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Lockdown at Valdocco is a special grace for 46 SDBs

By Interview with Fr. Robinson Parappilly
PGS province delegate to GC28

Valdocco, 17 April 2020 --Although General Chapter 28 concluded one month ago, at the moment 46 'survivors' (provincials and delegates) of GC28 are still living, working, praying and witnessing to their Salesian vocation at Valdocco. Most of the GC28 delegates are from South Asia - India, some from Latin America of from Eastern Europe, including also one PGS delegate and 3 Salesians from Timor Leste.

Suddenly you became part of the Valdocco community, most of you from South Asia and EAO region. How do spend your community life?

The lockdown period is a time of special grace for each one us to spend most of our time in the Don Bosco Mother House at Valdocco. We never dreamt of spending our lives in this beautiful place. Since the time of lockdown and cancellation of all international flights, most of the SDB provincials from India are busy with their apostolic assignments and communicating with confreres in the provinces. Others try their best to contribute in different ways to helping the community.

We pray for those suffering and for people affected by Covid 19 in our morning prayer and daily Mass. We help the Valdocco community by working in the reception and looking after the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians. Many devotees are coming to the Basilica to pray and to receive the sacraments.

At noon most of us gather together for 30 minutes of Spiritual reading taken from Don Bosco's Memoirs of the Oratory. We journey together with Don Bosco reflecting on various events that had taken place during his time at Valdocco. In the afternoon, confreres take turns to clean the basements of the Valdocco buildings, store houses, cleaning and dusting the rooms, scraping the old painting and maintenance, watering the plants and keeping the Mary Help of Christians Basilica spick and span. Every Friday we have adoration the whole day, from 8am to 5pm. Different provinces take turns to be present before the Blessed Sacrament and pray for the world and its healing in our pandemic times!

What about the Oratory spirit at Valdocco during Covid19 times?

Our Basketball Club is very active and vigorous games keep us alive and active during the evening hours. Then from 6 to 7pm, we have daily exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. At 7pm we have Evening prayers and Good night. A few of us are engaged in learning the Italian Mass, taught by Fr. Guillermo Basanes. He teaches us basic Italian grammar and pronunciation of words. At night the recreation club is active with card games and TV shows. The Oratorian spirit is very much alive!

How was your spiritual retreat during the Holy Week?

The Valdocco community had their retreat during the Holy week. During that time mostly all of us were busy helping in the community with different services. We had very beautiful Holy Week celebrations in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians. Keeping the social distance in the Basilica, we joined all celebrations.

Any special news from the EAO members still living at Valdocco?

Four members of our EAO region are visibly present for all activities and very active for prayer, work and recreation. Two days ago we were surprised by the Macau Don Bosco Past Pupils Federation (CIN province) who sent us face surgical masks by DHL. When we wanted to fly out, we looked for masks in all pharmacies around Turin, but the masks were not available. In Turin there is a shortage of face masks. We also need mask for our daily work and to protect ourselves from dust during our working time in the Don Bosco House and the Basilica. We started using them during our work. This is a very good gift from the past pupils in China. We are grateful to their contribution and thoughtfulness.

And we are happy to share the joy of the Mary Help of Christians SDB community (Fr Guido - rector and Br. Giampietro - economer) at Valdocco: 'Dear Fr Andrew and all Don Bosco Past Pupils from Macau - China, who sent us a marvellous gift of surgical masks. We have received your gift with enthusiasm and distributed them also to the GC28 delegates who are here still with us at Valdocco. We all are keeping well and safe, we experience the strong protection of Don Bosco and continue to pray for our benefactors and for the needs of the whole Salesian Congregation in this time of trial. Let's keep in touch!'





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