by BISMumbai Correspondent

Mumbai Salesians' observe every 1st Thursday of each month, as Vocation Thursday. It is a day dedicated to praying for vocations to the Church in general, to religious life and more specifically to the Salesian way of life. This day a vocation adoration [animation sent by the Provincial Secretary], is also organised in all the institutions. This year, Father Velasli Bandya, has assumed office as the INB Province Vocation Animator. He has already set in motion the process of accompaniment with a logo, a daily prayer and an intercessory prayer for each day of the week [BISMumbai articles #5996 #5997]. He has also initiated JoinDonBoscoMumbai on Facebook and Instagram, apart from 02 videos [BISMumbai #5998]. He is now busy trying to revive the Local Vocation Teams in each Salesian presence across the province, even while trying to animate and accompany interested young boys, despite the chaotic lockdown-unlock melee. BISMumbai in conversation with Father Bandya on the plans, methods, concerns, and the way forward.

1. Congrats. You are the Province Vocation Animator. Any immediate plans, concerns & steps for the way forward?

Thanks. First and foremost, being the province vocation animator, I completely rely on the words of Jesus who says to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest." I believe that it is the Lord who inspires young men and women to follow Him and in this world, all things are possible with God's help. As Pope Francis would say, Vocations are born in prayer and from prayer; and only in prayer can they persevere and bear fruit. A few immediate plans and steps:

· To contact Salesian priests, especially parish priests and the Rectors of our Salesian houses in the province regarding vocation animation.

· To contact priests and animate Local Vocation Teams in our Salesian settings and collaborate with them in animation and accompaniment

· To contact other religious, and others [parents, teachers, etc.] who can help probable candidates for the Salesian way of life.

· Keeping in touch with candidates who are part of Don Bosco Lonavla but at present who are at home because of Covid-19, to enthuse them in their yes to God.

· To use various available Social Media for vocation animation in the province.

2. As the Lockdown continues, how are you accompanying young boys?

It has been a great challenge to know and to accompany young people, especially during these critical moments. As of now with the help of social media, I am trying to reach out to young people especially those who show some signs of dedicating their lives to God. Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Meet, and telephonic conversations, helps me keep in touch with young people. With the help of the parish priests, I am trying to reach out to family members especially parents and young people. I am also contacting people who encourage young people to join a religious way of life.

3. Wow, congrats on the social media initiative. How's the going? What more does the future hold?

Yes, social media is indeed a convenient and useful tool to communicate. It also helps staying connected easier. In the present situation, there is a lot of online interaction through likes, comments, queries, etc. from young people. I'm also learnign and discovering newer ways to animate, accompany and help the discernment process. To motivate and inspire them to follow DB way, is the ultimate goal.

4. Are the Local Vocation Teams playing their part, especially these days?

These days the community of Don Bosco Lonavla is constantly in touch with the Salesians and Local Vocation Teams to discuss and plan for admissions to the Aspirantate and Apostolic School at Don Bosco Lonavla. I found that, wherever functioning, local vocation teams are very committed and are doing a great deal in these critical times – we are fortunate to have a good number of boys joining DB Lonavla this year, despite the lockdown. Thanks to all of them. Waiting eagerly to collaborate and work with them.

5. Are young boys really interested to follow JC, the DB way? What do you think motivates them?

Yes. Young people are interested to follow Jesus Christ and to be Salesians. Following Christ is not only interesting but also meaningful. Our Salesian way of life is meaningful and fulfilling. Our Salesian presence and accompaniment – the way we live our priestly and religious vocation; the family spirit and our charism; and more especially, our life of holiness can be motivating factors for young people to desire to live the Don Bosco way. I firmly believe that if all Salesians, each one lives the motto of Don Bosco: “Give me souls, take away the rest,” much more can be accomplished. Don Bosco has promised us - Heaven. It is a challenge we must take upon ourselves, for young people are waiting, watching, wanting to be accompanied!