“I beg and implore you not to neglect this most important aspect of our mission,” wrote Don Bosco, in 1885, regarding the importance of social communications in the Salesian mission. The early history of the Salesians in India shows how seriously our pioneers took this exhortation of our Founder. Though they were few in number and heavily burdened with work, they never left their pens idle. They were not trained journalists, but they made sure that information about the Indian mission appeared with admirable regularity and with great impact in the Bollettino Salesiano and in other Salesian publications of the time. There are 31 pieces on Tanjore and Mylapore written by Fr. Tomatis, Mederlet, Balestra and others in the Bollettino of 1906-1924.
Writing was not the only means they used to communicate with the rest of the world. Exhibitions were a regular feature of the Salesian works in Tanjore and Shillong in the early days. For the Vatican Missionary Exhibition in 1925, the House of Tanjore sent no less than 10 boxes of exhibits, all handiworks of the students and staff of our Industrial School in Tanjore, while among the items sent by Salesians in Assam were a rare collection of 6,000 butterflies and a myna that could sing Kyrie eleison, Gloria, Angus Dei and a lot more. Needless to say it was a big hit at the exhibition (see p.151 for more on this myna).
Our Early Publications
The Salesians launched their first publication in India with the Khasi monthly Ka Iing Khristan (The Christian Family) in May 1923. It is worth noting that Ka Iing Khristan continues to be published. It was followed by another Khasi leaflet U Symbai (The Seed) in 1924. In 1928, Fr Leo Piasecki started a Hindi monthly, Salesian Khabaren (a kind of Salesian Bulletin in Hindi). Fr Henry Raygasse, who took charge of the shrine of Bandel in 1928, started the bulletin Our Lady of Bandel in November 1930.
Another publishing venture that was to have a considerable impact in Salesian India was the monthly Don Bosco in India (1930). The purpose of the periodical was to make Don Bosco and the Salesian work in India known to a wider public.
Fr Pianazzi, the pioneering missionary of the Garo hills, mastered the Garo language and wrote the initial books required for the new mission. In 1933 he started the publication Sengbaa (the Dawn). Soon numerous other publications emerged to meet the requirements of various tribal groups. In the 1930s there existed a series of publications in Khasi, Garo, Mikir, Hindi, Lotha, Angami, Manipuri, Lalung, etc. Scholastic books were also published in several languages.
Fr Aurelius Maschio, who was the editor of Ka Iing Kristan in its early days, started Don Bosco’s Madonna in 1937 from Tardeo Castle, the first Salesian House in Mumbai, soon after he reached there. The magazine today enjoys the widest circulation among all Catholic publications in India and reaches some 100,000 homes and institutions every month.
A publication of a different nature, Aemulamini, was launched in March 1933. It was a newsletter for the entire Indian province. Its purpose was to foster family spirit and to build communion among the confreres. It is interesting to note that the Salesians started a publication even in the internment camp (Fides Nostra, started by Fr Scuderi), where some 140 Salesians were kept during World War II. Another provincial newsletter, Inter Nos, was launched in May 1943 from Madras to give news about the work in the houses and missions to those who were far away in the internment camps at Dehra Dun and elsewhere. The Family News from Calcutta also deserves mention here.
Soon after the Salesians reached Goa in 1946, the monthly, Oratorio Salesiano (in Portuguese) was brought out by Fr. Ravalico. There was also an English edition of it, The Voice of Goa. From February 1947, Goa had a Konkani weekly leaflet, Aitarachem Vachop.
Bishop La Ravoire Morrow was, without doubt, an outstanding figure in catechetical apostolate and the ministry of the good press. His works have been translated into various languages, from Chinese to Italian. Thirteen million copies of such books are reckoned as printed by him.
Salesian Social Communication in India today
After the Special General Chapter of 1971-72 and after the promulgation of the 1984 edition of the Constitutions which presented social communication as “one of the apostolic priorities of the Salesian mission,” there has been a reawakening in the provinces as regards social communication. All the provinces have tried to qualify their personnel and set up structures for coordinating their communication activities.
