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An Invitation to affirm ''Project Europe''

By Tony
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Kolkata, Jan. 26. By the forthcoming 27th General Chapter,  the ''Project Europe'' launched by the Rector Major Rev. Fr. Pascual Chavez in 2008, will have completed a 6 year period.  In view of this, Fr. Maria Arokiam Kanaga, the General Councillor for the South Asian Region, has presented to his confreres a kind of balance sheet to motivate further the missionary thrust of the project.

Fr. Maria Arokiam pointed out that unlike the Projects launched earlier by the Salesian Congregation, Project Europe, like the Project America, Project Africa, etc., this Project had three major elements defined by the Rector Major. 1. The internal renewal of the Salesian Charism in Europe; 2. Restructuring Salesian presences to make the mission more efficacious; 3. Sending missionaries to Europe.''

Efforts are still being made with regard to the first aspect, the internal renewal of the Congregation, and it is not easy to judge their results, he says. With regard to the second aspect, ''restructuring'', several initiatives have taken place: a number of provinces have been reduced; some houses or activities of houses have been closed down or handed over to lay administration. A few new activities, particularly in favour of the poor of Europe, such as the immigrants, the gypsies etc., have also been initiated.

In order to understand how the third aspect, sending of missionaries to Europe, has been carried out, Fr. Maria Arokiam provides the following balance sheet of the efforts made in the last 10 years.

''Around 75 confrères have been sent to Europe in the past 10 years. 26 of these have returned to their provinces of origin. There were also several, particularly from Vietnam and India, who offered themselves for a temporary period of time and these too have returned. Right now, there are 68 missionaries in Western Europe (8 from Africa, 23 from India, 20 from East Asia, 3 from the Americas and 10 from Eastern Europe).''

''In 10 years, 37 Indians had offered themselves for Project Europe. Eight of these have returned, one has died (Fr.Benjamin Puthota) and 5 temporary offerers too have returned back. Therefore, 23 missionaries are still serving in Western Europe.''

''The Provinces of Hyderabad (6), Tiruchy (6) and Chennai (7) have been the major contributors followed by Bombay (4), Guwhati (3), Panjim (3) and Bangalore (2). Nation-wise, there are 2 in Belgium, 5 in Hungary, 3 in Austria, 3 in Great Britain, 2 in Ireland, 1 in France, 7 in Italy and 1 in Siberia. There could be some margin of error in these numbers due to lack of information.''

''Last year as on 31st December 2012, India had 2442 confreres and 131 novices adding up to 2573. This represents an increase of 51 from the previous year. Undoubtedly, India is the fastest growing country in the Salesian World.''

Fr. Maria Arokiam laments that although Indian Provinces send missionaries to other continents as well as within the South Asian region (Delhi province, Sri Lanka), ''nevertheless, our contribution to Project Europe has been minimal: average of just about 2 per province in the last 10 years!''

He has exhorted the Indian confreres to think a little more of helping the congregation in the Eurpean continent, keeping in mind how much European missionaries have contributed to the growth of Salesians in India. With optimism he encourages the Indian confreres stating, ''Admittedly, it is not easy for Indians to work in Europe. But it is worth trying!''
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