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1. Tell us something about your family and early years.

I was born in 1944 in the town of Pala in Kottayam Dt (Kerala), as the youngest child of Thomas and Mary. My father was then an advocate and a tea estate owner. We were four brothers and four sisters. Having been involved in public life, especially getting land for landless families, my father got into big debts. This caused my family considerable financial hardship, all of which were later solved. From my family I picked up the importance of education, respect for people whoever they were, compassion towards the poor, trust in God and a sense of humour. We had much laughter and fun, even in our hardest times. As a small boy, I wanted to do FRCS (become a doctor) or join the IAS. I was not at all interested in the church, or priesthood. In fact, I found church functions extremely boring. I do not remember anything interesting about church or meeting any friendly priest who appealed to me. Among the most boring memories of my childhood were the long church services and the Sunday catechism classes. I had no relatives who were priests or nuns. All this changed when my older brother, a tough, big-made boy, went to study under the Salesians in Tirupattur. He came back so transformed that people were really impressed. From him all of us heard so many good things about Salesians. This is how my family thought of sending me to the Salesian school. 2. The Salesian experience. The good things I had heard about the Salesians before meeting them proved to be true when I came to Tirupattur. Good, happy, friendly fathers and brothers. A positive, caring atmosphere. No discrimination among the boys according to what each one paid (which was not the case in a several boardings run by other religious). Chances to learn, both in class and outside. Busy life full of activities. The Salesians made holiness appealing to us boys. When I went home for holidays, my family used to tease me about my many stories about Don Bosco. What I like about being a Salesian are: family spirit, care for the least, doing rather than complaining, an integral view of education and youth ministry, a spirituality of ordinary life without a show. I also find that what our Rector Major points out as our strengths and weaknesses are true: We are good at creating a friendly atmosphere; we are weak when it comes to one-to-one help (spiritual direction and counseling). Of the three aspects of church life—the institutional, the intellectual and the spiritual—I have been much more interested in the intellectual and the spiritual than in the institutional. Who holds which post, or what post I hold, has never interested me. I am more interested in how we influence people’s thinking and what we can learn from others (the intellectual) and how we can lead a good life and who can show me that through example (the spiritual). While those holding some post—rector or rector major, provincial, principal or bishop—can have some influence, I believe it is the saints and the great thinkers who really have a lasting influence and change history—Francis of Assisi and Karl Marx, Mother Teresa and Oscar Romero, Thomas Aquinas and Therese of Lisieux. May we produce more saints and writers. 3. What have been the most beautiful and touching experiences of your life? Meeting good and loving people, whether religious or lay. Deep friendships, with the trust and freedom to share in depth, listen, and learn. The experiences of being deeply

. And I feel most at home with persons with an open mind and a heart without malice and hidden agendas. loving superiors in our aspirantate. from the dedicated. and the biggest graces of my life. I believe each of us is more a product of our family than of our religious order. and who have helped you to grow: Many. Friends—both men and women—who loved me. “Leaders are watched. races and religions.” Hence. when I was discussing hermeneutics with a professor in Pune. e. but also wanted to treat him like her own son. Friendships of former students and colleagues. 5. 4. used to say. This is my firm belief and my personal experience. Any message to our young Salesians? What younger confreres need from us is not tips and advice but inspiring example. and wondering how we can run our life by so many shifting theories. All in all. taught me to love. He got cheated. Transparent goodness of some people. parts of India.g. Similarly. without anyone else’s knowing it. Chances to make friends across borders. “the young have the right to make mistakes. the most important thing in life is not knowing clever theories.” I have been blessed to meet many good people—lay men and women (my greatest source of inspiration). Our parents and siblings influence us and shape our core values more than our superiors or the saints we hear about. guided and inspired by many good human beings. and who open their hearts to me. The simplicity of great people.” I believe in the leadership axiom.g. not listened to. they knew it only after she died (in an accident). probably under my family influence—I have good friends whom I love to meet. in different dioceses. A few touching experiences in prayer. to professors in UPS. friends of other faiths. my greatest teachers. in my life and in that of others. Genuinely good human beings are worth more than their weight in gold. this professor came out with this surprising comment. a girl who gave her lunch to a poor person every day. The deep God-awareness of some people. at the level of counseling and spiritual direction I received more help form Jesuits. lay and religious and diocesan. too. I have them in my life. challenge and beauty that the love of women and children have brought to my life. a much-esteemed Salesian formator. some priests and religious (of different congregations). Inspiring lives of good people. I would like to come closer to my father’s integrity and compassion. Helpful experiences of counseling and therapy. People whom you have admired.. the most important thing is to meet good people. It is we older people who should be exemplary. While I have enjoyed Salesian community. “Joe. As Fr Pietro Brocardo. countries. to friends. Once.loved and of learning to love. but never struck back or slandered those who harmed him. e. To tell a lie or to cheat or to take advantage of another’s weakness was something totally alien to my father. with more wisdom than books. challenged me and showed me genuine goodness. Reading about human goodness moves me. Meeting many dedicated people. A South African woman who not only forgave the police officer who had tortured and murdered her husband and her son. beyond words. religious orders. my suggestion is more . without doubt. The power of the Word of God. And since a person’s place of origin or other ways of fitting human beings into boxes never interested me—this. I have been helped. People have been. and I feel tremendously blessed. A number of Salesians. colleagues and students in different provinces. The tenderness. I am convinced there is much more goodness than evil in the world and in each person. and their impact on others.

