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Presentazione del libro sulla formazione teologica dei salesiani in India con riferimento al “Kristu Jyoti College”


The Institute of Salesian History (ISS), Rome, organized the presentation of the book by Fr. Thomas Anchukandam sdb, titled, «Theological Formation of Salesians in India with Special Reference to Kristu Jyoti College, Bangalore (1967-1976)» (LAS, 2022) in the Sala Juan Vecchi, UPS, Rome, at 3 p.m. on 21 April 2023. The event, transmitted live on the YouTube channel of the Pontifical Salesian University (UPS), was witnessed by 140 spectators world-wide and 30 others in presence.

The moderator of the event, Prof. Hendry Selvaraj Dominic, introduced Prof. Andrea Bozzolo, Rettor Magnifico, UPS, extended a warm welcome to everyone present and gave a general introduction to the book to be presented. It was followed by the presentation of the well-thought-out themes for the day that were developed by the four resource persons chosen for their association with Kristu Jyoti College (KJC) and for their academic competence.

Prof. Shaji Joseph Puykunnel, sdb, Director of the Institute of Spiritual Theology, enlightened the audience on the topic «Socio-political and religious context of North-East India at the time of the arrival of the first Salesian missionaries». The resource person, who was a professor at Sacred Heart Theological College, Shillong from1998 to 2013 and also a visiting professor to KJC, since 2004, noted that the first group of missionaries arrived in Tanjore, a town in the present-day Tamil Nadu, India under the leadership of Fr. George Tomatis SDB in 1906 on behalf of Padroado. And, on 13 January 1922, on behalf of the Propaganda Fide, the second group of Salesian missionaries arrived in Shillong, Northeast India, the sub-Himalayan region marked by ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity and political instability.  

Fr. Shaji argued basing himself on the statistical report of the Salesian mission in the region that the missionaries transformed the various challenges of the difficult mission into opportunities for the growth of the Church. He attributed the success of Salesians in the mission to the strategy of their religious leader, Mgr. Louis Mathias SDB, to have the formation of personnel in loco. The opening of «Our Lady’s House» in 1923, as a centre of formation for novices, students of Philosophy and of Theology, said the resource person, to be the historical roots of KJC whose birth and growth is the content of the book.

The second presentation, «Salesian Congregation in the immediate post World War II, The Vatican and the Post-Vatican periods» was brilliantly summarised by Prof. Michal Vojtáš sdb, the author of the book, «Reviving Don Bosco’s Oratory and Salesian Pedagogy after Don Bosco: From the first generation up to the Synod on Young People (1888–2018) ». According to him, in the Salesian congregation, the 1950s were generally characterised by the attempts at stabilizing the teaching and organisational structures of formation by Fr. Peter Ricaldone, Rector Major, which was eventually to go well beyond his term of office. The growth of personnel and activities of the youth apostolate was visible. The center of gravity of the Congregation was still in Europe and in America, but the major index of growth manifested itself in Asia. Prof. Vojtáš noted that, Fr Renato Ziggiotti’s term of office as Rector Major was characterised by his travels and the growing worldwide sense of the Salesian charism, and the 19th General Chapter of the Salesian congregation introduced six new sectors into the traditional Salesian apostolate viz., parish, adult catechesis, family apostolate, formation of lay teachers, ministry to workers, and social communication.

However, Prof. Vojtáš, highlighted that the crisis in the Salesian Congregation during the post Vatican period was felt above all through the rapid decline in vocations, the abandonment of Salesian life that occurred throughout the 1960s, both during the period of formation and with the increased demands for the laicisation of priests. The number of Salesians from 1968-77 decreased by about a quarter. This demographic crisis, signalled by the Rector Major, was only the most conspicuous effect of a religious order that was in a process of strong change. The resource person concluded his presentation situating the birth of KJC to this crucial transition of the Salesian congregation.

The third resource person to speak was Prof. Ivo Coelho sdb, the General Councillor for Formation of the Salesian Congregation, and he dwelt on the theme, «the Salesian Formation in Mission». He paid special attention to section 2 of chapter 4 of the book, «Social Involvement and Contribution to Nation-Building», as it interested him due to his own personal association with KJC as a student of theology (1984-1988). The resource person recalled the narration from the 4th chapter of the book with the subtitles: the Social Service Guild, the Freedom at midnight and the influences of Liberation theology as well as the Special General Chapter to drive home the point that the Theology in KJC did not remain confined to the pages of the books or within the walls of the classrooms, but that it flowed into the life and that life flowed back into theology. He quoted a student of KJC who wrote to the Archbishop of Bangalore in 1972 to substantiate his assertion: “While we are doing our Theological studies, we could not remain indifferent to the crying needs of so many poor people around our college. So, we launched a programme of social work, with the contributions we got from far and near and have been able to do something” (p. 158). The general Councillor for the Formation hopes and wishes that the good example given by KJC of an incarnated theological reflection might continue to be an inspiration for the Salesian formation settings and study centres.

The last presentation done by Prof. Jose Kuttianimattathil, member of the Formation Department of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Rome on «preferential love for and commitment to the poor at the very heart of the Salesian formation» recalled the hope and wish of Prof. Ivo saying, «We have to be formed with the poor; because the God we serve is a God of the poor; because the enriching magisterium of the poor gives us insights into God, because the poor are the gateway to heaven, because in touching the poor we touch Christ, and because in being with the poor we enflesh our spirituality». The resource person opined that the methodology of the Salesian formation is a liberative dialogical discernment and spiral methodology, having basically four steps:

1) Immersion in the situation of the poor and the oppressed.

2) Letting oneself be evangelized/instructed by the poor and the oppressed.

3) Interpreting and understanding the situation (experience) on the basis of what Scripture, Church teachings, other religious traditions, social sciences and the poor tell the world about the causes of and remedies for the situation encountered, that is, developing a theology.

4) Taking effective steps together with the poor of all religions and that in the spirit of the currently much touted spirit of synodality, to liberate those who continue to live in oppressive situations to live in that Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus at His programmatic Nazareth Manifesto.

Thus, all the four well-thought-out themes for the day developed by the carefully chosen persons of competence hinted that the proud heritage of KJC, whose history Prof. Thomas Anchukandam has so painstakingly, professionally and brilliantly recorded in his book is its commitment to the poor.

Prof. Hendry while commenting on the talks and the book in question,  augured that the event which offered many a historical perspective could be a point of reference in critically carrying forward the theological formation of the Salesians in India, by the three Salesian theologates in the country viz., Kristu Jyoti College, The Sacred Heart Theological College, Shillong – both aggregated to Pontifical Salesian University and Don Bosco Theological Centre, Kavarapettai, Chennai that is affiliated to the same university, to respond to the need of strengthening the local theologies and forming theologians who can contribute to the believing community worldwide!

Prof. Thomas Anchukandam, in his concluding talk, indicated the reasons for his having authored the book which could briefly be summarized as his desire to record for posterity «the particularly significant aspects of the holistic theological formation imparted by KJC with its emphasis on offering the students the possibility of reaching out to the poor in the surrounding villages and of engaging in youth apostolate in the various parishes in the Archdiocese of Bangalore». He also expressed his gratitude to all those who had facilitated his research and in preparing for the presentation of the book and made a special reference to his colleagues in the ISS and the academic authorities of the University. The presentation concluded with a simple refreshment and an informal exchange of views.




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