In 1894, a 19-year-old Italian missionary arrived at Agua de Dios, a leprosy colony in Colombia. Ordained four years later, Father Luis Variara devoted himself to making Agua de Dios a better place for its inmates, especially its children. In the words of Jaime Molina Garzón, who runs the NGO Corsohansen, Father Variara became one of Agua de Dios’s best loved and most memorable characters, offering tremendous support to people whom the government had confined to the colony because of their disease.
The young missionary had a passion for music and one of the first things he did was to start an orchestra. He endeared himself to everyone when he picked up a trumpet used by the patients and put it to his lips, not bothering to wipe the mouthpiece.
The trumpet he used, pictured here, is on display at the convent of the Order of the Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. This was the order that Father Variara founded in Agua de Dios in May 1905 to enable women with leprosy, and the daughters of parents with leprosy, to consecrate their lives to God. The order is active today in a number of countries and is dedicated to the service of the sick and poor.
Father Variara died in 1923. For his service to the suffering of Agua de Dios, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2002.