by Pearl Dsouza
TURIN, SEP 01, 2015: We all know Don Bosco to be a visionary par excellence and a friend of the young. We know about the immense love and faith he had in Jesus and his special devotion to Mama Mary.
However, what made him love the Church and serve the Lord? What made John Bosco, the young boy, Don Bosco the teacher and friend of the youth? To find answers to these questions and to learn more about the workings of Salesians across the globe, 30 of us from the Salesian Youth Movement (SYM) India had the good fortune of being a part of the Bicentenary Celebrations of Don Bosco's birth in Turin, Italy.
Of this large number, 15 of us happened to be from the Mumbai Province. We spent a week in Turin and Becchi, the places where Don Bosco lived and worked. 5000 youth from Salesian institutions and associations across 58 countries of the globe participated in this SYM DON BOSCO 2015.
The theme for the week was 'LIKE Don Bosco, WITH the young and FOR the young'. Popular among the participants as 'Like – With - For'. Each day was devoted to understanding and internalising one part of the theme.
The first half of the day included action songs, interviewing an experienced and famous Salesian like the Rector Major, dance performances and mimes highlighting the sub-theme of the day and people from different countries, playing different roles in the Salesian movement, sharing their experiences.
The first half of the day always concluded with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Post-lunch in order to keep the youth active and also as a way of seeing the important places in Turin, various groups were taken to visit various important Shrines, Basillicas and places of religious importance, especially those connected with Don Bosco.
Each group was free to carry out their own form of prayer and reflection at every place. One such place that was very special to me and to most of us on this pilgrimage was Valdocco - where the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians stands, one of the first churches ever built by Don Bosco.
It contains the Pinardi Chapel, which was Don Bosco's first oratory. Standing inside the Pinardi chapel one feels such inspiration and awe to see the place where it all began and how that tiny place was the beginning of hope and a better life for millions of young people around the world.
It also houses Don Bosco's room with its original furniture well preserved and the chapel behind the main altar where Dominic Savio was elevated while praying. Visiting Valdocco made me feel like someone who had been given the opportunity to be inside the holy of holies.
A similar feeling enters one's heart at Colle Don Bosco and at Becchi. This ecstatic feeling could be felt in the singing, dancing and clapping of all the 5000 youth as we hiked from Colle Don Bosco to Becchi. Even the heavy rains could not dampen our spirits.
If anything, it made us feel all the more like soldiers on a victory march going to claim our reward. The opportunity to visit the ancestral house of Dominic Savio en route to Becchi was like icing on the cake.
Once there at Becchi two things struck me deeply. Firstly, gratefulness to Mama Margaret, Don Bosco's mother, for it was her guidance, prayers and upbringing that made Don Bosco the kind of man he was.
She becomes a role model for all parents especially in a world today where parents want their children to be ambitious and successful, here is a woman who wanted her son most of all to be a good and loving person- a man of God.
In that very place of Don Bosco's birth, I thanked God for Mama Margaret, without whom all of this would not have been possible. The second thing that struck me was the humble origins of Don Bosco.
Looking at his house and the area around, which even today is not very developed, I thought of Don Bosco's ability to dream big and his foresightedness. That someone with such little means could think of offering everything he had, even his talents in order to bring souls closer to Jesus and to take up God's plan for him, made me question what am I doing with all the resources and talents God has given me?
The town of Becchi, even on that cold stormy night had vibes of warmth, love and laughter as if Don Bosco and Mama Margaret themselves were present there. The Rector Major Don Angél Fernandez Artime in his interactions with the youth made sure everyone felt Don Bosco's welcoming embrace. Something that I have felt with all Salesian priests I've met. In fact the birthday celebrations of Don Bosco took place just as Don Bosco would have liked it, with a lot of youth, fun, laughter, games, cheerful dancing, singing and thanking God for the gift of the great Saint.
Having seen and felt for ourselves what made Don Bosco the great man he was and the place where the seeds of this massive tree of the Salesian Youth Movement were sown, we are now ready to take up new challenges just like Don Bosco to strengthen the roots of the SYM in our respective provinces.
In order to welcome more youth into the SYM and make them a part of the Salesian family, we the youth from the Mumbai province have decided that each of us will get at least 10 more of our friends to join the movement.
We shall organise events and gatherings at Salesian houses across Mumbai to familiarise youth with the Salesian Youth Movement and Salesian spirituality. We also plan on having our very own SYM cross to be circulated around the different Salesian houses of the Mumbai province, which could become a symbol and torch of the movement.
Most importantly like Don Bosco we shall never be disheartened or discouraged when things don't fall in place and shall continue to persevere and bring the love of Don Bosco to as many youth as we can. For we are determined now more than ever to be 'Like Don Bosco, With the Young and For the Young.'