by Clerics Bless Rumao & Jansen Vaz for BISMumbai

Special situations call for special measures. Since the vocation camp for the admission to the Aspirantate in May could not be held due to the lockdown, MumbaiSalesians' at Don Bosco Lonavla devised a process of admission in response to the pandemic situation.

The ‘Come and See’ camp held at Lonavla in November 2019 was a success. Thanks to the then vocation promoter, Father McEnroe Lopes, the regional vocation promoters, and the community of Don Bosco Lonavla. Many of the boys who had attended the November camp expressed their desire to join the boarding. These boys and other probable candidates, presented by the parish priests of the different Salesian parishes in the province, were contacted. A total of 88 boys had applied to join Don Bosco Lonavla. After contacting the boys and their parents over the phone, 22 boys expressed hesitation to join this year. Since a camp could not be held, an online test was conducted for 23 students of class 08 and 18 students of class 09 on 27 May 2020. Those desiring to join after college would be admitted on the basis of their board exams. Following the online test, 36 out of 41 boys secured the required marks to gain admission to the apostolic school.

Due to the COVID-19 related increasing vulnerability, the restriction in movement of persons has affected the opening of the schools and colleges of the state. Even though the Salesians would have loved to begin the boarding, safety for the health of the boys is preventing them from doing so. Hence, just as school online classes have commenced, the community at Lonavla decided to use digital technology to connect with the boys of the boarding. From 26 June 2020, Don Bosco Lonavla began ‘Online-boarding’. As of now, 20 new boys for class 08, 16 new boys for class 09, 11 new boys for class 11 and 07 boys who have completed class 10 in their regional language, will join the English Academy. Similarly, 07 boys who have completed class 12 will also join the English academy. Thus, 61 new boys have been admitted for the residential facility this academic year.

Each staff member is entrusted with a group of boys. The staff members called the boys and their parents to greet them and introduce them to the ‘Online-boarding’ concept. WhatsApp groups have been formed for smooth communication and effective accompaniment. The boys are encouraged to participate devoutly in the daily Mass that is live-streamed at 7:30 am. A welcome video-message by the rector was sent to them via WhatsApp and then Br. Aliester D’souza, explained the concept of the online boarding on the 26 June 2020. The novena to St. Dominic Savio has been initiated from 28 June 2020. Every evening of the novena days, short stories from the boarding life of Dominic Savio are being sent to the boys. These short videos are prepared by Br. Aliester D’souza, with the assistance of the clerics. In addition, a short question bank has been sent with detailed information on Dominic Savio. The Dominic Savio Online Quiz will be held on Sunday, 05 July based on the above sources.

Crises should not be an excuse for passivity. Keeping this and the Salesian ideals of presence and accompaniment in mind, changing according to the signs of times, the Mumbai Salesians at Lonavla continue to journey with the young – a digital wayfaring in the now!