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Guwahati Provincial Chapter begins


By Father Bivan R. Mukhim
Guwahati, Feb. 17. The members of the Provincial Chapter of the Salesian province of Guwahati arrived at Don Bosco Provincial House, Panbazar on 15 February 2016
We are standing on the shoulders of giants,'' Father VM Thomas said. ''The elderly Salesians have shown us the way and they have lived their Salesian life to the full,'' Father Thomas continued. Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, Archbishop Emeritus and Diocesan Administrator of Jowai and Bishop Emeritus of Tezpur. A felicitation programme followed for the Salesians.

Those who spoke on the occasion were Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, Father Joe Mannath, Father Hector D'Souza SJ, Father Mario Porcu and Father Battista Busolin. Arch. Thomas spoke on the greatness of the Salesians work in the North East. He appreciated the contributions of the Salesians in shaping the Church in the region.

Nonagenarian Father Mario Porcu wished the chapter members and spoke on the life of Don Bosco. Father Battista Busolin exhorted the members to celebrate the liturgy with decorum. He said that this could be one of the deliberations of the chapter. He enthralled the members present with his cock crowing technique.
A special tree plantation was also held in front of the newly built ''Becchi House'' by the elderly confreres.  

Father Joe Mannath in his exhortation said that there should be fulfillment in religious vocation of a priest. He gave example of the recent survey in America in which he said that doctors, professors, pastors and priests were interviewed on living the most satisfying professional life. The survey result showed that the life of the priest is the most satisfying one. He also said that in the year of mercy all are invited to live a more committed life and to devote it to become authentic person of God.

Father Hector D Souza, SJ former Jesuit Provincial of India spoke to the chapter members on the theme ''Towards a new vision for ING SDB. At the beginning of his talk he appreciated the Salesian missionary work in North East India. He referred to the rich cultural heritage of the congregation serving the mosaic of cultures in North East India. He acknowledged that the Salesians were blessed with human and material resources in both urban and rural areas. Father Hector D Souza also spoke on the three scents taking the cue from Pope Francis. He spoke of the scent of the sheep, the scent of the library and the scent of the future. He said we need to revisit our relationship with the poor of God. ''One of the challenges facing us today is finding way to help the Universal Church benefit from the values of various cultures in North East. To this end, we need to pay particular attention to three dimensions: Depth (both in studies and in spirituality), Creativity (learning new techniques that help us in accompanying men and women in their search for truth), and Life in the Spirit (without which we have no depth).

The introductory session was followed by the recollection at 5:00 pm. The recollection was animated by Father Puthenpurakal Joseph, Director Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures, Shillong. He based his recollection talk on 1) the hard saying of Jesus, 2) the hard saying of Don Bosco, 3) primacy of God in the life of every Salesians, 4) primacy of God: a cultural challenge, 5) be saints and 6) irreplaceable role of the Holy Spirit. ''The Provincial Chapter is a propitious moment to examine the Salesian heart of the province and the heart of each Salesian,'' he said.

At 7:00 pm there was the community adoration animated by Fr. Bivan Mukhim. The goodnight talk was given by Bishop Robert Kerketta, Bishop Emeritus of Tezpur. In his goodnight talk he recalled how the Church was established in the North East and how we need to have the sense of the Church and be part of it. He concluded the goodnight by imparting his Episcopal blessing to the chapter members.  

On Tuesday, 16 February, at 6.30 am, the inaugural Holy Mass was presided over by His Grace Thomas Menamparampil assisted by Father Januarius, Vice Provincial and Moderator of the Chapter and Fr. KJ Thomas, Economer of the province.

His Grace began by commenting on the entrance hymn 'Be still and know that I am God'' saying that this is what actually constitutes the Primacy of God. He shared his experiences of being with the people of Asia - China, Philippines, and Malaysia which has deepened his conviction that people appreciate SILENCE. The Asian soul is intertwined with sacred silence where he/she encounters the divine. It is in Silence that we find God. The chapter is an occasion to review our past, correct our present and look ahead with great hope. He too urged the members to be deeply rooted in Christ. He challenged them to be communitarian and to learn to dialogue with each other.  While appreciating all the innovative services offered to the young and the society at large, he too cautioned us not to be just activists. Appreciating all the infrastructure build up, he urged the members to infuse ''spirit into our structures''!    

At 9.00 am, all the chapter members gathered together in the Mario Hall for the inaugural ceremony. Besides the Provincial and the Moderator, the following invitees were present on the dais: Sr. Mary, Assistant Superior General of MSMHC, Sr. Jancy, Provincial of SMI, Sr. Ivy D'Souza on behalf of  Sr. Elizabeth George, FMA Provincial, Guwahati Province, Mr. John Horo representing the  Salesian cooperators  and Mr. Vikas Agarwal, on behalf of the past pupils.  
The programme began with moments of prayer - the singing of Veni creator spiritus invoking the Spirit to enlighten the chapter members, a Gospel reading on the vine and the branches, and praying of the Our Father and the Hail Mary.  

In his welcome address, the Moderator underscored the importance of the chapter.  He warmly welcomed the chapter members. He profusely thanked the representatives of the Salesian Family for their kind presence.    
Father Francis Fernandez then read out the message of FatherMaria Kanaga, Regional councilor for South East Asia.

Father Provincial spoke of the importance of this chapter as it underlines the important aspects of Salesian way of living out the religious life as mystics, prophets and servants.  He concluded his address by declaring the 19th Provincial Chapter of the Province of Guwahati open.
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