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News Dimapur Province (IND)

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Father M. C. George SDB celebrates his Golden Jubilee of Religious Profession.
Dimapur, May. 11. The golden jubilee of the religious profession of Father George Menamparampil SDB (M.C. George), currently working in the Mission Department of the Generalate of the Salesians of Don Bosco in Rome, and his novitiate companion Father Scaria Thuruthiyil SDB, Professor of Philosophy at the Salesian Pontifical University, was celebrated on Wednesday 10 May 2017 in the Camerette di Don Bosco (`Rooms of Don Bosco`) attached to the basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Rome, built by Don Bosco at the request of Pope Leo XIII.
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Don Bosco, during his 20th and last visit to Rome in 1887, used two modest rooms - a bed room and another one to receive visitors - adjacent to the basilica, from 30 April to 18 May 1887. The rooms were open to the public only after the canonization of Don Bosco in 1934. In 1969 the wall separating the two rooms were demolished and the space was transformed into a small chapel with the original small altar on which the saint celebrated all the masses during his stay in Rome, except one, and the things he used.
The jubilee was a simple event organized by the confreres of the Salesian province of Dimapur in Rome, to join Father George in thanking God for the great grace of 50 years of Salesian religious life. The liturgical celebration consisted of the special votive mass in honour of Don Bosco, renewal of the religious profession by the jubilarians, a homily by Father George, and the blessing of Mary Help of Christians at the end of the mass.

Father George was born on 5 February 1949 at Velliyappally, Pala, Kerala, of Thomas Cheriyathu Menamparampil and Annamma Chunkapura as the seventh of their twelve children.

The family of Father George belongs to the ancient Christian community of Kerala, whose origin is traced back to St. Thomas the Apostle. The parents inculcated in their children the fundamental human values and Christian virtues, deep piety and profound religiosity, which in the course of time became a fertile soil for the flourishing of vocations to priestly and religious life. In fact, among the children one is a bishop: the retired archbishop Thomas Menamparampil SDB, who is well known to all; two priests: Father Michael Menamparampil of the diocese of Ooty, Tamil Nadu, and Father George the jubilarian; and a nun: Sister Sulata (Eliamma) SNDP (Soeurs de Notre Dame de Paris) of Patna province who unfortunately died some years ago at the comparatively young age of 50.

At the age of eleven George joined the Salesians of Don Bosco of Calcutta Province as an aspirant, and his vocation promoter was Father Mathew Baroi (future Bishop of Krishnagar). He studied at Bandel, West Bengal, from 1960-1963, and at Savio Juniorate, Shillong, from 1963-1966. He entered the novitiate at Sunnyside, Upper Shillong in 1966 and made his first profession on 8 May 1967. His novice master was Father John Med. He did his philosophical studies at Salesian College, Sonada, from 1967 to 1969, university studies at Sacred Heart College, Tiruppattur and graduated with a specialization in Maths, with Physics, Chemistry, English and Latin as additional subjects. From 1972 to 1974 he was at Don Bosco, Chingmeirong, Imphal, for his practical training. He made his perpetual profession in 1973. From 1974-1978 he was at Kristu Jyothi College, Bangalore, for his theological studies, and was ordained priest on 2 May 1979 at his home parish by bishop Sebastian Vayalil of Pala diocese.
As Deacon he taught at Don Bosco School, Poonanami, Mao (1978-1979). His first years as priest were spent at Kharbandi Technical School (Don Bosco, 1979-1981), Bhutan, and at Don Bosco, Chingmeirong as Headmaster and assistant parish priest.

He was parish priest of Mary Immaculate Parish, Chingmeirong, and Auxilium Parish, Tamenglong.
He was Headmaster/Principal at Don Bosco Chingmeirong, Don Bosco Langjing, Don Bosco Phayeng and Don Bosco Tamenglong.

