Matunga: All roads in Mumbai seemingly led to Matunga on November 12, as thousands of faithful joined forces, with the Salesians of Don Bosco, to celebrate five Diamond Jubilee Masses of the iconic Shrine of Don Bosco’s Madonna, which was built in 1957 by the great visionary, Father Aurelius Maschio, along the lines of the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin, which was built by Saint Don Bosco himself.
Like every Sunday, the Shrine opened its majestic edifice to the faithful at the stroke of dawn with the first Jubilee mass being celebrated at 6am, followed by another at 7am. While the faithful entered the sanctuary in their Sunday finery, the Shrine, so to say, put on its Sunday best as well, with 16 large floral tributes adorning the main altar.
Flowers adorned the chapels dedicated to Mary Help of Christians and Saint Don Bosco near the main entrance as well, welcoming the laity with open arms. A portrait of Father Maschio stood near the alter marking his tremendous contribution to not only the Shrine or the Salesian family, but to the city of Mumbai itself.
With Bishop Dominic Savio Fernandes, Bishop Barthol Barretto and His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias celebrating the Solemn Jubilee Eucharist at 8am, 9.30am and 11am respectively, the Shrine braced for a celebration fit for a Diamond Jubilee.
Father Edwin D’Souza, the Rector of the Shrine, recapped its glorious history, saying, ”It has been 60 glorious years since the Shrine of Don Bosco’s Madonna was erected to the glory of God and the honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fascinated by the grandeur and beauty of the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians in Turin, Father Aurelius Maschio wanted to replicate this monument of Don Bosco for the people of the city of Mumbai, as a monument of love and devotion to Mary Help of Christians. ”
”His work was made possible by the generosity of thousands of benefactors in the city, the country, Italy and around the world to make the dream into a reality. In 1957, the Shrine opened its doors. Among the many highlights was the visit of Blessed Pope Paul VI in December 1964. On this Diamond Jubilee, we thank Almighty God for the graces he showers.”
A special youth choir, comprising of eight singers, from Our Lady of Dolours Church, Wadala lent a melodious tone to the celebrations at 8 am Jubilee Eucharist. Bishop Fernandes was the main celebrant, alongside Father Bernard Fernandes, Father Crispino D’Souza and Father Leon Rodrigues.
In his homily, Bishop Fernandes urged the laity to live a life centered in God. ”The Shrine of Don Bosco’s Madonna was erected to give glory to God by honouring his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary Help of Christians helps us, by leading us to Jesus, because when we have Jesus we have everything in life,” he said. ”For the past 60 years, we have come here to learn from Mary our Mother how to worship him, how to adore him, how to love him.”
”Here, we are filled with his mercy and have gone out into the world filled with the blessings of God. As Saint Paul states in his first letter to the Hebrews 10:11, ‘Whatever you do, do for the glory of God’. That means our whole life, like Mary, has to be for glory towards God, our lives should be God-centered, Christ-centred, that’s why we come to this Shrine, so that we can make our lives God-centric.”
Bishop Barretto, a regular benefactor of the Shrine as a teenager, in the 9.30am Solemn Jubilee Eucharist added a personal touch to the Shrine by recounting his visits and the countless graces Mary Help of Christians helped bestow upon him. Father Ajoy Fernandes and Father Glenford Lowe were the con-celebrants. A choir from the Holy Cross Church, Kurla added to the celebratory fervour.
”I remember as a student and later on as a youth studying in college, I used to come to this great Shrine of Don Bosco’s Madonna and through the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, called Confession, through the celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist, I still remember with joy, I used to be connected with God, our Father,” he said, adding, ”All of us must get ourselves connected with God because our faith inspires us to believe that the most holy and triumphant God is present in this Shrine. Our faith in God challenges us to pray to God in spirit, so that we may receive peace in solace deep within.”
Faith and Harmony, a Salesian choir, set the tone for the 11am Solemn Jubilee Eucharist, presided over by His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias, and concelebrated by Father Godfrey D’Souza, the Provincial, and Father Edwin D’Souza. The entrance hymn ‘Come on and celebrate’ highlighted the need to relish the milestone.
Cardinal Gracias, in his homily, focused on the importance of family in society and also prayed for the Salesian family and their mission. ”Each of us in our families must have peace, unity, love, happiness, success …. Pope Francis has been speaking to families and he said three words families must use more, they are ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’. It means be gentle, be grateful and ask for forgiveness,” he said, adding, ”I pray for the Salesians. I thank God for them, I ask for God’s blessings on them. May be continue to make the Shrine to help us to do what Jesus wants us to do.”
With the curtain falling on the morning celebrations, all eyes will now move to the special Festive Jubilee Eucharistic celebration that will begin on the shrine grounds at 5.30pm and will be presided over by Father Angel Fernandez Artime, the Rector Major of the Salesians, the 10th successor of Don Bosco.