by Father Glenford Lowe
MUMBAI, SEP 16, 2017: What made the Salesians in Mumbai take the initiative to launch an Oratory? Did they lose this rich tradition of Don Bosco somewhere down the line? They needed a reminder, which came through the words of the Salesian Rector Major, Father Ángel Fernández Artime, in his concluding statement during the Team Visit of South Asia at Chennai on April 4.
"Priority of choice for the poorest and young people from rural and slum areas is a guarantee for the strength of our charism in South Asia. We should always ensure our loving and effective presence among the young people. Planning their transformation into great persons, is a duty that beckons us," Rector Major's statement read.
The community of Don Bosco Provincial House Matunga, Mumbai, could not resist this invitation. In their weekly community Giorno, they revisited this call to reach out to the young people, especially from the neighbourhood slums. The community unanimously agreed to start a 'daily oratory' - treasuring that C.40 stated - 'The Valdocco experience is still the lasting criterion for discernment and renewal in all our works'.
With support from Father Rolvin D'Mello, executive director of Don Bosco Development Society (DBDS) and his staff, the ground work was far reaching. Father McEnroe Lopes, director of Don Bosco Youth Services (DBYS) along with Father Leon Rodrigues and the Salesian Youth Movement (SYM) Matunga, took the initiative to form the oratory.
Father Glenford Lowe, Rector of Provincial House together with Father Anthony Goyal and supported by the community, offered its space for the daily oratory. The official launch of the Don Bosco Oratory took place on September 14 at 4:30 pm in the Provincial House AV hall. More than 100 youth from the neighbouring slums attended the event.
Father Manuel Murzello, Provincial Economer was the guest of honour. Through his words of welcome and relooking at Don Bosco, Father Murzello officially declared the Don Bosco Oratory open. A prayer service by Father Goyal set the spiritual tone to the entire proceedings. Father Lopes, then presented the concept of Don Bosco's Oratory and promised the youth that the Salesians would journey with them in their call to be God-fearing persons and responsible citizens. One could sense an atmosphere of new hope and a safe haven to grow. The youth could now perceive their dreams closer to reality.
The participants also took time to share their needs and concerns. "We are grateful to the Provincial House who are ready to offer their space as a platform for us to develop our sporting and musical talents,"said a young enthusiast. "Now, I can be assured of a quiet place to study and prepare for my college exams," another participant said.
Evening coaching classes in spoken English, math and science, and opportunities for computers and self-defence were also assured. The daily oratory will run from Monday to Saturday from 6:00pm to 8:00pm and be open to youth from all faiths. The youngsters, mostly above the age of 16, were invited to register themselves for the daily oratory.
Arrangements to get sponsors and coaches are underway. The Salesians are confident that many generous Samaritans would come forward to join this noble venture, through their resources and time. The SYM members have pledged their support to walk with the oratory youth, as volunteers. The Salesians pray that the 'Valdocco experience' launched at Mumbai Provincial house may spread to many other communities too.