MATUNGA, AUGUST 16, 2011: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Like his Master – Jesus, the Good Shepherd – Don Bosco came and made his dwelling among us. Through his relic, Don Bosco was among us… from August 4, in the Salesian Province of Mumbai and from August 13, in the city of Mumbai. And today, August 16, 2011 – his birth anniversary – we bid him adieu.
The farewell celebrations began at 11.00 a.m. in the quadrangle of Don Bosco School, Matunga. Flag bearers form the Salesian and Salesian Sisters schools of Mumbai; the manjira dancers and flower petal-showering angels of Don Bosco Matunga went before the casket containing the relic. The hand of Don Bosco led Fr Michael Fernandes – the Provincial of the Salesian Province of Mumbai and the principal celebrant of the concluding Eucharist – and the thirty concelebrants.
In his homily Fr Fernandes said that the young John Bosco had “a tendency to anger and impetuosity; a tendency to autonomy; a strong feeling of self; a stubborn attachment to his convictions”. John worked on himself; with the grace of God, through prayer, asceticism and spiritual guidance, he overcame these natural inclinations to become “one of the most ‘complete’ saints in Christian history”. Fr Fernandes reminded the faithful that “saints are sinners who never stopped trying; saints are sinners who surrendered to God, who took over and ran their lives”. He exhorted all, especially the young, to work on themselves and to surrender their lives to God. The life of Don Bosco tells us that “God does not call us to be successful, but faithful. And if we are faithful, success will follow”.
After communion, the boys from Shelter Don Bosco, Wadala performed a beautiful rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’. Fr Fernandes bid Don Bosco farewell. He addressed Don Bosco: “You came, you saw, you touched our hearts and conquered our spirits… thank you for visiting our province and blessing us”. He recalled that thousands flocked to see Don Bosco, to pray and to venerate him; in each of their hearts and minds, Don Bosco has etched his memory. Fr Fernandes then, prayed the thanksgiving prayer, incensed the relic, and handed over the casket to Fr Joaquim Lobo, the Provincial Secretary of the Konkan Province. Fr Lobo will accompany the casket on the next leg of its worldwide pilgrimage.
After the Eucharist, the students of the primary section of Don Bosco School, Matunga sang the hymn ‘Raise Your Voices’. The Police Band played the national anthem to bring the celebration to a patriotic end; and then played the same hymn as the casket was wheeled out of the quadrangle.
The pilgrimage has ended; the hand which reached out to youngsters and blessed many has left the Mumbai Province. The pilgrimage has begun; we are called to be extensions of that hand to reach out and bless many. The celebration of remembering our charismatic identity has ended. The celebration of living our charismatic identity with greater enthusiasm has begun. May ‘Don Bosco Among Us’ strengthen us to renew our life of fidelity, return to him, relive his dream, and rededicate our lives to his mission.