In Rosignano, Don Bosco found fertile ground, thanks also to the impulse of the parish priest, Mons. Giovanni Bonelli, his fraternal friend. Vocations flourished copiously. Famous was the "sentinel of the Oratory", brother Marcello Rossi who for decades was the faithful guardian of the first house founded by the Saint in Valdocco. And then again the Sorbone sisters, including Sister Angelica, pioneer and provincial in Argentina and Chile, and Mother Enrichetta, Vicar General of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians until 1942. And then again, among the many vocations, the brothers Fr Arturo and Fr Dante Caprioglio. Among all these extraordinary Salesian vocations, the figure of Mons. Ernesto Coppo, Bishop and Salesian Missionary in the United States, Australia and Italy, stands out.
Mons. Ernesto Coppo was born on February 6, 1870, in the Stevani district of Rosignano. He began his studies in the house that Don Bosco opened in Borgo San Martino. Among Ernesto's companions is 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 had come to America in search of a better future.
"Twenty years of mission absorbed all the forces of Fr Coppo in the service of emigrants and their youth, both from a religious, social and civil point of view," remembers Fr Ricaldone years later.
This surge of faith and service to his neighbors most in need brought him to Australia in 1923, at the Apostolic Vicariate of Kimberley. Consecrated Bishop at the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians in Turin, he departed for Kimberley to be among the indigenous people. These are years of intense pastoral work: he reaches distant villages, meets families, gives impetus to the human needs of work, formation, development, the Gospel. The organizational and pastoral experience learned in America he makes available to his Australian people.
Back in Italy, he becomes a formidable animator for the Missions. Fr Ricaldone, who became Rector Major, remembers him thus: "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 the last moment, he lived the priestly magisterium, ceasing his earthly existence in Ivrea where he had gone to preside over a Marian Congress, on the evening of 28 December 1948, at the age of 78.
The hometown, where Mons. Coppo returned many times, during this 2020 remembers the 150th anniversary of his birth. It celebrates him as an example of missionary commitment and evangelizing passion of enormous relevance: for his intelligent work among migrants in America, for the support and promotion of the Australian indigenous peoples, for his patient and welcoming charity towards all those whom he met also in Italy.