Savio Silveira sdb
The recent months have seen the passing away of two of our great stalwarts, Br. Ludvik Zabret and Br. Thomas Putur. Both were outstanding persons, who have left an indelible mark on the history and culture of the Mumbai province. They were phenomenal personalities, men of deep convictions, extremely passionate Salesians. Both had strong and definite ideas, and spoke their minds vociferously at every given opportunity. They were persons with a clear focus on the Salesian mission, with absolutely no hidden personal agenda. They laboured long hours and believed that others too should do likewise. They were both giants in their field of work, men who spent a lifetime fulfilling their chosen ministry. And they were both path breakers.
Br. Ludvik was a pioneer in every sense of the word. From the waste-lands of Sagayathottam to the wooded-lands of Sulcorna, and finally on to Nashik, he undertook the daunting task of converting these rough and rugged tracts into flourishing farmlands. This type of work itself was new. Agriculture, at least in these parts of the world, was not considered a typical Salesian activity. And yet he plunged decidedly into it, realizing that this was the need of the place and the necessity of the hour. The harvest was not always plentiful, but that did not deter him. He had literally put his hand to the plough and was determined to keep plodding ahead. Well, even today there may still be no convincing conclusion to the debate whether we Salesians should engage in agriculture, that too in commercial cultivation, but one thing is amply clear – with over half our labour force engaged in agriculture, this is not a field we can shy away from.
Br. Thomas was not only a path breaker, but he also broke the stereotype image of the Salesian Brother as someone who should only confine himself to the technical workshop. Tracing a different path for himself, Br. Thomas walked the academic corridors for well over three decades, not just as teacher, but as leader of these institutions. And not only did he break new ground, but went on to climb to the peak of the ground he was standing on, earning himself a PhD in Education. While his demeanour may have led some to dismiss him as traditional conservative, he was in fact progressive and farsighted, pushing for the establishment of educational institutions in the rural areas of our province, advocating the need to train teachers in the use of child psychology, and insisting that students should be assisted to chart out a clear career path for themselves before they leave school. Today, much of this may sound commonplace, but thirty years back these were novel, and even revolutionary ideas.
As the old adage puts it, ‘if today we can see far, it is because we have been sitting on the shoulders of giants’. We have had men who had the ‘audacity’ to look beyond the horizon and the ‘recklessness’ to actually forge a path to towards it. But now those horizons have been reached, those thresholds crossed. And we cannot endlessly celebrate those past achievements. The world around us is constantly evolving and we have to keep pace with it. Changing situations throw up fresh challenges that demand relevant responses. It is time to break new ground, to tread new paths. We need to be ‘giants’ today, persons who are willing to boldly walk down new avenues.