Beginning a New Chapter

Michael Fernandes sdb

In just a short time we will be having our Provincial Chapter based on the theme: Return to Don Bosco with a Planning Mentality. Many of us will have many expectations from the chapter and will look forward to push some of our ideas on the floor of the chapter. We have met in communities and discussed issues and responded to the questionnaires sent to us. These have now been formulated into working documents for the chapter.

What would I expect from this chapter? In the first place I wish that we really return to Don Bosco. Both on the personal and community level we need to be faithful to our vows, moments of prayer and life in communities. This would involve following our personal plans, the community plans, the giornos, active participation in meetings, being present with the young, and a personal renewal of our lives. We have to come close to Jesus the Don Bosco way, by attending renewal and updating courses, retreats and taking responsibility for our personal growth.

Secondly, we have been talking of expansions in areas of the province. Two areas where we need to expand and give a good thrust are: firstly, moving into the Marathwada region that boarders Ahmednagar; and secondly, the YaR apostolate. For nearly twenty-five years we have worked in the Ahmednagar region and not moved to the equally poor areas of Aurangabad, Pharbani, Jalna, Beed etc. These districts figure on the list of the 100 poorest districts in the country and its literacy rate is the lowest in the State. BGVK has initiated some work in a few of the villages of Beed district, but the land we have since 1983 (Parbhani) and 1992 (Aurangabad) has been left unattended all these years. On the YaR front, the work has to be given a greater push, with more small centres coming up to attend to the growing needs and the various categories of the marginalized. Positive interventions should be made in the lives of the disadvantaged using the rights based approach.

Thirdly, I would envisage a good financial plan for self sufficiency in the houses and contributing to the needs of the province. Each house should work out ways and means of being self sufficient. The houses must optimize the use of their classrooms, buildings, playgrounds, halls, etc. There are volunteers, local benefactors, past pupils, companies and other donors who would like to help us if we present good projects. These need to be tapped. We cannot depend on the province for our needs most of the time. Proper budgeting, overseeing the works we do, looking for government funding, having recourse to agencies, projects for sponsors, justifiable spending, will help us manage our resources well.

Fourthly, we need to train the lay collaborators and members of the Salesian Family to assist us. Involving them as the animating nucleus will help us carry on our works in the years to come. These lay people should be trained in one of our centres and be conversant with the spirit, principles, methods and procedures we have in our institutions. Eventually they can collaborate with us more actively and even run some of our works. In some centres of higher learning, technical education and in social communications, they are already helping in a big way.

I do not know what turn the Provincial Chapter will take. It will largely depend on how well we discuss issues, accept suggestions, take up responsibilities, and be willing to carry out the projects owning responsibility for them. If we think wisely, discuss concretely and deliberate constructively, we will be able to see things happen in the coming years that will make our confreres and province revive and grow.

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