Interview with an Indian missionary in Italy - Cl. Anthony Panmei
Rome, 29 August 2020 -- As is the case each year, new missionaries ad gentes were sent out by the Rector Major in 2018, as part of the 149th Salesian missionary expedition. One of them is Cl. Anthony Panmei. His destination was the ICC (Central Italian province) with its headquarters in Rome. We are happy that Anthony has shared his interview from the bottom of his heart. Thank you!
Who are you?
Can you briefly introduce your family?
I come from a poor, simple and happy Catholic family. God gifted my parents, Bartholomew and Christina, with 10 children. I am the eighth child in the family. My Dad was a cheerful charitable man: he made medicines and cured many without charge. God called him to his heavenly reward in 2004; he was only 49. My Mum is a simple, uneducated and God-fearing woman. I had a Grandma known for her hard work in the initial stage of the Catholic Church in our village. I have an uncle who was a catechist for 30 years: he worked as a missionary in neighbouring villages. We consider him as the spiritual father of the family. He is jokingly referred to as a man who forgot to marry and works for the church. He is avoided by many for his long prayers, the Rosary. He is the pillar of faith in my family and he would lead us to daily Rosary and night prayers. At a very early age I learned my prayers and the habit of listening to good thoughts before I went to bed. We learned many stories and gospel songs, as we called it, from my dad. At the age of 11 I began to lead the family prayers with my siblings. When I began my studies, far away from home, my sisters who were catechists in the Sunday school and my brother who was a seminarian, guided me in my faith formation.
How were you attracted by Jesus?
And how were you attracted by Don Bosco?
How was your life in the Sirajuli missionary aspirantate?
As a destined missionary, I was proud to be a witness to the aspirants. We, as a community, organized vacation camps, contacted boys personally and toured three provinces in search of missionary vocations. I am so grateful to Fr Thomas Lakra, the rector, who had so much zeal for vocations and prompted me to be like him. Taking care of the boys who are willing to be Salesian missionaries, I felt the responsibility of an elder brother to help them grow, discern and answer God's call.
From my school years I learned to balance my love for all the students without partiality. I would say one of the best ways to be a Salesian is to live with the young and be involved in their daily growth like in Sirajuli. I saw the boys growing and I grew along with them. It was a home characterized by hard work, enthusiasm and joy. One of the best aspects of Sirajuli is the missionary zeal of this Aspirantate environment. We had a missionary seminar and a prayer service every month, a missionary month, and a theatre on the lives of the Salesian missionaries once a year. Some of the best moments in Sirajuli were the reactions, dinner with the boys and preparations for feast days.
What did you learn in Italy?
When I'm interacting with the young, despite my limits in the language, they enrich my life. I have learned that they are in need of a guide who can be there with them to talk, to listen, to play and to animate. They are lively and fun loving, emotional and full of a sense of wonder, immersed in the virtual world of mass media and prone to love and be loved. They love to be part of groups and movements and they look for someone to back them up. I have learned from them to be much more daring to take the first step in encountering the young and with them I updated my knowledge of technologies. They have made me to be more expressive and gentle in my affection and love for them.
What is your dream or vision for Italy?
What is your dream about the Salesian congregation?
Ivrea 1922: first batch of the missionary aspirants with Don Rinaldi (Rector Major)
Sirajuli 2011: first batch of the missionary aspirants with the Councilor for the Missions and Fr. Paul Lyngkot
Italy (FB video screenshot 2020) April
- Ivrea-Sirajuli-Perambur missionary aspirantates (archive)
- Ivrea-India missionary aspirantates video 2013 (6 minutes)
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