The city of Chennai in South India has 20 Salesian institutions within the city limits, which include five active Oratories fulfilling the criterion of the Valdocco Oratory. The leaders and delegates from these oratories came together to discuss, review, renew and relaunch this genius initiative of Don Bosco. The discussion was based on the updated reflection on the Oratories and Youth Centres provided by the General Councillor for Youth Ministry Fr Miguel Angel, which helped and facilitated the discussion and animation of the leaders. The youngsters were unanimous in their enthusiasm to learn and understand better the charism of Don Bosco. They were appreciative of the initiatives offered by the youth ministry sector. Nevertheless, they also expressed their concern about the enhancement of this quintennial mission of the Salesians. Fr. Patrick Antonyraj sdb from Rome introduced the discuss with his online keynote address, throwing light on the theological, historical and social importance and relevance of the Oratories and Youth Centers.
‘BE SALESIAN: BE SYNODAL’ was the mantra that was infused in the minds of the participants as they delved on various themes concerning the oratory. The leaders were guided as to evaluate how effective their oratory mission was and how it could serve and benefit the young people. Discussions followed on how innovative projects could be launched to revitalize the oratories and how more human resources, money and efforts could be dedicated for this relevant mission.
The Youth Ministry delegate of the Chennai province, Fr. John Christy shared and discussed fundamental ideas regarding the oratory. He explained, that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, died in Jerusalem but worked in Galilee. Galilee was the mission land for Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God. It was Galilee that introduced him to the world. It was there that He called the first disciples. It is there he grew in his personality; he taught and performed miracles. It was in Galilee that he gave to the disciples the mission commandment and ascended into heaven. He connected Galilee to Valdocco, and affirmed that for Don Bosco Valdocco was Galilee. It was Valdocco that introduced him to the world. It was Valdocco that made him grow in his personality. It was there that he formed the first students to begin the Salesian Congregation.
He said: “What we need today is the same Valdocco experience. The greatest truth that Don Bosco discovered at the age of forty was the intuition that only in the oratory, he could answer God's call in the youth ministry”. Quoting Francesco Motto’s book, "Ripartire da Don Bosco" he said this was the basis that evolved the oratory into an essential component of the young people's salvation plan. He further expressed, that the Oratory of Don Bosco was a haven for poor, destitute, youth at risk, and ex-convicts, and never obliged a conduct certificate from anyone. Oratory was the basis for the foundation for the Salesian Congregation and also to evolve the Salesian Educative Pastoral Plan.
The leaders evaluated the existing oratories and Youth centres with the tool SWOT analysis and came up with concrete and realistic lines of action. They thanked the Salesians for their self-sacrificing commitment for the welfare and upliftment and accompaniment of the poorest youth who frequent the oratories. The Salesians and the Youth leaders made a firm resolution to be faithful to the Oratorian spirit and apostolic zeal of Don Bosco.