Mother Teresa sisters chaplain for 40 years dies


C.M. Paul

Kolkata, June 9, 2019: Mother Teresa Sisters chaplain for 40 years, the oldest Salesian in Kolkata province and lone Italian missionary in Kolkata died on 9th June 2019 in a Kolkata hospital.

He was 98 years old. His funeral is scheduled to be held at 2.30 pm on Friday 14 June at the historical Marian shrine at Bandel.

The Kolkata Salesian Provincial Secretary Dr Mathew George informs, “After taking part in the Holy Mass yesterday (8 June) Fr. Rosario Stroscio developed high fever and the doctor was called in to examine him.

With the medicines the fever subsided. He was given the anointing of the sick. He was restless and could not sleep the whole night. This morning (9 June) again the fever returned and he was finding it difficult to breath.

He was rushed to Ruby hospital by Fr. Remesh Cherian and was admitted in the ICU and later placed on ventilator. But he passed away at 4.45 pm. He was conscious till he was taken to the ICU.”

Fr Rosario Stroscio one of 460 overseas Salesian missionaries who came to India since 1906 celebrated his 98th birth day on 18 May at Auxilium parish Kolkata where he has been staying for some 40 years.

Fr Stroscio arrived in India in his teens in 1939.

Besides building the large Church dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians in Gobra, Kolkata, Fr Stroscio has been the first national president of the Indian chapter of the Marian Movement for Priests, serving several terms from 1970s.

Fr Stroscio, a former professor of History at Salesian College Sonada and Provincial of the Kolkata province (1967 to 1972) became a controversial figure during his missionary work in Maliapota (Nadia Dist) in Krishnagar diocese when government served deportation order on trumped up ‘conversion’ charges.

It was then, Mother Teresa stepped in and requested the Marxist government to have him as her Chaplain to the Missionaries of Charity Sisters at neighbouring Prem Dan, a large rehabilitation center for T.B. patients. The authorities relented, withdrew the deportation order, and Fr Stroscio stayed put at Auxilium since 1979.

The Salesians started Auxilium Parish in Tengra known as Dhapa (dumping ground) an out-law area on the outskirts of the city in 1974 having relinquished the Cathedral of the Most Holy Rosary Church on Portuguese Church street to Kolkata archdiocese in 1972. It was in the Cathedral parish that the Salesians started their first presence in Kolkata city in 1925 with the famous Catholic Orphan Press.

Today, Auxilium parish is possibly the largest slum parish in Kolkata with several Mass centres including Motijheel slum chapel, the very place where Mother Teresa of Calcutta started her street ministry, and a Chinese Chapel in Tengra.

Then Archbishop of Calcutta, Archbishop Henry Sebastian D’Souza, asked Fr Stroscio to pray over the 87 year old Mother Teresa who had been hospitalized for heart problems. Mother Teresa was suffering from insomnia and acting strangely. The Archbishop said of the situation that, “when doctors said they could not find a medical reason for her sleeplessness, I thought she might be getting attacked by the devil.” After Fr Stroscio prayed over her, she was calm and slept peacefully. That was in 1997.

According to Fr Stroscio, a rare Italian who graduated with a Master of Arts degree in History from Calcutta University, “it was the Auxilium church that Don Bosco would have seen in his dream as there are four Salesian institutions in this parish. They are the Auxilium Church, School and boys’ hostel under Salesians; the Salesian Sisters’ convent and girls’ Hostel, as well as Provincial head quarters, and Nitika Don Bosco in the parish territory.

On the night of 9th April 1886 Don Bosco had a dream (almost two years before his death on 31 January 1888) where he saw Calcutta as one of the major hubs of Salesian activities.

It was the dream of the short-built and soft-spoken missionary Fr Stroscio to have a magnificent Church built in honour of Mary Help of Christians, the Madonna of Don Bosco in Kolkata.

The project began with the making of a plywood model of the Church in 1985. The dream was materialized only in 1995 after 10 years, under the direction of Fr K.K. Sebastian.

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