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Adieu! Fr John Lens SDB

By V. Castilino
Fr Lens in his room, with his only long-standing material possessions: books, papers, pen, and a computer! (File photo)
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Hyderabad, Dec. 3. The funeral service of Rev. Fr John Lens was held on 1 December at Don Bosco Philosophate, Karunapuram. Bidding him farewell were nearly 400 people: Salesians from every community of the Province, confreres from outside the Province, a large number of Priests and Sisters who knew him, and a large contingent of former Salesians and past pupils, all of whom felt dearly loved and greatly inspired by Fr Lens. He was the last foreign missionary in the Salesian Province of Hyderabad.
After the Holy Mass in the morning in St Theresa's Parish, Hyderabad - of which Fr. Lens was the first Salesian Parish Priest -  his mortal remains were taken by road to Don Bosco Philosophate, Karunapuram (Warangal). On arrival at the community of the Philosophate, the novices (his own community members), and several confreres of the province, paid their last respects to the man who touched the lives of so many.

The funeral Mass commenced at 2.30 pm. The Provincial Fr Raminedi Balaraju presented the life and deeds of Fr Lens to the congregation. Among the many virtues he enumerated, he specially stressed on his love for the young confreres and zeal for Don Bosco's mission.

Fr James Kudiyirrippil, the Rector of Don Bosco School, Hyderabad, in a very moving sermon spoke with much tenderness about the generous, totally detached and cheerful character of Fr Lens. He nostalgically recalled his experiences with him in the early stage of building the school and the lives of the boys therein.

Later messages from the Rector Major Fr Angel Fernandez,  and the Regional Councillor Fr Maria Arokiam, were read out.  Both of them singled out his missionary call and exhorted confreres to imitate his selfless giving of himself to God and His people. This was also the point reiterated by the Bishop of Warangal Rev. Udumala Bala who presided over the Eucharistic celebration. The others who paid tribute to Fr Lens were former Provincials Fr Medabalimi Balaswamy and Fr Maddhichetty Noel, Novice Sunil and Mr David (a parishoner from St Theresa's Church, Hyderabad).  Fr Balaswamy handed to Fr Provincial, an autobiography of Fr John Lens, which he had procured from Fr Lens himself a couple of years ago, and given to him on condition that he would not make it public till after his death.  

Fr Noel spoke of the singular focus of Fr Lens, using his name as a pun to speak of his love of Christ and Don Bosco.  On behalf of the novices Sunil, with tear-filled eyes thanked Fr Lens for his exemplary life and a living witness of his oft quoted phrase, ''Be good and do good!'' Mr David representing the Parishoners of Hyderabad thanked Fr Lens for laying a truly Salesian foundation to the Parish.  Fr Kannadipara Mathew, the novice master and Rector of Fr Lens, presented the final words.  He thanked all those involved in the final goodbye to Fr Lens, including the JMJ Sisters who were of great assistance especially in taking care of the mortal remains of Fr Lens.  

Fr Lens was finally laid to rest along with the other deceased members of the Province  - Frs John Varricatt, Panampara Abraham and Br Gabriel Fernandez.  As people began to leave the place, none felt sad or dejected, for they all knew that Fr Lens truly did much more than what God intended him to do here on earth during the 93 years given to him. Each one felt proud and happy to have had the fortune to have known, heard, and lived with this Giant of Salesian spirituality at sometime or the other in their life.

A Memorial Mass is scheduled for Thursday, 11 December, 11.00 am, at Don Bosco Philosophate, Karunapuram.
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