KOLKATA, (C.M. Paul) – Was it in the corridors of Pisana or in the aisles of the Aula Magna during the last Salesian General Chapter (2008) that the Rector Major predicted India to have 15 Salesian provinces at the General Chapter 2014?
Hardly three years away now, Salesian India is stuck on the same magic number of 10 provinces. Rector Major, a frequent visitor toIndia, must have predicted reading from the Salesian Indian growth rate then! His calculations could have been in these lines: New Delhi province giving birth to Ranchi, Mumbai delivering Gujarat, Bangalore forming new Kerala province, Gwahati province forming Shillong province, and Kolkata province making Nepali speaking province, or Tamil Nadu having a third province.
What was then thought imminent and inevitable, is now considered distant and inopportune dream taking cue from the Salesian scenario of amalgamation of provinces in Europe.
Take the case of Guwahati province which concluded its extraordinary visitation last August. It has some 430 confreres. Of these, some 30 young confreres in the early stages of formation are serving in Europe, particularlyItaly. After doing regency, they will study theology and join overseas provinces. Add to that list another 50 confreres who are in the superannuated category and out of frontline action. There are some 80 confreres of the province undergoing various stages of formation or higher studies in India and abroad. So, only some 270 confreres are available to the province work force.
Guwahati province now has the Herculean task of providing personnel to establish and nurture the Salesian Congregation’s most prestigious venture today –Assam Don Bosco University which urgently requires some 15 Salesians to head its various departments.
Add to that the burden of manning other significant and trail blazer institutions in the province like St Anthony’s College and School (Shillong), Don Bosco Tech Shillong, DB School & College (Tura), DBI Guwahati, DB College Azara, DB School and Bosco Reachout Guwahati, and Sacred Heart Theological College Shillong, to mention a few.
Another bold venture ING province has undertaken since July 2011 is of providing missionaries for ad gentes overseas missions from its Sirajuli in Tezpur diocese. It is bound to take its toll on the number new recruits to the province.
Finally, to rest the worst fear writ large in the religious congregations and church in India– division of a province on ethnic and linguistic considerations as seen elsewhere in Indiaand abroad would ensure the growth of satraps and fiefdoms.
A division of any sort in northeast India will only ensure the death of the very idea of home grown Salesianita’ in the wake of 90 years of Salesian work in the region since 1922. It will in deed be a “division on the eve of amalgamation!”
PS: I was in Guwahati-Shillong (5-7 October 2011) and I am told that the province division proposal tabled at the General Council in Rome after the Extraordinary Visitation has been returned for further study.