Salesian Communication centres
Salesian Communication Centres like Tej Prasarini (Mumbai), DBICA (Chennai), Don Bosco Communications (Guwahati), NITIKA (Kolkata) and Alaihal (Tiruchy) are among the well-known communication centres in the country, which are engaged in both training and production. NITIKA, started in 1977, was the first Salesian Audio Visual Media Centre in India.
St. Anthony’s College (Shillong) pioneered the first-ever graduate course in Mass Communication in North East India. Don Bosco College of Journalism and Communication at Angadikadavu in Kerala offers a postgraduate degree in Communication and Journalism (MCJ). Divyadaan Institute of Philosophy in Nasik offers an M. Ph. Degree with specialization in education and social communication. The Don Bosco Cultural Centre in Cochin trains children in music and dance.
Boscom-India’s Catalogue 2001 (Don Bosco Multimedia India) lists 215 titles of books, produced by some 20 different Salesian ‘publishers’ in India. Besides the books, the Catalogue lists also several hundred video, audio and slide productions. The major publishing centers appearing in this Catalogue are the following: Don Bosco Publications (Guwahati), Salesian Publications (Chennai), Kristu Jyoti Publications (Bangalore), Deepagam Publi-cations (Chennai), Vendrame Institute (Shillong), Tej Prasarini (Mumbai), NITIKA (Kolkata), DBYA-India (New Delhi). Recently Chennai’s Don Bosco Publications was re-christened Arumbu Publi-cations. Besides these, there are numerous others who publish books and other media products in all the provinces.
The Salesian Bulletins
The story of the Salesian Bulletin in India begins with Fr Piasecki’s Salesian Khabaren, launched in 1928 from Guwahati. A second venture, Don Bosco in India, was launched from Shillong in 1930. Its purpose was to make Don Bosco and the Salesian work in India known to a wider public. Hence, in every respect, except the name, it was the Salesian Bulletin.
However, the Salesian Bulletin, as we know it today, was launched from Madras in January 1951 with Fr Ravalico as its editor. It was meant for both the provinces of India. In course of time, as Salesian provinces multiplied and Salesian works spread to different linguistic areas, the Bulletin began to appear in various Indian languages. At present there are seven editions of the Bulletin in South Asia - English (1951), Malayalam (1956), Telugu (1969), Tamil (1978), Hindi (1999), Kannada (2000) and Sinhala (2003).
The Province Newsletters
The SGC (1971-72) recommended that provinces should publish “a detailed newsletter” which will constitute “a forum for an exchange of views and other topics of general information for the common interest of the province.” But Salesians in India had newsletters long before the SGC. The earliest such newsletter was Aemulamini, referred to earlier here, whose first number appeared on 24 March 1933.
Today all the nine provinces and two of the three vice-provinces of the region have their Newsletters — Newsline (ING), Knots (INC), Intercom (INM), Dimapur Links (IND), SDB West (INB), Rapport (INK), DB Kaburlu (INH), Uravu (INT), Delhinet (INN), Konkan Bosco Samachar (INP), Meebindhu (LKC).
Don Bosco’s Madonna (1937) from Mumbai, Our Lady of Bandel (1930) from Bandel and Our Lady of Lourdes (1937) from Lourdes Shrine (Chennai), are well known popular Marian publications published by the Salesians.
Arumbu of Chennai Province is one of the few popular Tamil Youth magazines in Tamil Nadu today. It is a monthly with a circulation of 20,000 copies, and has been identified as one of the best magazine for students.
Among scholarly journals published by the Salesians, the best known are Kristu Jyoti Journal (INK), Mission Today (ING), Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education, (INB), Catechetics India (INC), Bosco Udayam, (INK).
Movies and Documentaries
Johnny, a Malayalam feature film on Don Bosco, was produced by Bangalore province. It won the ‘Best Children’s Movie of the Year’ award in 1993 and ran in theatres across Kerala! It has been dubbed into Hindi and English. Bosco, the second part of the life of Don Bosco, was released in 1998.
In 2002, Fr. Joseph Pulinthanath of Guwahati province produced Mathia, the first full-length film in Kokborok language. It won international acclaim as it fights a social evil as well as promotes indigenous cinema in the tribal Kokborok language.
