Kenneth Pereira sdb
BARODA, AUGUST 5, 2011: Wednesday, August 3, was a sultry day in Baroda. The Salesians involved in preparing for the visit of the pilgrim Relic to Baroda watched with bated breath to see if the weather would improve or worsen. The weather forecast predicted frequent rains for Thursday (August 4) and thunder showers for Friday (August 5)... to our sad dismay. Gearing up for the worst, we had the simple plastic shamiana in the churchyard replaced with a sturdier one of tin sheets.
Come Thursday, August 4, and all the weather predictions were found to be wrong! It turned out to be a pleasant day, and our enthusiasm was buoyed up even more by the air of festivity and excitement on the campus. A few pilgrims already started trickling in at about 10 a.m., while the students of Don Bosco Baroda did their final rehearsals of the welcome that they were planning to give to the pilgrim relic.
Finally, at 12:50 p.m., the vehicle carrying the relic turned into Kabir Complex, and was greeted by a sea of enthusiastic students and parishioners, all dressed in special attire. Various groups of students (from Baroda and Chhota Udepur) did colourful dances on the road, as the casket-bearing vehicle was escorted towards the church. And when the door of the vehicle was opened and the casket was lowered onto the church porch by means of a ramp, the excitement reached its peak. The parish youth did a splendid job cordoning the casket and getting the crowd to maintain some semblance of order.
The Relic was welcomed into the premises to the sound of bugles and drums. (Fr. Byron D’Silva had prepared the musicians well!) In the short prayer-service that followed, the Provincial Fr. Michael Fernandes did an aarti for the Relic, while the local school authorities garlanded the Relic. All the Salesians present (about twenty five) took a solemn pledge as they knelt around the Relic. Next, the students too took a pledge, with their right hand stretched out towards the Relic. The prayer service ended with an enthusiastic singing of the hymn 'We thank you O Lord for Don Bosco' by the entire assembly of school children. Then came another peak in the excitement, as class by, the students filed past the Relic.
A steady stream of visitors kept visiting the Relic all through the afternoon and evening. Meanwhile, a short film on Don Bosco in Gujarati and Hindi was screened in the church for various groups of pilgrims at regular intervals. Others passed their time at the poster gallery, where about forty posters on Don Bosco (in English and Gujarati) were on display. Yet others found themselves attracted to the stall selling religious articles, which was being managed by the Ladies' Sodality.
The solemn inaugural Mass at 6.30 p.m. was presided over by Rt. Rev. Godfrey de Rozario, Bishop of Baroda, with about thirty priests in attendance. While the Mass was celebrated inside a packed church, the surplus crowd, left standing in the churchyard had the benefit of Close Circuit Video Coverage, to follow what was going on inside. The Provincial preached an eloquent homily at the Eucharist, on the theme of Don Bosco's 'mustard-seed faith'. Fr. Pravin Makwan followed this up with a sermon in Gujarati on the exploits of Don Bosco. The crowd present at the Eucharist took part wholeheartedly, being drawn into the singing by the well-known and best-loved hymns that were soulfully sung by the parish choir under the guidance of Mr. Joy Fernandes.
The day came to a satisfying end with a katha recital on Don Bosco from 9.30 p.m. to 11 p.m., presented by Fr. Ignas Kanis Macwan SJ and his team of singers.August 5, promises to be an even busier day, with more pilgrims promising to come from near and far. If today's turnout is anything to go by, then it can safely be said that Don Bosco is a very popular and much loved saint in Gujarat... not only by Catholics, but also by many others who have come under his spell in the course of their education at the hands of the Salesians!