the beginning of the influx of large numbers of Filipinos into Hong Kong to work in the domestic sector, and he introduced Tagalog Masses and encouraged the setting up of communities.
St. Joseph’s was to be his last pastoral commitment. For health reasons, he was forced to trtire back to Italy in 1999 at the age of 84. But he never forgot his 40 years in Hong Kong and several people can affirm that he was a great correspondent.
A Mass was celebrated by Bishop John Tong Hon. Father Denis Hanly, who succeeded Father Colombo, concelebrated, together with the parish Priest, Father Midas Tambot, and eight priests from PIME. A photograph, enshrined with white roses and candles, was a reminder of the kind face and warm heart of the late priest.
Father Pietro Galbarti described his confrere as cheerful and friendly. He called him a good companion who was full of encouragement. He called when they were studying Cantonese together. Father Colombo was already 45-years-old and learning a new language was difficult, but he said he was adaptable in tough situations.
Father Galbarti said that a tree planted by Father Colombo 10 years ago, now stands tall in the grounds of the PIME House in Clearwater Bay Road. “Everyone calls it Father Luigi’s Tree,” he shared.
A parishioner, Rose Pineda, told Mabuhay that Father Colombo loved the Filipinos and was willing to support them whenever necessary. She recalled that he readily agreed when the coordinator of their group, Esther Laxamana, led a delegation to Father Colombo and Father Edward Malone to get on Tagalog Mass every Sunday.
The first one was held at 1pm and then in the mid-1980s more were added. She recalled that brought more Filipinos to the parish and consequently, the communities grew as well.
Pineda described Father Colombo as a kind person. “I never saw him lose his temper and neither was he moody. When we told him we had problems, he used to say, ‘Salami, baloney,’ Whatever that means, but it made us laugh.”
She said she got close to him when he was in Canossa Hospital for hip surgery after slipping on the stairs. She was working within walking distance of the hospital and visited him every morning and evening. “We were all sad when he went home to retire. I can still imagine his smile,” she said.
Rose Galinato, from the Legion of Mary, recalled that when the presidiums wanted a place to meet, Father Colombo gave them three rooms to share with all the communities. “When we wanted to expand our group, he gave his approval, as long as we had time to handle it,” she said.
She remembers that every Sunday, before calling it a day, he would do the rounds to check if those still at the church were alright. “He would greet each one of us with an embrace. That’s how concerned Father Colombo was for all of us.”
She said she felt sad when she heard of his death and still remembers him saying, “Don’s worry, we’ll see each other in heaven,” when they visited him in hospital after his fall. “In my thoughts, Father Colombo, being a holy man, is now in heaven.”
Angelica Bulanhegui, a member of the choir, told Mabuhay that the priest use to emphasise the sacrament of reconciliation and give encouraging advice.
“Father Colombo was caring towards the choir. He knew that we had been serving the whole day and he would invite us for meal,” she added.
Jonathan Granandino said it was Father Colombo who accepted him as Eucharistic minister. He remembers him as kind and understanding, but straight to the point. “What he wanted to happen, had to happen, but his instructions were always for the good of the parish,” he commented.
Father Hanly said they only talked a couple of times before he left. However, he remembers he told him that he did not want to retire, but with his failing health, he had no choice. The stairs at the Church made it difficult for him.
Long time friends and parishioners were asked to write their recollections of Father Colombo, which were read out by Anthony Ismael during the Mass. One recalled that Father Colombo was the fastest two-finger typist she had ever seen and was quick to pick up the computer, just from a manual.Mabuhay 3 October 2010
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