BIS #6091 ‘CHANGE COURSE’: FROM BOY TO SALESIAN PRIEST - FATHER GLENFORD LOWE
Every 1st Thursday of each month is dedicated to Vocations and celebrated as Vocation Thursday by MumbaiSalesians. BISMumbai will carry a Vocation Article every 1st Thursday, as part of the 'vocation animation'. Father Glenford Lowe narrates his vocation story.
Which nine-year old would understand a sign post that read ‘CHANGE COURSE? In April 1969 we were living in Bellary – Karnataka. I was barely nine, when my elder brother Brian and I were informed by our parents that we would be joining the boarding at St. Bede’s Anglo-Indian school at Chennai in January 1970. To leave home at such a tender age didn’t seem like such a big deal. We literally had half a year’s time to take it in. But then, the tsunami came in. ‘CHANGE COURSE’ was a signpost we found difficult to understand. From Chennai to Mumbai, from the prestigious St. Bede’s Anglo-Indian school to the newly founded St. Dominic Savio Boys’ Home at Andheri was the journey we had to make within a month. Thanks to the intervention of Father Aurelius Maschio who suggested to my grand aunt Beatrice D’Souza that Father Carlo Restelli, the first Rector, would be happy to have a few Anglo-Indians in the school. My brother Brian, and then later, my younger brother Harry too would join St. Dominic Savio Boys’ Home. We joined St. Dominic Savio Boys’ Home in June 1969. That is 50 golden years ago!
1969- 1976 proved to be years of plenty, without doubt the best in all my life. Seeds of a Salesian Vocation were slowly being planted in my tender heart. I recall with nostalgia, the sense of missionary zeal in Father Carlo Restelli. He was a passionate ‘love bomb’, exploding joy and cheerfulness all around him. His warm loving embrace took a different turn on the playground. Loosing was never his friend. He instilled in us all the need to be constant winners! He fought hard to win, a gift that every Savion treasured. For the next decade or so, Dominic Savio Andheri were ‘Champions’ in the Mumbai sporting arena.
Brother P. M Thomas was the one who most inspired me. He was my ‘guru’ par excellence. He was a smart and professional educator, multi-talented on stage and playground, well organised in office, deeply spiritual and Salesian at heart, a proper disciplinarian and yet one with a heart for the poor and the weak. I always wanted to be a Salesian like him. He was truly my first vocation promoter and model since June 1969!
‘Work and Sacrifice’ are two very Salesian characteristics I picked up. Thanks to Father Salvador Dsouza who taught us the need to ‘dirty’ our hands in constructive work. The concrete roads and the basketball pitches we built at the ‘cost of sacrificing’ our games and recreational time are lessons I treasure today. Years later, I still treasure these Salesian gifts of ‘work and sacrifice’ in my vocation.
A Salesian is a man of prayer. Thanks to Father Victor Dsouza who instilled in my young heart the need for personal prayer. He made our ‘prayer moments’ come alive. I experienced the power of the daily Eucharist, rosary and weekly confession. Like Don Bosco, I too saw miracles before my eyes. I can proudly say, I learnt to spend quiet time every evening in personal prayer – right from my school days from std VIII onwards. This is a practice I still keep today, quiet prayer moments in my busy schedule.
A Salesian heart always beats for the poor, the weak and the orphan. My last two years at St. Dominic Savio’s (1974-76) were the best I will treasure. Thanks to Father Chrysologus D’Cunha, Father Elias Dias and Father Vincent Rasquinha, I really felt ‘called’ to dedicate the rest of my life for the poor youth. The whole atmosphere was that of a ‘home’. I felt loved, respected and given every opportunity to bloom and be responsible. And so, when I was making my annual retreat in STD X, I confided for the very first time to our preacher, Father Wilfred D’Souza that I felt called to be a Salesian. A decision I never regretted.
Today, I am forty years a Salesian, thirty years a Priest and have been twenty years a missionary in Africa. Who I am today is simply because of the many Salesian traits that were generously sowed in my younger days at St. Dominic Savio Andheri by my teachers – especially Mrs. S. Pereira, Mrs. Alexander and Ms Iyer; my fellow companions, and many Salesian priests and brothers. I know, I have left out a lot of names, but everyone did play a vital role in my life to make me the Salesian Priest I am today. May every Salesian institution be a seed bed for Vocations and continue to bless the congregation with many zealous Salesian vocations and our nation with responsible citizens.