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Father Mario Porcu SDB the oldest Salesian Priest laid to rest

By Father Bivan R. Mukhim
Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati and other bishops and priests around the coffin of Fr. Mario after the requiem Mass.
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Guwahati, Jun. 25. Father Mario was laid to rest on 24th June at the Uzanbazar Catholic cemetery in Guwahati. The requiem Mass at the St. Joseph's Co Cathedral Church was celebrated by Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati attended by Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, Archbishop Emeritus of Guwahati and Bishop Joseph Aind of Dibrugarh and a large number of priests, religious and lay people. Archbishop John lauded the contributions of Father Mario and deeply mourned his passing away. Father Mario was born on May 21, 1918 at Cagliari, located on the island of Sardinia, Italy. Born to a family of ten siblings, (eight boys and two girls) he was the second child to be born.
As a young boy, he would occasionally spend some time in the afternoon, helping his father, who was a 'builder' (one who used to be engaged in house construction errands) by carrying just one brick at a time on his gentle hands. It must be mentioned here that young Mario had steadily mastered a lot of trades between the ages of 15-20 years like carpentry, plumber, electrician, shouldering, blacksmith, etc. In the evening, he used to go the Oratory, read the Bible and also do a lot of other activities.

It was somewhere here in the Oratory, when, as a fifteen year old boy, he felt a burning desire to dedicate the rest of his life as a missionary. After completing his formal high schooling, he enrolled himself at the Missionary College, Gaeta, near Rome. In June 1939, a few months before the outbreak of the Second World War, he finished his college studies at the age of 21

Towards the end of November 1939, he finally got the visa to travel to India. He reached India on December 8, 1939, and Calcutta was where he made his first halt. From Calcutta, his superiors sent him to Salesian College, Sonada in Darjeeling to study philosophy. In June, 1941, a 23 year old Porcu Mario was taken to a concentration camp by the British government, as he was an Italian national. He spent a total of five years in two separate concentration camps - two years in Ajmer and later on, another three years in Dehradun. He was released from the Dehradun concentration camp in 1945, when the war hostilities finally ended. His superiors then wanted him to come to Assam, but as Assam was still a war ravaged zone, he was sent to Madras for further studies.

After two years, he came back from Madras and landed in Assam, where by now, the war hostilities were over and the military was long gone. Once back in Assam, he was sent to the Don Bosco Technical School, Shillong to begin work, teach and assist the boys and train them in the workshops conducted for mechanics and other such trades. It was here that he finished his theological studies and was finally ordained as a Salesian priest in January 1951. During his long tenure here till 1965, he served in various capacities as Administrator, Don Bosco Technical School, Shillong, Rector, Don Bosco Technical School, Shillong and Provincial Economer (Treasurer) of the then undivided Province, which later on was bifurcated from Calcutta in 1959. In June-July 1965, he came back to Guwahati and held on to the post of Provincial Economer of the new Guwahati Province till 1971. It needs to be mentioned here that Father Porcu Mario was the first Provincial Economer of the new Guwahati Province, a post he held for 11 long years till 1971. Interestingly, he had also served as acting Provincial of Guwahati Province in three separate stints. He had also served at various phases of his life, several other Don Bosco institutions like Don Bosco School, Sonaighuli, Guwahati, Don Bosco School, Boko, Kamrup, Don Bosco Dibrugarh and Don Bosco Technical School, Karbandi, Phuntsholing, Bhutan.

Father VM Thomas, Provincial described Father Mario as a priest always and everywhere. ''Fr. Mario lived his priestly life to the full. He was always and everywhere a priest, and the priestly responsibilities reigned supreme in his life, ever available for chaplaincies and confessions, at all times and on all days.''  He added that in the passing away of Father Mario many religious communities in the city of Guwahati has lost a reliable, respected, and available confessor. Father Jose Kadaprayil writes about this ministry of Father Mario, ''Father Mario was a confessor par excellence; one could turn to him for guidance, understanding and support at any time of the day. His door was always open for anyone to walk in for the sacrament of reconciliation. In my view, that was the greatest apostolate he did in his time in the provincial house.'' Many probably will be surprised to learn that he was the Parish Priest of Sonaighuli for 13 years, and the founding parish priest of Boko for 3 years. His priestly zeal enabled him to accept this responsibility at the age of 62. The parish experience brought him nearer to the poor and the needy, whom he cared for with great love.

Father Busolin, another 95 year old Salesian veteran missionary, currently at Tura, attests that ''Father Mario was a great soul, a faithful Salesian and a champion for the salvation of souls, and the spread of God‟s kingdom.'' Bp. Joseph Aind of Dibrugarh wrote: ''Father Mario lived for God and His people''. Especially as a parish priest, his love for the people and for the cultures found expression in his learning the language and in getting his homilies translated into Assamese, Garo, Rabha and Hindi.

Those who condoled the death of Father Mario were Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, Bishop Joseph Aind, Father Nestor Guria, Provincial Dimapur province, Father Paul Olphindro Lyngkot, Vice Provincial Silchar, Sister Elizabeth George, Provincial FMA Guwahati, Sister Philomena Mathew, Superior General MSMHC and others.  
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