by Father Glenford Lowe for BISMumbai

Don Bosco Provincial House Oratory is barely two years young! What started as a quest to ‘return to Don Bosco’ and to ‘begin a neighbourhood apostolate’, the Provincial House community, with Father Glenford Lowe and Father McEnroe Lopes, decided to launch a daily oratory for youth in the +18 years category. With initial help from the Don Bosco Development Office, young Salesian clerics Christopher Nadar, Jeswin Mastan and Nitesh Damor ventured into the neighbouring slums to make first contact with the youth during their summer apostolate. Gradually, the dream began to come alive. Soon, a Junior Oratory was also started by volunteers from the senior oratory. Don Bosco Oratory at Provincial House began to take centre stage in the Matunga campus. Till date, the count for registered Senior Oratory members stands at 335 members while the Junior Oratory is already touching 240 members. No doubt, some have moved out due to higher studies, work or travel. “Don Bosco Oratory is my second home, and I will always come back when an opportunity arises”, affirms Aayush who could not attend the Oratory for over a year due to studies but now hopes to return soon.

So, what is the Oratory all about? It is a platform where young people, especially from economically deprived environments, can find space and resources to develop their skills and talents in sports, music, dance, art and leadership, spoken English and Computers. “I have been to several clubs and places, but there is something special about this Oratory place, we are family,” affirms the young Sachin from Dharavi. Over the many months, various programs were set in place to keep the overall process of holistic formation ever alive. From seminars to social commitments, from picnics to deep reflective moments, from leadership skills to being street smart, all these have motivated and challenged the Oratory youth to seek higher standards of excellence. Discipline and punctuality were two key areas the youth had to improve upon.

When our senior Oratory players reached the quarter-finals of the 3rd Division Mumbai District Football Association (MDFA), we placed our hopes in a junior team – the U16 2ndDivision/Super Division ‘Yuva Presidential League’ YPL. Coached by our very own, Manish Rathod, we began to nurture the young team. Right from the word go, they began to create a niche for themselves in the sporting arena of Mumbai. From ‘slums to stadium’ became a reality. Our young YPL team won all their matches in the league stage scoring 21 goals and conceding none. The semi-finals was a tough match against Oranje FA. A tie-breaker sealed our entry into the finals with a 3-0 win. Finally, the dream of playing at the Cooperage Stadium, in our very first attempt, became a reality on 23 February 2020. Our young die hearts, skilful and talented took on the mighty Kenkre Football Club. Nervousness and lack of experience took the better of us in the first half. Trailing 2-0, our boys turned the tide in their favour in the second half. A story of missed chances was repeating itself again. We only ran out of time inspite of a very spirited fight! A few more minutes and the score line would have been different. We lost 2-1 but we won the hearts of many spectators, parents and football fans. Don Bosco Oratory became synonymous with brave hearts. Though small in stature, they rose to heights never seen before. Congratulations, well played boys.

During the glamorous YPL Awards night, three of our players; Anuraj Vaishya [Captain DBO], Gopireddy Aditya and Kaif Khan were nominated for U16 Best Defender, Best Mid-Fielder and Best Goal-Keeper respectively. Our joy had no bounds when Aditya Gopireddy was awarded for being the best in his nominated category. Trophies were presented to all the nominees too. The fans erupted when the compere emphatically affirmed, “In the U16 Super Division Category, welcome on stage Don Bosco Oratory who played ever-so-well, what a wonderful performance!” A huge trophy and medals were presented to all our players by Darryl D’souza, an MDFA official. A cherished moment that was cleansed with tears of joy. Many parents of the players were also present for the occasion.

This season 2019-20 saw our senior players reach the quarter-finals of the MDFA 3rd Division and promoted to the 2nd Division, our U18 A Team winning the Juhu Hamara Trophy 2020 and our U16 runners-up in the YPL Super Division categories now promoted to the U17 Elite Division. A stellar performance in just a single year.

Thanks to all our Salesians at Provincial House, in-house coaches Rishab Vishwakarma, Manish Rathod, Rahul Mahadev, Amish Saroj and Karan Jaiswar, Fathers Lopes, Rodrigues and now our latest entry Bro. Bryce Fernandes for all their efforts and support given to all the Oratory Youth. A sincere word of appreciation to all our many sponsors and well-wishers too who provided us with resources, expertise and encouragement.