By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial |February 10, 2022
Saturday, February 12, marks the 113th birth anniversary of Fr Aurelius Maschio, the well-known Italian Missionary to India. On this occasion, the Mumbai Province will be releasing a book on his life entitled For Him, Living Was Giving. This book is written in Italian, by the late Fr Joseph Casti (sdb) who passed away on January 29, 2022. Fr Casti was a close collaborator of Fr Maschio and took over his work after his demise in 1996. Before taking over from Fr Maschio, Fr Casti worked closely with him for six years. The book has been translated into English by Fr Ian Doulton and will be released online on February 12, at 11.00 am.
Last year, to mark his 25th death anniversary, there was a Bust unveiled along with the Fr Aurelius Maschio Memorial Museum in the Shrine Office building. The Museum boasts of memorabilia from the life of Fr Maschio.
Opening Doorz met with Fr Edwin D’Souza who is currently the Rector of the Shrine of Don Bosco’s Madonna to understand from him the low-profile opening of the Museum, his impressions of the ‘Giant of a Priest’ and the work of the Salesians to take forward the legacy of Fr Maschio. “It is just unbelievable how he could do what he did at a time when communication and the transport system was not what it is today. MARY WAS THERE!” says Fr Edwin, reminiscing about the patriarch of the Bombay Province as it was known then. “He was a visionary with a lot of daring.”
Speaking of the way forward, Fr Edwin says, “Keeping Fr Maschio’s work in mind, for the future, it would be just his work for the poor and the marginalized as is carried out in our institutions along with providing good and vibrant services in the Shrine.”
You would have worked closely with Fr Maschio; what are your impressions of him and his contribution to the Bombay Province.
Having worked closely with Fr Maschio I can say that he was a giant of a personality—a visionary with a lot of daring. To do what he did, believing that funds would come from abroad or locally, was a sign of his great trust in Divine Providence. Just take the Shrine for example; to be able to give his idea to the architect and to visualize the Stations of the Cross and the stained glasses and to procure them from abroad together with the marble for the Shrine, was a real feat. I do not think anyone would manage that today. It is just unbelievable how he could do what he did at a time when communication and the transport system was not what it is today. MARY WAS THERE!
You have stepped into very large shoes, what was your initial reaction to this role?
Taking over Fr Maschio’s office was not easy. I took over from Fr Joseph Casti who was holding the office for six years after the death of Fr Maschio. That was twenty years ago, and taking over from ‘foreigners’ in those days was not easy. But I planned to continue doing things the way he did it and it became easy. Over the years, I managed to make the necessary changes in the running of the office and the Shrine and slowly everyone got used to the few changes that came in. People believe a lot in tradition and keeping to traditions made walking into the ‘big shoes’ easy for me.
What prompted The Fr Aurelius Maschio Memorial Museum?
When we celebrated Fr Maschio’s first death anniversary in 1997, we had put up a museum with some items and the Awards that he had won during his lifetime. Over the years, this room was used for many other purposes. I thought that this would be a fitting occasion to put up this Museum again. When I took over in 2002, there were a lot of his items in his office and the storeroom behind his office. I collected them all and preserved them and they came in handy to set up this Museum.
So, this enhanced Museum was inaugurated for his 25th death anniversary?
We needed to do something to commemorate his 25th death anniversary. After the blessing of the tomb on the 24th death anniversary in 2020, Fr Savio Silveira, our provincial, suggested that we should put up a statue of Fr. Maschio somewhere on our campus. We were looking for a suitable spot but could not find a prominent place. It was in July 2021, that Fr Savio approached me again and we decided to at least put up a Bust in his honour. The Museum followed a few months later.
How come even those who come regularly to the Shrine were not aware of this Memorial or Museum? Fr Maschio is a celebrated figure in Bombay and Don Bosco as an Institute is globally known. Wasn’t the media informed of this activity?
This Museum was inaugurated on October 13, 2021. It was meant to be inaugurated on September 9, 2021, but due to the prolonged monsoon, it was difficult to get the monument completed on time and hence it was postponed. It was also an occasion where we had the Rectors and representatives of all our institutions of the Province present in Matunga, as we were having our Provincial Chapter.
It was not possible for any publicity due to the restrictions that were in place because of the pandemic. Besides, there were no services in the Shine either. October is the time when we get the greatest number of visitors to the Shrine Office. They were all invited to visit the Museum and were able to spend time there.
Are there any tours planned for the schools, especially DB and other schools, to educate them about Fr Maschio and his contribution to the Salesians in India?
As schools have opened up, we could plan a time when our students could visit the Museum. I am also planning a video presentation so that the students get an idea of his life and know more about the person before they visit the Museum. That was also one of the reasons for putting up the Museum and the Bust in the garden. Fr Maschio passed away twenty-five years ago. None of the students on the campus at present or the teachers will have seen him. Even some of our young Salesians have not seen him! It is good that he is remembered as one who with his great foresight was the one responsible for this majestic complex—Don Bosco Matunga.
As a Salesian, do you feel there should be more in his name, like for example Fr Aurelius Maschio Scholarship or Fr Aurelius Maschio Cricket Cup or Fr Aurelius Maschio Scholarship for Music or Fr Aurelius Maschio Scholarship for Teachers… I mean there is so much the Institute can do. Don Bosco is a huge brand.
We do have an Educational Scholarship and Medical Aid project in his name. This is managed by the Shrine Office. This is dependent on the donations we receive towards these projects. We also have a Maschio Memorial Foundation Society and the Educational Aid and Medical Aid is disbursed through this account. We help poor students who find it difficult to pay their fees and we also help them with medical aid. These are mostly recommended by the Parishes around.
The present need is more for Medical Aid than Educational Aid. Besides this, ‘The Maschio Foundation’ also sponsors the Jeevan Dhara, a rehab center. Another project in his name is the sponsorship of the studies of Adivasi girls in the Tea Gardens of Assam through the Salesians of Dimapur Province. Besides these projects, we have taken up two projects in the villages of Aurangabad—a seeds and fertilizers project and a goat farm.
Anything planned in sports, considering Don Bosco has a huge affinity for sports?
Plans are afoot to have a football tournament for the marginalized youngsters—A Maschio Memorial Cup for children of different age groups. I have spoken to the director of the Oratory Br Bryce to organize it together with our Youth Services director Fr Leon.