Convent to be dedicated as St Mary Mazzarello Shrine

[ Sr Lydia Komuhra ]

The Salesian sisters of Don Bosco, formally known as the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of the Province of Guwahati, are all set for the opening of the centenary year of their presence in Northeast India on 8 December at St Mary’s, Guwahati.

The significant day will be marked by the dedication of the Shrine of St Mary Mazzarello, co-founder of the institute. The function will be officiated by Guwahati archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati, in the presence of Sr Alphonsa Kurisingal, head of the Salesian Sisters of the Province of Guwahati, heads of the 38 centres in which they run and other dignitaries and collaborators of the Salesian Sisters.

The six pioneers from Italy, namely, Sr Innocenza Vallino, the leader of the group, Sr Giulia Berra, Sr Maria Bricarello, Sr Clotilde Appiano, Sr Antonietta Rosetti and Sr Cecilia Da Riot arrived in Guwahati on 8 December, 1923. The gigantic growth of today’s educational mission in the Northeast had its humble beginnings in a dilapidated cottage in the premises of Don Bosco, Pan Bazaar, Guwahati. The initial mission was accompanied by various challenges and difficulties: dearth of personnel, financial constraints, inclement weather conditions, rampant epidemics, poor infrastructure, dire poverty, untimely deaths, lack of medical facilities and prevalent illiteracy.

Notwithstanding the inherent obstacles and privations encountered, the pioneers threw themselves heart and soul into their mission, and even before they were well acquainted with Assamese, English and Hindi, they launched into village apostolate, hospital ministry, orphanages, vocational training schools, schools in English, Assamese and Hindi mediums and formation of past pupils’ association. The trailblazers had an unfailing trust in divine providence and possessed unflagging courage to respond to the urgent needs of the children and young people.

The institute had its birth on 5 August, 1872 in Mornese, Italy, with 11 young women who dedicated themselves to god by their religious professions. Today, it has spread to all the continents of the world with more than 11,000 members, 74 provinces and five vice-provinces. Sr Mary Mazzarello, the first superior general and the first Sisters of Mornese lived Don Bosco’s Charism, namely, the salvific mission of Christ, in creative fidelity through Christian education for the salvation of young people according to the signs of the time. The tiny seed of the Charism sown 100 years ago in Northeast bore abundant fruits, giving birth to three provinces: Shillong, Kolkata and Guwahati.

The province of Guwahati of the Salesian Sisters was formed on 24 February, 2000. Under the able leadership of Sr Lucy Rose Ozhukayil, the first head and her successors, late Sr Teresa Puthempurakel, Sr Elizabeth George and currently, Sr Alphonsa Kurisingal, the life and mission of the province continues to grow from strength to strength. The province today has 38 centres in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland, with 291 sisters.

The educational and development ministry for the integral growth and holistic formation of young people, women and children ranges from formal to non-formal education: schools and colleges, day and evening schools for neighbourhood and domestic workers, coaching centres, vocational training centres, oratories and youth centres, NIOS, CFG (Child Friendly Guwahati), neighbourhood children’s parliament, hostel and boarding houses, a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts and HIV patients, homes for street children, literacy programme centres, computer centres, family and prison ministry, village apostolate, pastoral services, self-help groups and income-generating activities, nature care ministry as well as networking.

Thousands of girls who have passed through the portals of our institutions stand tall in society today as living testimonies to the reliability of an educative method that was integral and holistic. The human values inculcated in them during their years of schooling in their alma mater stand in good stead as they seek to become wholesome leaven in society. The sisters, ever conscious of the complex nature of education today, strive to keep up the standard of their institutions as sacred temples of learning, grooming and living.

The sisters strive to be present among the young who today find themselves in situations of crisis. This entails a genuine competence and continual updating, living with an integral and positive vision, relating with the heart, feeling with the heart, thinking with human intelligence, living with human will and loving with a human heart. The sisters are called to intervene with wisdom, intelligence and professionalism, employing their feminine genius of intuition, maternal heart and constant accompaniment to help young people realise their full potential.

The preventive system, the spiritual heritage of St John Bosco – which is a typical style of educating young people in an ambience distinguished by family spirit, in a relationship marked by loving kindness and the constant foreseeing presence of educators – holds valid and relevant even today. The belief that every young person is good because s/he is created in god’s image and likeness, that there is a fertile spot of goodness in every person, and that s/he is destined to be with god at the end of life, gives every reason for the sisters to give their best and to forge ahead despite the inevitable setbacks and the failure to see the immediate results.

The inauguration of the centenary year will be a propitious occasion for every Salesian sister to continue to live her identity as an educator of young people with renewed enthusiasm and educational passion after the heart of Christ the good shepherd for the realisation of god’s plan and the dream of St John Bosco and St Mary Mazzarello, to make young people good human beings and honest citizens and to see them happy in this world and in the next world, even as each one confesses to all young people: For you I study, for you I work, for you I live, and for you I am ready to give my life.