India – 9th Salesian Brothers’ Congress of South Asia: The Salesian Brother in the Twenty-first Century: Identity, Fidelity and Leadership

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The 9th Salesian Brothers’ Congress of South Asia, held at Nitika Don Bosco, in the Salesian Province of Kolkata, commenced at 05.00 pm on 30 December 2023, with the inaugural session moderated by Br. Puthenpurackal Jose. Br. Jean Paul Muller, Fr. Ivo Coelho, Fr. Biju Michael, Fr. Joseph Pauria, Br. Raymond Callo, Br. Joby Mani, Fr. Savio Silveira, Fr. Jijo John, and Fr. John Alexander were present to grace the inaugural event.

Fr Biju Michael, the Regional Councilor for South Asia, presented the Presidential Address, touching upon the theme of ‘identity, fidelity and leadership’. In line with the recommendations of the previous Brothers’ Congress, efforts are being made to publish books related to the Salesian Brother’s identity. Accordingly, the Life of Zatti in Tamil, the Brothers’ Photo Directory and A Dream that Took Wings by Fr Biju Michael were released in the presence of Br. Muller, Fr. Ivo and other dignitaries present during the ceremony. The day ended with the eucharistic celebration presided by His Grace Thomas D’Souza, Archbishop of Kolkata, during which the celebrant highlighted the importance of identity, fidelity and leadership among the people who are entrusted to our care.

The second day started with the Morning Prayers and the Holy Mass, presided over by Fr Ivo. In his reflection he emphasized that every human family reflects the mystery of God. The events of the day began with the Keynote Address by Br. Jean Paul Muller, who highlighted the theme of the Congress: The Salesian Brother in the Twenty-first Century: Identity, Fidelity and Leadership. In his presentation, he posed a question for personal and collective reflection concerning the decline in the number of Salesian Brothers and the reasons for the same. Br. Raymond from the Formation Department of the Congregation addressed the assembly on the theme ‘formation in general and the international scenario of the Brother vocation in particular’. Focusing on this theme, he presented the latest statistics of the Brothers in the Congregation. He also exhorted how we could promote the vocation of the Brother saying, “It is not the work that we do that qualifies us but our consecration”. Fr Ivo – General Councilor for Formation – addressed the assembly focusing on three different vocations: married life, priesthood, and the consecrated life. He emphasized the theological reality of the consecrated life as an anticipation of the life to come. He exhorted the assembly to foster fraternity and never to lose contact with the rest of the world their daily life and mission.

A Panel Discussion was held, with Fr. Ivo and Br. Raymond as the panelists. It was moderated by Br. Castilino. The discussion that ensued dwelt on matters pertaining to formation plan and action in the Congregation, the Province, and the local community as well as at the personal level. In the General Assembly that followed reflected on the various ways and means of promoting vocations to the Brotherhood in the present digital world. After which 25 Brothers who are present for the Congress, who are celebrating their Silver and Golden jubilee of their Religious profession and final profession.

The first day of the New Year started with the morning prayer, followed by the Holy Eucharist, presided over by Fr. Joseph Pauria, the Provincial of INC. In his homily Fr. Pauria dwelt on the theme of fidelity: being faithful to our vocation like Mary, who was always available to do the will of God.

Fr. Robert Pen (INB) animated the assembly on the core topic of the Congress: The Salesian Brother in the Twenty-first Century: Identity, Fidelity and Leadership. In the input session, he mentioned the significance of Ratio 1.5.1, stating that the Brother is the icon of communion and identity, and that he is a constant reminder to the community members of the lay dimension of the Salesian vocation. He went on to present the specific roles of the Brother and the priest in the community and in the Congregation based on the core theme of the Congress, and proposed eight points for group discussion. He led the assembly to project this into three dreams, with appropriate lines of action that would be developed during the group discussion. These three dreams are: formation and trainingour role in education and pastoral care; future prospects and developments, especially strategies for vocation promotion. Some of the lines of action proposed during the discussion are the following:

–       Qualifying Salesian Brothers to be effective in their ministry, by imbibing and transferring the values of Jesus to the youth of today, in Don Bosco’s way.

–       Accompanying the young in the midst of our socio-politico-cultural context to form them as good persons and honest citizens, contributing towards nation-building.

–       Fostering and nurturing the vocation of the Salesian Brother, through a living witness and its explicit proposal.

Our identity gives us purpose, fidelity sustains us through challenges, and leadership allows us to guide others towards the light of Don Bosco’s teachings. Thus the day three came to end. 

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The society of St. Francis de Sales or Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), is a religious Congregation founded by St. John Bosco in 1859 in Turin, Italy for the purpose of helping, educating and training poor boys. To date, services of the Salesians have spread to 131 countries in the world. In Sri Lanka, the very first Don Bosco Centre was established in 1956 at Negombo. The Salesians of Don Bosco have, to date established 18 centres in different parts of the country. 


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