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KANAGA Maria Arokiam, New Delhi says,
A Visit to the Land of Saints!
By Maria Arokiam Kanaga
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New Delhi, Jun. 3. It was Sunday, 25th of May and the Rector Major and the General Council were just out of a rainy experience of the Feast of Mary Help of Christians in Valdocco, Turin. As if to say that the rain had come just to spoil that wonderful Salesian Feast and the traditional profession around Valdocco, on this day it was sunny. The General Council members set out for a visit to some of the unusual Salesian places in the Monferrato region of Piedmont, in continuation of their brief pilgrimage to the Salesian places.

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A Visit to the Land of Saints!


It was Sunday, 25th of May and the Rector Major and the General Council were just out of a rainy experience of the Feast of Mary Help of Christians in Valdocco, Turin. As if to say that the rain had come just to spoil that wonderful Salesian Feast and the traditional profession around Valdocco, on this day it was sunny. The General Council members set out for a visit to some of the unusual Salesian places in the Monferrato region of Piedmont, in continuation of their brief pilgrimage to the Salesian places.

First we reached Casale Monferrato, one of the first houses of our congregation in that region. The confreres and the civil authorities of the municipality with the carabineri escort to receive the Rector Major. It was a joy for the entire Salesian Educative Community there because the 9th successor of Don Bosco was visiting them! He celebrated the Eucharist, being the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, followed by a reception by the youth centre youngsters. The Salesian community is doing a significant work there - looking after children without families! Their families are either broken, or parents are in prison or the conditions in the family were unfit for the child due to violence and psychological torture. There are about a dozen of them, boys and girls under the age of 18, sent by the municipality. It is a Salesian work in collaboration with the government.

We went from there to the very first house started by Don Bosco outside Turin in 1863, Mirabello! The young priest Don Rua was sent here as its first Rector. Don Bosco told him two things that have become classical sayings in Salesian history. When Don Rua expressed anxiety about his responsibility the Father calmed his fears: ``Do what you have seen we do in Valdocco,`` he said. And as a paternal advice he added: ``Studia di farti amare.`` (Make every effort to get yourself loved!) That was the essence of the Preventive system. The boy Philip Rinaldi was a student here. The sad part of the story is that the Mirabello house has now been sold! Boarding houses have become irrelevant in the present context of Italy as there are no children who seek boardings.

There is another claim to importance for Mirabello. It was the native place of Fr. Peter Ricaldone SDB who ruled the congregation for about 20 years (1932-1951), and is considered one of the Rectors Major who influenced the growth of the congregation most. His bronze statue stands in the public square and keeps alive the memory of the Salesians.

We moved over to Borgo San Martino. Three elderly confreres were waiting for us. No Salesian work is here now either, for the same reason as at Mirabello, but the house contains several souvenirs of Don Bosco`s presence. The saint came here to rest during the years when he had problems with his bishop Gastaldi, who refused to give dimissorial letters to ordain the Salesian candidates. The Bishop of this area instead gave it, for he was a friend of Don Bosco. At the remonstrations of Bishop Gastaldi, he seems to have said, ``The Holy Spirit has come upon me also.`` So much he was in love with Don Bosco!

The final stop we had before driving to the Turin airport was Lu Monferrato, the native place of Blessed Philip Rinaldi! From the plain of the other towns the road climbs a delightful hillside to reach Lu. The Rinaldi house still stands there and the plaque on it tells all the history. The Volunteers of Don Bosco (VDB), the Secular Institute for women founded by Don Rinaldi, have been wanting to buy this house as a spiritual treasure of their Institute, and one day they will, we hope.  

Lu, a small hamlet of 1500 people, singles itself out for one more reason. Over the past 200 years it has given more than 350 vocations to the Church among bishops, priests, brothers and sisters! There is a side chapel in the parish church, called ``the chapel of the vocations``, that carries the names and details of all these people, and Don Rinaldi among them!

On our way back a joyful feeling filled out hearts. We had been given the grace to visit the land of saints and of Salesian Patriarchs!
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