I lost my father early in life and my elder brother was the one who took care of me all along. I looked up to him as my father and his word mattered the most to me. After my initial schooling, I was keen to join the ITI (Technical skill training) or college, and longed to wear jeans pant and so on. However, my brother intended that I join the Seminary. And when he told me this, I meekly accepted. I never was fascinated by Priesthood and did not fancy the idea at all. However after much searching around for suitable seminaries, we found that the recruitment drive was already done for the year. Within my heart I was happy… that was till a Priest, expressed his desire to meet me after two days. So it was that after two days, my Brother and I, along with all my belongings reached the place of this Priest. After some time of discussion it was agreed that I would join the formation house of the CM Fathers. I ‘happily smiled’. But since I had not yet received Holy Communion the whole plan of joining the seminary was busted! My joy knew no bounds! But that too was short-lived. The Priest then suggested that I stay with him and assist in the boarding of the boys, during which he would prepare me for the Sacraments. I had no heart to deny this offer made by the Priest and affirmed by my brother.
Thus it was that after a week I reached the boarding as the warden. As time went by, I learnt the required catechism, received Holy Communion and one fine day, the Priest told me that the vocation camp is on and I should join it. I reluctantly went. Once at the camp, the confusion as to which congregation to choose was compounded by the presence of numerous vocation promoters from different congregations. As some of us, bemoaning our plethora of choice were seated in one place during the break, appears Fr Sony Cyriac, whom we later came to know as a Salesian of Don Bosco working in Odisha. As boys we were awe-struck by his physique: tall, well-built, fair and looking completely different from the rest! Some of us literally followed him all day, like puppies!
Later in the day, he addressed all the boys, in English and another boy who had accompanied him, translated his message. I don’t remember much of what he said but I remember what the translator shared with us in private later. He said, at Don Bosco, he was unable to handle the ‘pressure of so much fun and thrill’ and he would love some company from his own place! You can have good food, go to class, wear jeans pants…, he added. I said to myself, here’s an opportunity to fulfill my dream of wearing jeans pants… if not in college, in a Seminary what difference? That did it. I enrolled my name and address and within a few days I was invited for the vocation camp of the Salesians at Muniguda, Odisha.
Life at the camp was great. The presence of Fathers and Brothers was electrifying. We had songs, games, dances, we even put up dramas. Being short in stature, I got to play the role of Johnny Bosco in one of them. Of the 35 who attended, I was one of the lucky few to be selected. At Don Bosco, Muniguda life was a roller coaster. There was work, games, study, songs, competitions… everything one could only imagine in dreams. We were also taught Salesiana and though we were told about Priesthood and Brotherhood, it did not really strike me. One fine day, two Salesians, a Priest and a Brother visited us and stayed with us for a day or two. The Salesian Brother was asked to speak to us and all along we found him very active and always rolling up his shirt sleeves. Towards the end of his interaction with us, one of us asked him, as to why he had his shirt sleeves folded rather than buttoned at the wrists like the others. His reply, “Because a Salesian Brother is always active and ready!” That struck me and it was then that I decided to become a Salesian Brother.
I professed as a Salesian Brother on May 24, 2014 and am now pursuing my Philosophical Studies at the Salesian study centre of Don Bosco Philosophate, Karunapuram (Warangal), in the Salesian Province of Hyderabad (INH). My parents are yet to reconcile themselves to this choice of mine, but I’m determined. I pray, and seek your prayers too, that I may grow deeper in my vocation. I came in dreaming of the jeans pant but am now living the Salesian life as a Brother. May my life of commitment be as strong and sturdy as the jeans pant!
[Br Pani Nanok sdb]