KOLKATA, (C.M. Paul) – The oldest Salesian in Kolkata province and lone surviving Italian missionary turned 90 years yesterday, 18 May. Fr Rosario Stroscio one of 460 overseas Salesian missionaries who came to India since 1906 celebrates his 90th birth day in a three day marathon celebration 18-20 May at Auxilium parish Kolkata where he has been staying for some 33 years. He arrived in India in his teens 73 years ago (1939). Besides building the large Church dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians in Gobra, Kolkata, Fr Stroscio has been the national president of the Marian Movement for Priests in India.
First day’s programme (Friday) started with a close knit family celebration by the Salesians and Salesian Sisters living in the vicinity of the Church.
Second day, Saturday the entire parish community felicitated Fr Stroscio with a solemn Eucharist in which he presided and preached. After the Eucharist, the members of the Catholic Sabha escorted him with Hindi songs and members of the parish community carried 90 special coloured candles signifying 90 fruitful years of dedicated life. It was followed by cutting of a 12 pound cake presented by parishioner Miss Daisy Mary Kuo followed by 12 item cultural programme.
Sunday 20th May will conclude with a solemn Eucharist by the clergy of the archdiocese and dinner.
The programme is organised by parish priest Fr KK Sebastian along with active participation of the Pastoral Animation Team, Zonal Leaders and the four communities of faithful: Bengali, Hindi, English and Chinese.
Fr Stroscio, a former provincial of the Kolkata province (1967 to 1972) became a controversial figure during his missionary work in Maliapota (Nadia Dist) when government served deportation order on trumped up “conversion’ charges. Mother Teresa stepped in and requested the government to have him as her Chaplain to the Missionaries of Charity Sisters at neighbouring Prem Dan, a large rehabilitation center for T.B. patients. The authorities relented, withdrew the deportation order, and Fr Stroscio stayed put at Auxilium since 1979.
The Salesians started Auxilium Parish in Tengra known as Dhapa (dumping ground) an out-law area on the outskirts of the city in 1974 having relinquished the Cathedral of the Most Holy Rosary Church on Portuguese Church street to Kolkata archdiocese in 1972. It was in the Cathedral parish that the Salesians started their first presence in Kolkata city in 1925 with the famous Catholic Orphan Press.
Today, Auxilium parish is possibly the largest slum parish in Kolkata with several Mass centres including Motijheel slum chapel, the very place where Mother Teresa of Calcutta started her street ministry, and a Chinese Chapel in Tengra.
Then Archbishop of Calcutta, Archbishop Henry Sebastian D’Souza, asked Fr Rosario to pray over the 87 year old Mother Teresa who had been hospitalized for heart problems. Mother Teresa was suffering from insomnia and acting strangely. The Archbishop said of the situation that, “when doctors said they could not find a medical reason for her sleeplessness, I thought she might be getting attacked by the devil.” After Fr Stroscio prayed over her, she was calm and slept peacefully. That was in 1997.