DBICA of Chennai has produced Zatti, a short movie on Bl. Zatti, which was released on 15 Sept 2005. It has a companion piece, Be a Brother, a documentary on the vocation of the Salesian Brother.
In the Province of Hyderabad, the Mangalagiri community brought out a documentary on Polio. Documentaries on Child Labour and Street Children are produced by Fr Anand, Fr Noel and Fr Koshy of Hyderabad province.
Salesian Information Network
Bosco Information Service (BIS) is a service set up with the approval of the Salesian Provincial Conference of South Asia (SPCSA) for the management of Salesian information in the region of South Asia. It consists of a network of correspondents who gather Salesian information from various centers, process it, and share it with the rest of the Salesian world, through the Internet or other means. At the province level, the Provincial Coordinator of BIS organizes information sharing with the rest of the region. At the South Asia level, the South Asian Delegate for Social Communication coordinates information sharing within the region and between South Asia and the rest of the Salesian world.
Don Bosco India Website
The www.donboscoindia.org is the official website of the Salesians in South Asia. It is an expression of our desire to journey with the young even into cyberspace. It is designed to facilitate information sharing among the provinces of South Asia. Besides news, the site carries a vast amount of information on the provinces and the works of the Salesians in South Asia.
Documentation and Archiving
Documentation and archiving are of great cultural and community value, and an authentic form of communication, which no organization can afford to neglect. Scholars who have had opportunities to delve into the chronicles and archives of our provinces and houses often point out how faithful and meticulous the early missionaries were in this aspect. In contrast, the present generation does not seem to give it the importance it deserves, even though today’s technology makes it a much easier job.
Apart from the documentation available in the provinces and houses, we have a ‘Salesian Documentation Centre’ at Kristu Jyoti College, Bangalore. It aims at collecting material from all the Salesian provinces of the Congregation. It has a microfilm version of the Central Salesian Archives in Rome.
Collaboration with the Local Church
Quite a number of Salesians (Fr. C. Paul, Fr. George Plathottam, Fr. Devassy Kollamkudy and others) have held and are still holding leading roles in the field of communications in the Church in India. Many Salesians are involved in teaching and training Church personnel in various dioceses or at national centres. BOSCO-INDIA has been entrusted with the preparation of a textbook on Social Communication for the seminaries of India.
Networking and Collaboration (BOSCOM)
Till the beginning of the 1990s, Salesian provinces in India carried on communication activities independent of each other. In 1992-93 the Provincial Delegates for Social Communication took the initiative to come together to share experiences, which in due course led to the formation of BOSCOM INDIA in 1993. The SPCSA approved its statutes and appointed a National Delegate to coordinate inter-provincial communication activities.
BOSCOM today provides a forum for reflection and sharing among Salesians involved in Social Communication ministry in the various provinces of South Asia. It coordinates and promotes inter-provincial collaboration in our Social Communication ministry. It also promotes collaboration with other organizations and institutions interested in social communications.
It is worth noting that in the year 2000, BOSCOM brought out Shepherds for an Information Age — a handbook for the formation of the Salesians in Social Communications, and in 2001, the Don Bosco Multimedia India — a Catalogue of all Salesian publications and media products in India. Presently BOSCOM is working on Media and Ministry, a textbook on Social Communications for the seminaries of India, at the request of the CBCI.
This brief survey of Salesian Communication activities during the first 100 years of our presence in India clearly shows that the Salesians have not been standing idle in the field. The early missionaries were both energetic and enterprising in utilizing the various means of communication, especially the printed word, to further the goals of the mission and to promote the sense of unity and solidarity among the communities and the people. Their contribution to the growth and development of various indigenous languages in the North East is particularly remarkable.
Today Salesian provinces in India have a large number of qualified personnel to work in this field. We have also a formidable network of institutions and structures at the service of communication. There is a greater awareness too of the need for coordination and networking among the different sectors of our activities and with other organizations in order to strengthen our pastoral presence in the media, where our Founder wanted to be always in the vanguard. As communicators of the good news to the young, we have immense possibilities awaiting us for the full realization of our task as educators and pastors who are also communicators. Indeed, as Evangelii Nuntiandi affirms, we would be found “guilty before the Lord if we did not utilize these powerful means that human skill is daily rendering