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Bairo 45 years later

26/10/2010: Italy

Late in September, four Brothers from the General House – Pietro Bettin (community superior), Jude Pieterse (vice-director of FMSI), Giovanni Bigotto (Postulator General) and I, Teófilo Minga, – set out for the north of Italy. We had a double objective: to inform the elderly Brothers at Carmagnola about the state of our causes of canonisation and beatification, and to visit the houses where two of us had made our novitiate: I at Bairo 45 years ago, and Giovanni at Grugliasco, 52 years ago. Neither of us had been back « to the origins ».In fact, Bairo and Grugliasco had both, as houses of formation, a specifically missionary vocation. Giovanni left for Madagascar, and I for Angola. In these lands began our missionary vocation which was to lead to other lands, concretely Kenya. We were far from imagining that one day we would find ourselves together in Rome, working in two important offices. But that would not lessen the «missionary mark left on us » by Bairo and Grugliasco. In Rome, we were also at the service of the Marist mission.For myself, this 26 September 2010, I was deeply moved to be able to tread, after 45 years, the ground which had received so many Marist missionaries during the first decades of the XXth century. It was easy to recall the different parts of the house, now totally transformed into a centre for homeless people. Here was the chapel, there the classrooms; the dormitory was on the first floor… We traversed again the paths where, 45 years earlier, our Marist and missionary personality had been formed.The property itself was the same and different. There, there had been the avenue of lime-trees and fruit trees which had completely disappeared. In the centre of the property, there was at the time a water reservoir, now no longer there. Certainly, the hill of the Sacred Heart of Jesus remains, so called from the statue on its summit. I observed with joy that it still stood there, though quite faded: the colours have almost disappeared. It would certainly need repainting to recover all is former beauty. We often prayed before this statue. I remembered times past and I continued to pray, especially for the missionaries of today, but not forgetting those of «yesterday » who left for the four corners of the world.At the same spot, exactly at the right angle of the two walls, at the entry, on the left, the bell was still there. The same as 45 years ago! I don’t know if the rope was the same… It is only a small detail… but I mention it because I was the bellringer. For more than a year, I never failed to summon the inhabitants of the novitiate to prayer, recreation, meals, work… I even came to feel myself « important » thanks to this task, since all obeyed me! In a certain way, I gave rhythm to their lives. Until one day the rope broke. I feared the worst. It was a « fault » which needed confessing at the chapter of faults. And as penance, eating the meal on one‘s knees, in front of everyone, exposed to the risk of losing such an important employment! The day of the chapter of faults I presented myself with the rope around my neck, like a condemned criminal. Seeing the general hilarity, Br. Balko, then master, a man of learning and virtue, took the drama out of the scene by saying that the fact of breaking the cord did not entail eating on one’s knees and still less losing the employment. « A man of wide vision », I told myself. What is more, he charged me with buying a new rope. And my admiration for him increased later, for he was one of the rare Marists to become familiar with the Council and its implications for the life of the Church and of the Institute. These little memories in their way underline the good Marist formation we received at Bairo. The perseverance index among those who were trained there also seems very acceptable, by comparison with the usual figures. I thanked the Lord and Mary for the formation I received there 45 years ago and which has accompanied me all this time. There is no doubt in my mind that the rich roots of my Marist life took hold there. More than a trip, it was a pilgrimage I made to a sanctuary which, although no longer Marist, has marked many generations. It gave them the strength and know-how to construct a Marist world in the past, today, and even in the future. God be blessed for so many benedictions._______________Br. Teófilo Co-ordinator of the Project AD GENTESCarmagnola, 27 September 2010

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