He was Rector at Don Bosco Imphal for three terms: 1984-1987; 2002-2005 and 2005-2008. He was also Rector of Don Bosco Tamenglong for a little over a year (1988-1989).
Over the years he also worked as assistant parish priest of Mary Immaculate Parish, Imphal, Mary Help of Christians parish, Borduria, Arunachl Pradesh (1997-1998) and Auxilium parish, Tamenlgong (2008-2009).

From 1989 to 1997 he was the World Chaplain of the International Movement of Catholic Agricultural and Rural Youth (IMCARY = Movement International de la Jeunesse Agricole et Rurale Catholique: MIJARC), with its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. This organisation belongs to the family of Social Action Movements that were born from the Catholic Workers Movement of Cardinal Joseph Leo Cardijn of Belgium. All World Chaplains are nominated by Holy See, and they have to give a yearly report to the Vatican authorities. In his capacity as World Chaplain he toured 39 countries, planned, organized, participated in and guided seminars on various themes of concern to the rural youth, at diocesan, national, continental and world levels. He also learned French, Spanish and Flemish during this period. One of his important contribution to MIJARC was to expand the movement to many English speaking countries of Asia.
From 1998-2002 he was part of the DBYA National Team with its headquarters in Delhi. He was responsible for the dimension of ``Groups and Movements`` organised by the Salesians all over India, including Scouting and PALS. For three years he published a leaflet called Youth Alive! Later they were collected and published as a book. It was also translated into Hindi. To facilitate the work of the animators of youth groups, he translated from Spanish into English (with minor adaptations to the Indian situation) ten volumes of a series of 13 books, with the title Games for Growth.

Simultaneously, during these four years (1998-2002) he held the charge of co-ordinating all the works of the Salesians of Don Bosco for rehabilitation of the marginalised and disadvantaged youth - the `Young at Risk` (YaR) - street children, slum children, drug addicts, HIV-infected, school drop-outs, tribals, dalits, orphans, the handicapped, and so on. Thus he was the founder and first national co-ordinator of YaR: Don Bosco National Forum for the Young at Risk. As director he visited practically every single Salesian centre for the Young at Risk in India, and organized several national training programmes, meetings and seminars for the leaders and staff of the centres. He also started the publication of a quarterly for the animation and co-ordination of the work for the `Young at Risk` - YAR, and organized a national consultation on YaR.

He was the Founder and Chief Trustee of BOSCO AID TRUST for fundraising for religious programmes of Don Bosco institutions from 2009-2016. Normally, the government does not donate to a religious organisation. So, too, most companies and corporates. Hence, Bosco Aid Trust was registered as a Christian religious trust, meant precisely to raise funds for our religious needs. This allows great transparency in the fundraising operations of Don Bosco. It was officially registered in 2010 and has its main office in Delhi.

He was also the Founder, Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of BOSCONET from 2009-2016. BOSCONET is a wing of Don Bosco India, charged with fundraising within India and started to reduce the dependence of Salesian India on external support for the maintenance and expansion of its services in India. The dream is to arrive at a stage where India will also help Salesian work outside of the subcontinent. Its main office is in New Delhi. As director of BOSCONET, he developed, along with the DBYA and the donor agency, a systematic programme of assessment of all the Don Bosco schools of India, followed up with the training of principals, second line of leadership of schools and teachers - a process that is still going on. As director of BOSCONET he found resources for DB Tech to start a pilot project of Tele-classrooms for short term job-oriented vocational courses. He was also the editor-in-chief of BoscoNet quarterly.

Since 2 June 2016 he is part of the Salesan Mission office in Rome. His primary task is to co-ordinate the 30 and more fundraising offices of the Salesians of Don Bosco around the world (called DBN) and to co-ordinate between the DBN and the General Council, and in the process advice the Rector Major in his decisions to help provinces to meet their essential needs for formation, expansion, re-dimensioning, etc. He also follows up or supports the work of the congregation`s representatives at international bodies like, the UNO, ECOSOC (The United Nations Economic and Social Council), etc.

