Bro. COLLEONI, Mario PIME
*Birth in Italy: [13 February 1910]
Brother Mario Colleoni, P.I.M.E.
Brother Innocente Mario Colleoni,
PIME, for over half a century one of the best known and best loved members of
the People of God in Hong Kong, died on Wednesday, 8 June 1988, at the PIME
House in Rancio, near Lecco, Italy, aged 78.
Brother Merio was born at Bergamo, Italy, on 13 February 1910. He joined the PIME Institute at Milan in 1930. He arrived in Hong Kong on 1 February 1934, and was appointed assistant at the diocesan procuration, a task he was to retain throughout the years. In 1942 he was made Superintendent of the Catholic Cemeteries. In October 1945 he added the task of helping Father N. Maestrini at the Catholic Truth Society. For many years he was Scout Master to the Catholic Boy Scouts Association. In January 1970, he became Procurator for the PIME Institute in Hong Kong.
These were his official posts. They do not cover the multitude of unofficial calls made on his energies. "Brother Mario says he will do what he can' became a familiar phrase, and Brother Mario always did what he could.
In 1986 he had the first of a series of strokes. In March of that year he relinquished the care of Catholic Cemeteries and in June the PIME Procuratorship. All work became impossible.
In April 1987, he left Hong Kong after fifty-three years of invaluable work.
On 8 June this year he died. He has been buried in Italy, but his monument is in the hearts of those who knew him.
Cardinal Wu will lead the con-celebration of Requiem Mass in the Cathedral at 6pm on Friday 17 June.
17 June 1988
Brother Mario Colleoni, PIME, died on 8 June at the PIME House at Rancio, near Lecco, Italy.
When he left last year after fifty-three years of service to the diocese and the people of Hong Kong, the Sunday Examiner published a brief tribute to the man and his work. The news of his death arouses once more the emotions of friendship, admiration and regret that were aroused by his departure. It is hoped that it will be judged fitting to use again the words written in all sincerity a year ago.
Brother Mario Colleoni, PIME, left Hong Kong on 28 April 1987. Wisely, for his health had declined grievously, he chose to leave quietly, with no previous announcement, and so with no harrowing farewells to the great number of people here who admired and - the word is not too strong - loved him.
Older Hongkongites will have vivid memories of the young Brother Mario who used to drive Bishop Valtorta on his pastoral round. Wherever the bishop stopped, Brother Mario’s unassuming charm, humour, keen intelligence and ready fellowship won him friends and stirred hopes that the bishop would soon come again.
Later, with the development of the Christ the King Celebration and the Caritas Bazaar, large numbers came to know Brother Mario as an organizer and an improviser. When crises arose, the first resource was to look for Brother Mario. He was always ready with an apt solution if a solution was possible. If no solution was possible, he would wave his eloquent hands in salutation to the intractability of things, and his agitated questioners went away, laughing and comforted.
He was a main support of the Scout movement, work for which his combination of easy friendliness and personal authority fitted him admirably.
For many years he was Superintendent of Catholic Cemeteries, a post that demanded not only efficiency, but also human sympathy and readiness to strain every nerve to meet the needs of the moment. He never failed.
Along with his more public work, he sustained for many years the drudgery of his task in the diocesan (and the PIME) procuration.
Illness curtailed his work in his last months here. He bore the enforced idleness with humourous resignation.
When it became known that he had already left Hong Kong, the information was greeted, not as news, but as a cause of dismay. The dismay is a measure of the work he did for Hong Kong and for the Church in Hong Kong in the course of over fifty years of selfless service.
“Taking it all in all, he was a man. We shall not see his like again.”
One point in this seems to need modification, the closing quotation. Brother Mario’s personality, like all personalities, was unique; but the selflessness that put him at the service of all was, happily, not unique. When Brother Mario joined the PIME Institute as a Brother in 1930, he devoted his life to the glory of God and to brotherly service of the men God has made, and he always remained true to his first purpose. We can hope, by the grace of God, to have many like him.
17 June 1988
We thank Father Mencarini for permission to print this letter
Dear Father Mencarini,
As rector of this PIME house for retired missionaries it was part of my ministry to look after Brother Mario Colleoni during the last months of his life. I was at his bedside when he expired so holily. I am grateful for the opportunity that was given to me for living so close to this very fine man, with the shy smile ever ready (even on his death bed), who never found anything to complain about and who never asked for anything, not even when he fell ill. No wonder that he won so many friends during his 50 years in Hong Kong.
It was another part of my ministry to open his desk and take a look at his papers. That too was a revelation: he had treasured in a neat file all the messages and card from his friends in Hong Kong, Canada, Australia and USA. I noticed on his writing pad his attempts at putting down answers to these messages (Some of the correspondents had pleaded "Please write", others would say "You are a scout. Fight it, Brother!"). Yes, he had fought it out, but could not make it. His hand was utterly shaky, he would simply manage to make a mess on the paper, and then feel compelled to abandon the attempt.
My purpose in writing to you is to find a way to reach all the correspondents of dear Brother Mario and tell them that Brother Treasured their messages, and tried to send them an answer, but could not make it. He felt very much for the Church in Hong Kong. In the last days of his life, before he fell into a deep coma, I went to him and said: "We've got news, Brother! Bishop Wu of Hong Kong has been made a Cardinal!" The dear dying man opened widely his eyes, looked to me and tried to produce a smile.
Looking into Brother's correspondence has been for me a revelation of another kind. I discovered how sensitive the people of Hong Kong are. One of them, a lady now residing in Canada, has made the trip all the way from Toronto to be with Brother a few days. The snapshot I enclose shows her with the dying man. This photo to me is symbolic of the Chinese soul.
You may know, Father, that during my seminary years I dreamt of being sent as a missionary to the Chinese people(I was sent to Bangladesh instead and I do thank the Lord for that all the same.). The devotion of Brother Colleoni's friends to the departed missionary has moved me deeply.
22 July 1988