Miao, India, Feb 4, 2015 / 00:04 am
In the north-easternmost reaches of India, the Diocese of Miao is celebrating the bicentennial of St. John Bosco's birth by continuing his legacy of educating impoverished youth and preparing them for leadership.
"We have given a special emphasis to prepare the youth to be leaders for tomorrow, for it is the youth of the nation who can bring a transformation and social change," Fr. Felix Anthony, the Miao diocese's head of social communications, told CNA Feb. 3.
St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians, was born Aug. 16, 1815, and his feast day is celebrated Jan. 31. He dedicated himself to the betterment of the youth in Turin, and there founded the Salesian order to educate the young poor and to prepare them for an occupation.
Celebrating the feast of St. Don Bosco on Saturday, the Diocese of Miao held pilgrimages, a Bible quiz, and a variety of cultural events.
"Celebrating the bicentenary anniversary of St. Don Bosco, Salesian communities all over the world have organized various events," Fr. Anthony explained.
The Bishop of Miao, George Pallipparambil, is himself a Salesian. He expressed his own joy at accompanying the youth in a pilgrimage to Light of the World Cathedral, and thanked the Salesian priests and other religious carrying out missions work in the fields of education and skill-building for the tribal population of the diocese, located in a mountainous and remote area of the state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Arunachal Pradesh is home to more than 100 distinct tribes; the state's remote and mountainous terrain has led to challenges of poverty, underemployment, and a lack of infrastructure for its people.
Priests and religious have come from distant parts of India to serve the local population of indigenous tribes.
Beginning the celebrations at Light of the World School in Miao, Sr. Reena George, the principal, said that "St. Don Bosco dedicated his entire life for the youth … so we dedicate this cultural programme for all the Salesians working in East Arunachal Pradesh."
Several schools, including the Newman School in Neotan, celebrated the feast of Don Bosco with Bible quizzes and a cultural program themed on the saint. St. George School in Deomali made a pilgrimage to Christ the Light Shrine, accompanied by Fr. Linus and Fr. Johannes.
Catholic schools in the diocese work for promoting moral education among the youth, as well as interreligious harmony and indigenous culture. They also work for protection of local flora and fauna – in Arunachal Pradesh, known as India's "orchid state", these are a primary resource in the livelihood of the local artisans, and others.
Fr. Anthony also noted, however, the challenges plaguing local youth, including an increasing number of drug abuse victims and a lack of leadership examples. "We need to make them leaders so that the younger generation will have examples to follow," he said.
He pointed out that the Miao diocese has particularly emphasized youth formation in the face of these challenges, and that last year a youth convention was held for the first time, with the theme "Youth for Social Transformation."
The convention "was very significant to bring all the youth from different tribes to instill in them the spirit of unity, equality, and brotherhood," Fr. Anthony said. "This event is visioned as a possible way to build strong leaders for tomorrow who will make the transformation that their society stands in need of."
Fr. Anthony explained that about 1,300 youth delegates participated from the seven districts of the Diocese of Miao. There are some 30,000 Catholic youth in the diocese, out of a total of 150,000.
"Drawing inspiration from St. John Bosco and relating to the challenges of modern times, there will be many more such events held in the Diocese of Miao to honor the great saint," Fr. Anthony concluded.