Things you admire about the Salesian way of life? Having worked mostly in non-typical Salesian settings (18 years in a diocesan seminary. gossiping. concern for poor youth. powerful. without being trapped by luxuries. too. does not make sense unless it becomes a strong way of loving. through our example. May we set a good example. when practiced. and then we blame others for our problems. If the younger readers of this magazine want a suggestion at all. simple. I have found our family spirit is universally appealing. divisions or worldliness. our life is beautiful if we get beyond walls and boundaries (race. I have heard inspiring stories of persons who would have been desperate nobodies who found hope and a new life by meeting the sons of Don Bosco. the young will learn from us. What should we do to make our communities real families?) May your religious life never go down to a mediocre. 12 years in a state university and now 7 years at a centre where most of the participants (from India and from 31 other countries) are not Salesians. religious life does not make sense. self-centred life with no passion. not some social or political theory. We do social work. Any area where you think we should improve? While much work is done. We set the tone. and very effective. I have heard this so many times from past pupils of Poonamallee. caste. 7. There are things I would like to learn from the young: What makes you choose religious life today? Do you find it inspiring and challenging? What questions do your companions in college ask you? Do you find as much warmth and closeness in religious life as you find among classmates in college? (Many young religious find greater openness and warmth and closeness among class mates in college than in a number of religious communities. Or else. in particular. tribe. When sadly a number of Catholic schools and colleges. Bangalore. Celibacy. but we are not social workers. but the results are beautiful and lasting. Secondly. 6. (Multiculturalism is a . language. inspired by an inner flame. get help with your problems. what matters is how you tackle them. is what sustains us. I believe in it with all my heart. Secondly. The Gospels. Since such openness has helped me enormously at different stages of my growth. and from participants who come to Don Bosco Renewal Centre. Be completely known to someone who loves you and inspires you. here it is: Be true to yourself. employees and people in general with respect and us seniors and superiors. etc) and truly offer the world a convincing example of brotherhood based on Jesus’ life and teaching. If we let divisions and power games dominate. Secondly. not only will that do harm to people. I feel happy to belong to a congregation which—to a large part. Having problems is normal. This is really a very valid legacy we Salesians should not lose. Don’t sacrifice the truth or your convictions to please people. It is possible and. I have doubts about the depth and seriousness of our Inner journey. Tackling problems will help us to grow into happy and enthusiastic adults. Without a meaningful Inner Journey. I believe—is focused on the needs of the poor. who in turn will inspire others. power games. we spoil our own happiness. loving. Our family spirit—like constructing any good family—involves faith and sacrifice. If we are happy. We do make a difference. have become servants of the rich. May we treat the younger confreres. it will make our life meaningless and unhappy.

* * * I do not see myself basically in terms of my nationality or mother tongue or religious order or priesthood.D. we need a meaningful relationship with God. If we lose this core. Channelled well. To find joy in a simple life. Everyone of us can. we will then do more harm than married lay persons. when religious orders became wealthy. it is a great source of creativity and service. then power and money and competition will matter more than God. I see no higher and holier call than this. Bannerghatta Rd Bangalore 560076 . Clever theories won’t do. it will degenerate into power-hungry or comfort-loving bachelorhood or cranky spinsterhood. thesis.major challenge facing the Indian church. not because we come from the same place or speak the same mother tongue or are born into the same race or caste. to love the poor. and we may end up having nothing really worthwhile to contribute to the world. will be meaningless and empty and boring. For doing the work we are doing. I wish our communities were warmer and simpler. we need neither religious life nor a spirituality. May the simple man from Nazareth be truly our model and source of strength. I believe. moving away from the mission. I hope this does not happen. is what Jesus came to show us—our incredible dignity as God’s precious sons and daughters. and become simply a well-funded NGO running some institutions and projects providing socio-economic upliftment. in transparent and loving relationships without power games.) I accept you. we should not waste it on trivialities. By the time I die. if we fill it with goodness and love. to put others’ welfare before our comforts. This danger. unless the heart has found a passion that grips us. * * * Thank you for this chance to express some of my convictions. May you and I (and every reader of this magazine) do something meaningful and beautiful with our life. Celibacy. I believe we can. Human sexuality is a beautiful and very powerful force—a force for loving self-gift. called to treat each one as such. I want to be a better human being. Joe Mannath SDB Don Bosco Renewal Centre SOS Post. We can make every day a celebration. I believe is real. and with divisions caused by the quest for power and money. and learn from. This. I have been happy doing this. If not channelled well. Life is such a priceless gift. but because we are both children of the same loving God. they went into ruin—attracting the wrong type of recruits. I want to be a good human being. Common sense and hard work driven by ambition or decency are enough. I want to relate to. too. any human being God places on my path. for details see Montfort Brother Pavul Raj’s Ph. Historically.