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Rector, Founder of Salesian College Youth Centre Movement Dies

By Trophy D`Souza
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Kolkata, May. 12. Former Rector of Salesian College Sonada Father Pietro Piemonte died on 9th May and was buried in his native town Udine in northern Italy, on 12th May 2021. He was 92 years old and 73 years a Salesian.
Trophy D'Souza, former Head of English and Music Departments at Salesian College, Sonada, when Father Piemonte was Rector, writes from London: I was fortunate to have lived a few years with Father Piemonte in Sonada [Darjeeling] when he was Rector of the Studentate [college] there. I was a member of staff in charge of English teaching [University English & Spoken English programs] and the College Music programs [vocal and instrumental church singing & woodwind/strings orchestra]. Students in SCS [Salesian College Sonada] spend at least two years as part of their training to become full-fledged members of the Order. Their studies include Philosophy, Psychology and other studies.

Piemonte was a very loving, caring person and the students found in him not just a guide but a good friend as well. They could approach him not merely for official guidance in scholastic matters but also on personal and general issues. His friendliness came across in the perpetual smile. He always had the willingness to be of assistance when his position or his expertise was required.

Perhaps unlike many mature non-Indian senior members of the Order, he felt he had to honour the commitment he had made to India: to serve with love. He never seemed to lose sight of this mental plan he always seemed to have. He showed great respect towards the local customs and traditions and took steps to show he wanted to be part of the 'general conversation' to be as much Indian.

As an independent analysis of his career in SCS, I would say he enriched SCS in three areas: in an enriched curriculum, in human development of the students, in the Youth Centre work of the students. In the human area, he introduced a compulsory half-hour of speech training into the already overloaded academic work the students had to do. He brought innovations into the curriculum by bringing in variety into the delivery systems.  

Sonada is in the Nepali speaking area, and the students went out each Sunday to encounter small groups of young people [aged 10 to 15 -boys and girls] in the village or semi-urban settings. There were, in his time, around 20 of these centres, and he helped organise the first of these annual meets for these centres when groups of young people from these centres came to the College grounds for games, entertainment and celebration. He ensured that this became an annual feature. He also got his Deputy to organise literature [in Nepali] as handouts regularly, to serve as guideposts to these young people. He got the Students of Salesian College Sonada to use this literature to train and liaise with the elders or seniors (teachers & parents) in these centres.

As part of his appreciation, he read up on Indian thinking and tradition and to show he cared spent some time away studying more on India. In fact, his next posting after his years as Rector of the college was to study more on Indian culture and an Indian language.

His students and his well-wishers remember him with affection. Those who knew him closer know and believe that he is enjoying the reward and the bliss he so richly deserves.


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