Why should a young person who has succeeded in fulfilling the dream of his life and became a ski instructor on the mountains of Northern Italy choose to go to South Sudan?
The answer, indeed the answers, each different and unique, in fact, lie above all in the story of those who made the choice and are living it. Fr. Stefano Trevisan, a newly ordained priest, a Comboni missionary, former ski instructor, felt drawn into something truly “world-wide”. He is 36 years old and is destined to live his apostolate as a witness to the Gospel, a religious and a priest in South Sudan.
“As a boy I loved skiing and competed in the Ski Club of my village,” says Fr. Stefano. “Once I was 18, I took the exam to become a ski instructor and thanks to training with my uncle I was able to pass it. It was a great joy, and I liked that job and still like it a lot. I spent the years of my youth in my village. After high school, I enrolled at the university in Bologna, but after a year I returned home because I saw that it was not my way. In the summer I did some odd jobs as a graphic designer, bricklayer, lifeguard, secretary, working in a pasta factory; various activities that have made me grow and mature.”
In short, things were going well for Stefano, there was no shortage of opportunities, his land offered him something to live on and fed his dreams. But something was working inside him. “I had a job, friends, money, fun, everything I needed to feel good but nevertheless I felt restless and not completely fulfilled.”
Accustomed to looking at the world, Stefano does not remain insensitive to the images that came to him through the media: “I saw and heard of many people who were forced to live in difficult conditions of poverty and degradation, situations at the limit of humanity. This is how I decided to have a volunteer experience in Africa. I contacted the missionary centre of the diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone and the then deputy director, gave me the opportunity to go to South Sudan, to Lomin, on the border with Uganda where some Comboni missionaries were working.”
In the three months that Stephen spends there, Africa entered his heart: that life among the poor opens up a new perspective for him. The vocation begins to give the first signs and the idea of the mission as a life choice appears in his life. But even this in reality is not enough, because in South Sudan, in addition to meeting people, Stephen also meets “a person in particular” by whom he feels loved and called, as he himself reveals: “Jesus made himself present when I did not expect it. It was a meeting that changed direction in my life and once I returned home, I told my parents that I wanted to become a missionary.”
Thus began the journey, slowly, at the beginning without too many jolts, but with a radical choice on the horizon: “That winter I still worked as a ski instructor and once a month I went to Padua to see the Comboni missionaries where for a year I did my vocational discernment.”
It is a first experience of raising awareness of the themes of mission, vocation and commitment to the least: “I used this time to deepen the experience I lived in Africa and to reflect on the call to missionary life. The following year, at the age of 26, I entered the Postulancy in Padua where I stayed for two years, completing my two-year philosophical studies.”
Then it was the turn of the novitiate: two years in Portugal “to deepen the life of prayer, the history of our founder, St. Daniel Comboni, and the charism of the Institute. It was a great challenge – reveals father Stefano – also because during this time I never went home and also contacts with the outside world were limited.”
On 24 May 2014, he did his first religious profession in the Comboni Family. Then Stefano was assigned to the scholasticate of Naples for theological studies.
On 28 June 2020, the bishop of Bolzano-Bressanone, Ivo Muser, ordained him as a priest. A dream that comes true? Perhaps it would be better to define it as a dream that continues as Father Stefano Trevisan, after a period in Ireland to refresh his English, will join hands with the mission in South Sudan.