Salvatore Trazzera was born at Randazzo (Catania) on 6 Nobember 1913. He entered the Salesian novitiate in August 1933 and consecrated himself to the Lord with his first vows in 1934 and then with his perpetual profession in 1940. He died on 11 February 1979 in Santa Chiara (Palermo).

He laid claim to being a teacher under three designations: teacher of woodwork, teacher of the brass band and teacher of jokes. From morning to night a bright smile lit up his face. Someone once remarked maybe he had that smile on his face even when asleep.

The smile gave a captivating serenity to his classes and even to his pretended losses of temper. There was the time when he wondered how to send his pupils away early from their music class because an unexpected community meeting had come up. He worked out the following way of dismissing them. He pretended to be angry and told them that they did not want to learn the music scales, that they made mistakes in the timing of the music and that they did not distinguish between a demi-semiquaver and a crotchet…”We cannot carry on like this. Let everybody go home”. But no one believed that he was angry with them.


If perchance some disagreement arose which might upset his imperturbable cheerfulness he fixed it up before sunset, as St Paul taught. An example of this was when by pure chance it happened that he disagreed with his Rector. That evening people saw him go to the Rector’s office to present him with a bottle of good wine. “Father Rector, I have come to toast the Congregation, and ourselves at Santa Chiara!” Once again the confreres noticed how the disagreement had not even affected in the slightest way the friendship and respect he had with his superior.

Brother Salvatore was a man of remarkable friendliness. This quality he would not have exchanged for anything in the world. He sought friendship, found it and cultivated it meticulously. He was always ready to find a solution and to bring about peace. One day one of the boys, who was rather free and easy, had the feeling that he would fail his exams. Upset and disconsolate, and without thinking it over properly, he ran away from school and headed for home.

The boy chanced to meet his father on the way. His father asked him: “What are you doing away from school?” “Dad, no more school; they are going to fail me.” “Son, such is life, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. And when you lose, you don’t give up.”

Meanwhile they had started walking back to the school. “We have to be ready for everything, my son. Life does not give you any presents. You have to earn them.” As they kept talking the boy did not notice that they had come back to the school. When they did arrive there and went inside they met Brother Trazzera. “Dad, why have you brought me back?” the boy said. “There is my teacher”. “Brother Trazzera, I was running away and my father has brought me back.”

“Ah, and now what are we going to do so that no one will notice what you have done? Well, say goodbye to your Dad and come with me. You can go in through the stage door. I will open it for you, and then you can go and join your mates. If the principal sees you and asks where you have been, I will let you tell a fib just this once. Tell him you have been to see me. And now no more nonsense!”

The principal was the Salesian in charge of the discipline; he was rather feared by the students of the college.

“Thanks, Brother. There is no one like you”.

“Go, hurry.”

The boy got off lightly, but Brother Trazzera received quite a reprimand, which he received with his habitual smile. The principal, as a matter of fact, had noticed all that had gone on.

Brother Trazzera treated his past pupils in the same way that he treated his boys. He always sent them a Christmas or an Easter card. Those who were married always received a present from him: a gift of wine, a book, or a card, always with the assurance of his prayers that under God’s protection they might have a happy life together.

Brother Trazzera was a very cheerful man. He had the knack of transforming moments of tension into moments of joy, often with a joke, well chosen and well told, simply and naturally, whilst he went about his duties in the workshop, in the music department or on the sporting field. He did this especially with his past pupils. It was a pleasure to observe him together with them, as he spontaneously greeted their wives or, bending over, planted a kiss on the cheeks of their children, always with a little caress. Wherever he went, there was always peace. He breathed the air of happiness and open conviviality. This was the reason why he was always invited to their functions and feasts.

Brother Trazzera was a man of providence. How many stairs he climbed, how many visits he made, how many times he used the telephone to seek, and to insist on, employment for his boys. He introduced them to employers, to tradesmen, to persons in executive positions, to bureaucrats, to politicians. And almost always he was successful in getting what he had asked for them.

Hardly anyone could resist Brother Trazzera, very few failed to give him the help he sought. Doors opened for him either because of the quality of the Salesian school, or because of the indisputable prestige of the teachers like Andaloro, Romano, Tomaselli, and, of course, Trazzera himself. The esteem and the affection also continued afterwards. More than twenty years after his death, the city councillors voted unanimously to name the street alongside the Salesian Institute of Gesu’ Adolescente “Salvatore Trazzera Street”.

One day one of his past pupils fell victim to a robbery. Two scoundrels put a knife to his throat, and demanded he give them his wallet. “Take it, but please give me back only one thing: that photo inside the wallet. It is the photo of my teacher and benefactor. This is worth much more to me than anything else.” The two robbers got away with the wallet. But a day or so later the past pupil got it back, empty, but with the photo of his teacher inside.

Another of his past pupils said: “Trazzera? I put him on the same level as my father”. This is the best credit he could ever have received.

(Giancarlo Manieri in Bollettino Salesiano April 2004. Translated by Fr. Tony Moester.)