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News Chennai Province (INM)

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Centenarian priest Father Cedric Bout SDB says ''Seek God's will and be Happy''
By K. J. Louis SDB
Chennai, Nov. 13. ''Our span is seventy years or eighty for those who are strong,'' says the Psalmist. But on November 11, 2017, Fr. Cedric Bout SDB of the Salesian Province of Chennai gracefully crossed these milestones and stepped into his 100th year, a privilege not given to many. In fact, in the 111-year-old history of the Salesians in India he is the oldest ever and the first to touch 100.
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Felicitating the centenarian, Salesian Provincial Father Jose Kochamkunnel described him as ''a picture of serenity and joy, always lucid in mind and full of wit and wisdom'' even at this enviably advanced age. In fact, he enjoys good health and moves about in the community, ''full of years'', teasing the younger ones in the community for their lack of age.

The highpoint of the day was the solemn Eucharistic celebration presided over by the centenarian in which over 100 priests concelebrated. In his 19-minute homily, Father Bout said, seeking God's will was the surest way to happiness in life. He exhorted the assembled congregation to seek God's will in prayer daily and to trust Him always. Recalling the saint of the day, Martin of Tours, he said, we need to be like the saint who, on meeting a poor man shivering in the cold, didn't hesitate to cut his coat in half and share it with him.

The presence of a good number of his family members, spanning three generations and from places as diverse as Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Kerala, and Australia added to his joy and delight. A large number of people from different walks of life came to greet the centenarian and receive his blessing and to thank God for his hundred years of life. Earlier in the day, as a birthday special, Father Bout visited the nearby Mercy Home, a home for the aged and the destitute run by the SMMI Sisters, and had lunch with them.

After the Eucharistic celebration, the Salesians and members of the Salesian Family gathered around Father Bout to felicitate him and to express their affection and gratitude to him. Mrs. Patricia Vaz, Father Bout's niece from Mumbai, spoke on behalf of the family, recalling how a cousin in Australia came to know of Father Bout's 100th birthday from Facebook and had alerted her relatives in Mumbai, even before the formal invitation from Chennai reached them. She appreciated the Salesian community in Chennai for looking after Father and reminisced about the good times they used to have whenever Father Cedric used to go home for vacations. The event concluded with a homely dinner in honour of the centenarian.

Father Cedric Bout hails from an Anglo-Indian family in Tangasseri, Quilon, in Kerala. In British India, his father John Henry Bout was an engineer under the Directorate General of Lighthouses, and was in charge of all the lighthouses in India, Burma and Ceylon, with its headquarters in Madras. For a time, he was stationed in Kaup, a picturesque little coastal town near Mangalore, which is famous for its lighthouse. It was there that Cedric was born on 11 November 1918, the historic day on which World War I officially ended with the Armistice. Soon after his birth the family shifted to Madras. After completing his schooling in St. Mary's European School (now, St. Mary's Anglo-Indian School), run by the Salesians of Don Bosco, Cedric graduated in Science from Loyola College in 1938. The next thing he thought of was to join the Madras Medical College to become a doctor. But deep down in his heart he felt called for something bigger - priesthood. One fine day he spoke about it to his parish priest who put him in touch with a Salesian priest who invited him to spend a few days with the Salesians in Tirupattur. A week with the Salesians dispelled all thoughts of medical studies from his mind and he decided to join them and become a priest. He made his novitiate there and made his first profession as a Salesian on 8 December 1940. Nine years later he was ordained a priest on 2 April 1949.

Most of his active years he spent in educational ministry as teacher and Headmaster in our schools in Vellore, Mumbai, Chennai and Kerala. His past pupils are found all across the country and in all the continents. They remember him with great affection and esteem. After retiring from school ministry, he served in many parishes and institutions. For the past 31 years he has been at the Provincial House in Chennai.

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