Brother Silvio Quaranta, highly respected and much-loved member of the Province peacefully passed away at St Joseph's Home in Northcote, Victoria on the evening of Friday, 20th January 2023. Brother Silvio was 96 years of age; the oldest member of the province and a professed son of Don Bosco for 79 years.
From the land of Don Bosco he came; born in 1926 in a small rural village called Laguasco, approximately 60 kilometres from Turin. It was typical of many small rural towns that dotted the Piedmontese countryside and his family made its living mainly from dairy cattle and orchards; a simple, comfortable, secure life.
Silvio’s father died young, and Silvio was sent to a Salesian school in Turin, where he learned tailoring. He then went on to join the Salesians in Turin and made his first profession as a Salesian on 16th August 1944. Together with his close friend and confrere Br Peter Dezani, Silvio came to Australia as a missionary in December 1948 following his perpetual profession in Italy.
Arriving in Australia in 1948, Silvio and Peter spent 9 months in Sunbury learning English. In 1949 they moved to Adelaide to start teaching technical courses – Silvio taught tailoring, and Peter shoe-making – both proved very capable and skilful teachers in their professions.
Silvio learns the fine art of cooking - just one of the many skills he would share with countless people over the course of his life
The next 11 years were some of the happiest years of Silvio’s life, where he thrived both as a teacher and living in community in Australia. In Adelaide both Brothers attended courses at a Technical College, and obtained new qualifications: Silvio in catering and cooking, and Peter in woodwork.
In 1959 Silvio moved to Brunswick to work in the hostel in charge of catering and cooking for the community and for the hostel residents; at the same time he set up a tailoring shop that enabled him to make suits and soutanes for the Salesians.
From 1961 to 1964 Silvio spent three years in the formation community at Oakleigh as a cook. This was the beginning of many years as a talented “formator” of young Salesians.
In 1965, Silvio was a foundation member of the Salesian Community at “Auxilium College Lysterfield”, where he spent the rest of his active religious life. At Lysterfield, Silvio became the “engine” of the community: at the same time he could be the cook, the tailor, the butcher, the farmer, the gardener, the formator, the counsellor, the confidante – always the friend with a smile and a patient organizer.
With his typical grin and a flash of humour Silvio was very well known to all Salesians as well as to local farmers, as he could honestly state: “Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep” said the Lord”. Well, I ended up not only feeding the sheep and lambs but dressing them in trousers, jackets and cassocks as well!
He was a special personality that even just the mere mention of his name to someone who knew him will cause them to recall fond memories and happy stories - and so often the word used to describe him is "inspirational", or even, "real-life saint".
Silvio (left) meets John Paul II in Rome
Silvio was first and foremost a Salesian religious, whose love for Don Bosco and his vocation were central in his life. While he kept up-to-date with keen interest in the affairs of this world, his first call, each day, was the Eucharist and his religious duties.
Br Silvio has been an incredible gift to the Australian province, and to all who were lucky enough to have encountered him. His care and compassion still burn true today, as well as his unquenchable charismatic personality. He showed a resilience of the highest standard; coming to a foreign land, learning a new language and picking up new trades and skills as determined by what was needed at the time.
Silvio spent the last four years of his life well cared-for at the Little Sisters of the Poor, St Joseph Retirement Home, at Northcote (Melbourne) - always welcoming visitors, and sharing stories of his life. He is survived by one younger sister in Italy.
A heartfelt thank-you to you, Brother Silvio, a loyal son of Don Bosco and a committed religious for your long years of dedicated service in the Lord’s vineyard. You are already enjoying the company of many relatives and friends in the “Salesian Garden”!
This story originally appeared in the Autumn 2023 edition of the Australian Salesian Bulletin