Father George`s main contributions are in the fields of youth pastoral ministry and education, without neglecting missionary work. From 1983 he was part of the youth animation team of Northeast India. In Northeast, especially in the Salesian province of Dimapur, he conducted numerous animation programmes for youth in schools and parishes on a wide variety of topics. In Manipur he launched the inter-school meets for sports, catechism, Bible studies, performing arts, etc., which began as a programme of Salesian schools, was extended to the entire diocese of Imphal. Again in Manipur, he initiated the cost-effective systems of education for the marginalised, such as, literacy centres, intensive course, adoption of schools, educational sponsorship of children, mobile library, counselling in schools, community schools and mini-youth centres. He is the pioneer who introduced counselling in the schools of Manipur. Through it he also cared for HIV/AIDS infected or affected children, widows and women. He was the Founder-Director of the organisation called BOSCO MANGAAL which carried out these programmes. One of the great achievements of this organization was to offer a service for the original target group of Don Bosco - the neediest of youth. It was an original initiative in the sense that it took schooling to the children instead of bringing them to school. It was original because it welcomed and invited collaboration, participation and ownership of the programme by individuals and organizations that were lay, secular, cultural, youth, women, Hindu, Christian of other denominations, civil society. It was original because it did not preach anything in words, but through witness of service to the needy without any discrimination. It also changed the image of Don Bosco and of the Catholic Church in Manipur and made it much safer for Salesians, Catholic priests and nuns to live and work in Imphal.

For a year-and-a-half Father George was the National Secretary and Treasurer of the All India Association of Catholic Schools (AINACS). In this capacity he organised two national conventions of heads of schools: one in Lucknow and the other in Kochi, and supervised the construction of the national headquarters of AINACS.
He was part of the Advisory Committee of NEROCA club (Manipur), and a member of the Manipur Board of Secondary Education`s team of revisers of English textbooks. He corrected the English textbooks of the Board of Secondary Education of Manipur, wrote two series of textbooks from class I to class X for the subject of Moral Science (Value Education). These books have been used in at least a few schools in every single State of India and some three foreign countries. To date some 4,000,000 copies have been sold. Right now approximately 330,000 students are studying one or another of these books. Another successful series on value education is the Youth Alive! His introduction of computer courses at school level in Don Bosco Chingmeirong, Imphal, in 1986 (the first school in Northeast India to do so) was a visionary initiative that provided a bright future to numerous students.
Besides teaching and administration of several schools, his noteworthy contribution to education has been the numerous teacher training programmes he conducted for teachers of various schools of the Salesian province of Dimapur and Northeast India, and a few colleges all over India. He introduced a regular programme of counselling in 23 schools, 20 by paid staff, 2 by a volunteer and one personally by himself. Heads of schools and teachers were highly appreciative of this service as many students who would otherwise not have been able to complete their studies due to various problems were helped and rescued through counselling.

Looking back at the past 50 years, Father George affirms that, despite his mistakes and failures, God has been really good to him and has used him to do much good. He says: ``I realize how, throughout these 50 years, God has used me, a broken pen, to write whatever He wanted to.`` He also says that God rescued and protected him from many dangers, errors and failures, and kept him going in his service. But he also states that, when he looks back at his life, he feels that the good he has been able to do to people is more than the harm he might have done to them - or at least he hopes so.

Today, among the things that gives him greatest satisfaction as a Salesian religious, he has identified the following: first, that he is still alive (for life can also be short), and still in the congregation as a Salesian and priest despite the many things that sometimes distracted him from his vocation and religious life; second, the fact that so many good people, in times of their difficulty - financial, emotional, psychological and spiritual - felt free to approach him while they had the freedom to go to others closer to them, more capable, more spiritual and holier than him, is a source of great satisfaction for him; third, that he has been of great service to a lot of economically poor, directly, personally, and through the ministries which he started or organized, is another source of satisfaction in life; fourth, that it is very satisfying to look back at what he has done in life without any formal qualification, except a graduate degree: this made him work harder, read more, look for solutions more seriously, use his intelligence and creativity, and thus achieve some success. He neither wasted much money of the congregation to do formal studies nor lost years of productive work acquiring degrees. He learned enough by his own effort to find his way forward.


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