Monday, 12 June 2017

At Casa madre of SDBs

I returned yesterday afternoon from Turin along with Fr John.  We had been on a two day trip to Turin along with 7 collaborators from the various Salesian houses in Great Britain.  There was Laurence from Egham, Anne from Farnborough, Pauline from Bolton, Sophie from Liverpool, Sophie, Kate and Dave from Chertsey.  More than the places we visited and spent time at, it was the company of the group that I enjoyed most.
At the waterfont (the one surviving since Don's Bosco's time at the Pinardi shed) in Valdocco
L-R: Pauline, Anne, Sophie, Laurence, Kate, John, Sophie and Dave
On Friday we went to Colle Don Bosco and spent most of the afternoon there.  Had the opportunity to meet and speak with Kalyan for sometime.  Visited sections of Chieri and returned to Valdocco for the night.  On Saturday we took a walk around Valdocco, visiting most of the places related to Don Bosco's initial work with the boys in Turin.  In the afternoon we spend time in the mother house, casa madre of the Salesians!  The bascilica of MHC, Pinardi Chapel, Church of St Francis de Sales, Rooms of Don Bosco... We had Mass in the Pinardi Chapel and it was good.  Later in the night we had a long meal in one of the restaurants down the street.

There are many things that stand out of this quick but meaningful two day trip.  One certainly is the expertise and competence of Fr John in weaving history, context, meaning and prayer. If not for that it would have been a walk through buildings and places.  His ability to be able to present a picture of the whole scenario and try to seek relevance for us today, especially for our Salesian work in the UK, made a big difference.  For me, those names and places which were only in books came to life in a totally different perspective.

Fr John did not paint a very emotional or pious picture of Don Bosco and his works.  He sketched a very down to earth, critical portrait of Don Bosco, his formation, the educative method and the early stages of the Oratory.  Of the several insights I gained, what really hit me hard was the notion of 'seminary' for Don Bosco.  He was not very happy with the mode of seminary formation being 'doled out' in his days.  He resisted it and this is seen in his own valiant efforts not to put his own 'Salesians' through it.  The notion of being closed up within the seminary cut off from the rest of the world, the purely theoretical input without much of practical experience to ferment reflection, the strict adherence to practically all the diktats of ecclesial authorities...

It was interesting to note that an elderly ex-priest was sharing his experience of the rigid hierarchical structure that existed in his times. I thought he was speaking of the present times!! I had to acknowledge that in most cases, it still is the same.  Post-Vatican II's radical thoughts, did not really percolate the mindset and practical living of the Church and especially formation paradigms.  

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