Italy – Rosignano Monferrato and Mons. Ernesto Coppo, SDB, apostle of three worlds

10 February 2021

(ANS - Rosignano Monferrato) - Rosignano Monferrato, “sentinel of Casale”, by virtue of the town's strategic position, is a Piedmontese municipality located in the Province of Alessandria. It too, like many other municipalities in the Monferrato area, is closely linked to Salesian history. In Rosignano, Don Bosco found fertile ground and, thanks also to the impulse of the parish priest, Msgr. Giovanni Bonelli, a fraternal friend of Don Bosco, vocations flourished abundantly. Among these, the figure of Msgr. Ernesto Coppo, Bishop and Salesian missionary in the United States, Australia and Italy.

Mons. Ernesto Coppo was born on February 6, 1870, just over 150 years ago, in the Stevani district of Rosignano. He began his studies in the house that Don Bosco had opened in Borgo San Martino. Among Ernesto's companions was the young Pietro Ricaldone, from Mirabello. Here they both meet Don Bosco: an encounter that will mark their lives. He concluded his formation in the seminary of Casale and on 7 August 1892 he was ordained a priest.

The following year he entered the Salesian novitiate in Foglizzo, and on 4 October 1894 he made his perpetual profession in the hands of Blessed Fr Rua. In 1898, at the head of a group of Salesian priests, he reached New York to carry out a demanding and courageous apostolate at the service of migrants who arrived there - very poor and countless - in search of a better future. “Twenty years of mission absorbed all the forces of don Coppo at the service of emigrants and their youth, both from a religious, social and civil point of view,” Fr Ricaldone himself recalled years later. Many other American cities followed in New York, in which Fr Coppo began Salesian pastoral action.

This surge of faith and ministry to his neighbors most in need brought him to Australia, at the Apostolic Vicariate of Kimberley, in 1923. Consecrated bishop in Turin, he left for Kimberley, among the natives of the place. Those were years of intense pastoral work: he reached villages, met families, gave impetus to the human needs of work, formation, development, the Gospel. The organizational and pastoral experience learned in America was made available to his Australian people.

Back in Italy, he became a formidable animator for the Missions. Fr Ricaldone, his old companion, who became Rector Major, remembered him as follows: “Mons. Coppo aspired to declare himself an old Missionary Bishop and with insistent zeal he invited his listeners to think about the needs of the Church in the most remote missions.”

Until his last moment he lived his ministry, ceasing his earthly existence in Ivrea, on 28 December 1948, at the age of 78.

In 2020, his birthplace, where Mons.Coppo returned many times, commemorated the 150th anniversary of his birth, celebrating it as an example of missionary commitment and evangelizing passion of enormous relevance: for his intelligent work among migrants in America, for his support and promotion of the Australian indigenous peoples, for his patient and welcoming charity towards all those he met also in Italy.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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