Director's Message

The Dream and the Digital World

  • July 7, 2023
Fr. Patrick Lepcha, SDB

The Salesian congregation was born with the young people, among the young people and for the young people. The encounter of Don Bosco with Bartholomew Garelli on 5th June 1841, was a red-letter day in the history of the Salesian Society. In him, Don Bosco had met his mission of life and of the congregation. That boy made all the difference in the way Don Bosco thought, worked and lived his entire life. Garelli was an orphan boy, who had no education and had only rudimentary lessons about his faith. He did not even know how to assist a priest during the mass. He was in Turin as a daily wage earner. Garelli promised to visit Don Bosco on the following Sundays with some of his friends. It all started that day.

Europe then was in the midst of an industrial revolution. Italy too had joined the bandwagon. It had brought enormous opportunities and challenges for the society and obviously for the young people. Most of the young people who came in search of work in Turin were orphans, migrants and were left to fend for themselves. Many of those were locked behind bars due to petty crimes and lack of guidance. Don Bosco got opportunities to visit the prisons with his spiritual guide Fr. Joseph Cafasso to assist the boys who had received the death penalty. Such encounters with the boys made an indelible impression on him. He thought to himself that if there were teachers, guides and priests who could guide them, they would not be landing up in the prisons. His soul was being tortured with this thought.

He began to gather young people, to teach and guide them. Don Bosco initiated oratory to distract them from wrong doings and provide them wholistic education. He gathered likeminded people to assist him in his work. Later, his own oratory boys joined him in his mission. As this small society grew year by year, he was not satisfied to confine himself in Turin, a small town of North Italy. He expanded his mission worldwide by sending the first Salesians to Patagonia – Argentina in the year 1875 thus giving wings to his dream of 9. Salesians arrived in India in 1906 and in the North East in 1922.

In the dream of 9, Don Bosco saw himself in a large playground amidst young people who were fighting and cursing the name to God. A majestic person advised him to win over them not with blows but with gentleness and kindness. Then he saw all the young people vanish and, in their place, the wild animals appeared, but immediately got transformed into meek lambs. After which he was instructed that “This is your field; this is where you must work. Make yourself humble, steadfast and strong and what you saw happen to these animals, you will have to do for my children.”

The dream led little Johny Bosco to become a champion priest for the poor young people. He said that “for you I study, for you I work, for you I live, for you I am ready even to give my life.” All his efforts were put into a slogan to transform young people into “‘honest citizens and good believers.’

We the Salesians of South Asia Region are called to walk that path which our Father and Founder has shown us to be YEAST in bringing transformation in the lives of the young people of our digital world today.

Well dear friends, we are in a digital age. It is fast, creative, attractive, helpful, social, fearful and invasive and mysterious. It is growing in an unimaginable way. It is beyond our dreams too. In these contexts, how do we live our life of dreams, values and of purpose? How can we make our encounter with the world, with the young and with ourselves meaningful and effective? The digital world itself provides some directions to our lives if we make clear discernments.

  1. The digital age is fast, but we need not run towards the same direction. Learn to swim against the current.
  2. It is creative, but we need not look only for new things. Learn to be profound and grounded.
  3. It is attractive, but we need not get tempted. Learn to keep it simple and effective.
  4. It is helpful. Learn to use it for the right things and in the right manner.
  5. It is social, yet some remain closed up with the changes. Learn to connect with real people with right purpose. Read the signs of the times.
  6. It is fearful, but need not shy away from its positive properties. Learn to face it and utilized it.
  7. It is invasive, but we need not fear. Learn to operate with discretion.
  8. It is mysterious and so is our life. Learn to live with mysteries without surrendering the Will and the Soul for nothing. Cultivate solid convictions.

Learning to pursue the dream and living it with purpose is the challenge we have to take up daily. Don Bosco saw the dream, put in the hard work, achieved his dream and lived it fully till his death. To this fulfilment of the dream, he became all things to all people as St. Paul said in one his letters. He learnt to be a tailor, a cobbler, a book binder, a waiter, a musician, a magician and a priest. In his oratory he taught his boys all these traits. He asked his boys to be happy. He told them to do simple things with extraordinary care. Joy and optimism was his catch word and way of being with the young. He would often say that an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. Hence, work and temperance were a path to success and happiness. Don Bosco promised his priests and brothers three things; Bread, Work and Heaven. In this digital age, social media can be a devil’s workshop, hence we are invited to use it with discretion. One of the ways to achieve this goal could a proverb of St. Philip Neri, “Run, jump, sing, shout and dance but do not commit sin”. Don Bosco always reminded his boys this in the oratory.

Dear young people, for us Salesians, you are the reason of our life and existence. With you we find the meaning of life and together with you we will find our purpose of life and eternity. Don Bosco promised to give his last breath for the young people; he did that. Don Bosco Youth Animation South Asia is committed to this cause of accompanying you all in your life circumstances by making effective interventions through education, career guidance, counselling, Technical expertise, migration ministry, young at risk care, sports and advocacy. All these are means to assist you for each one of you is precious to us.

Keep dreaming and keep working. It is said that, “Great dreamers' dreams are never fulfilled, they are always transcended.” Alfred Whitehead.

Long live Don Bosco. Live on the dream.

Fr. Patrick Lepcha, SDB