The Origins of the Guanellians in India
One hundred years later
During the year 1986, the Congregation of the Servants of Charity celebrated the first anniversary of the Mother House in Como which was the first work founded by Don Luigi Guanella. After many years of waiting, and poor part of the civil and religious belief, Don Luigi had finally received permission to open his own institute in Como to serve the poor. On the evening of 5 April 1886 he blessed the first group of nuns and orphans, on that boat started from Pianello Lario to Como to get to the port the next morning. So April 6, 1886 opened the first Guanellian community. Many other foundations would come later. But this was the first, left to the attentions of the Blessed Sister Clare Bosatta.
Waves of dreams from far of Italy finally reached the shore of India to rest and to be rooted to grow into a tree of good fruits. The dreams and desires of the Holy Founder St. Louis Guanella has become the land of reality and realization in India. One of his intimate desires was to come to India to serve the Indian people. Before the realization he returned back to the Lord’s house to inspire us to actualize his dreams for the good of our fellowmen and for the glory of God. In 1986 his followers remembered the desire of their Founder. The providence indicated the right time and the apt persons. The land of India-Tamil Nadu is very vast. Just like the wave which moves infinitely at the core of the sea and finally reaches the shore, our searches, after a time of profound listening to the Spirit of God, reached the shore of Cuddalore.
At a distance of one hundred years of the first house at Como, just on the 6th April, 1986 came a telegram for Fr. Domenico Saginario from India, specifically from the city of Madurai that announced the arrival in Rome of a young Indian named Arokiasamy John Bosco, accompanied by Father Stephen Fernando, priest in Tamil Nadu.
First Indian in the Guanellian Community (April 13,1986)
Divine providence enabled Fr. Stephen Fernandes to meet, among the first young, John Bosco already advanced in his studies and formation at the Claretian Fathers. With the permission of his superiors, he agreed to join our congregation, and then worked for the foundation of the first home in India. Meanwhile they had developed a pretty open network of communications with the Archbishop of Madras, with that of the Bishop of Madurai and Tuticorin. All declared themselves happy to welcome into their dioceses Opera Don Guanella. April 13, 1986 arrived, therefore, in Rome Fr Stephen and John Bosco. Although he was alone and without knowing an Italian word, in his small article to one of the magazines Fr. Saginario underlined that John was very brave and good. “He studied with the Italian commitment, entered the seminary in the pace of life, he devoted himself to his formation and then continue with the novitiate, the religious profession, theology …” (in Italian …) Several young students followed John Bosco shortly afterwards to Rome: Gabriel Pingno!, Aloysius, Carmel, Thanasekar, John Joseph, and Panneer. Now ali of them are Guanellian priests, Servants of Charity. In India, always with kind help of Fr. Stephen Fernando, Fr. Lucas and Fr. Ferrer, an affectionate friend of Diocese of Kumbakonam, the small group of the students sympathisers and of the seminarians too grew up.
First Guanellian in India –Fr.Tito Credaro (July 2,1986)
An important event in the origins of our mission in India was the journey made by Don Tito Credaro in July of that year 1986. With him accompanied Bro. John Bosco himself. They started the evening of July 2 and arrived the next day in Bombay, July 3, the feast of St. Thomas, patron saint of India. They then continued to Madras. Don Tito was the first Guanellian religious to set foot on Indian soil. He then took direct contact with the Archbishops of Madras and Madurai who were already in correspondence with us. Together they accommodated in their programs for diocesan seminaries a small number of vocations that the Lord would send. He Visited the “Christ Hall Seminary in Karumathur. He came back enthusiastic and grateful for the wonderful reception that he had found everywhere. ) Fr. Tito Credaro, , making a report about his trip (3‑16 of July 1986) says that from first vocational camp 4 new candidates were selected and thus on July 1986 we had 5 students in St. Thomas’ minor seminary of Madras and 3 in the philosophical seminary of Karumathur (Madurai). With great gratitude to God, Fr. Tito Credaro annotates: “… there was a great welcome from everybody and everwhere. Every door was opened without any difficulty…”
Fr. Domenico Saginario in India (January 1987)
Father Domenico Saginario became Provincial Superior in August,1986, and with his council stretched many strengths and wise projects for a systematic vocatión promotion both for girls and for boys. In January 1987 Fr. Domenico Saginario had the gift of making his first trip to India, especially to see how to expand and to organize the mission and for the vocationa promotion. One objective of my first visit to India was to find a foundation for our sisters, the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence. Indeed, a few months before, heard about his plans for India, the mother General of the time, Mother Rosa Costantini, recommended him to think about the sisters.
All Tamil Nadu’s Bishops soon knew the congregation of the Servants of Charity, not only by letter or through the words of our Indian friends, but also with the personal meetings of Fr. Domenico Saginario and Fr. Piero Lippoli, in charge since 1987 for the development of the Servants of Charity in India.
Fr.Piero Lippoli in India (June 1987): Two vocation camps in Madurai.
In June 1987 Fr. Piero Lippoli came to India along with the first group of Guanellian sisters. with the help of Fr Stephen Fernando and the spiritual father of Christ Hall Seminary, two vocation camps were held at Madurai, one for the servants of charity, and the other for young women who wished to join the Congregation of the Guanellian Sisters. Since that time the development of Guanellian mission in India was driven in particular by Fr. Piero Lippoli and, for the sisters, by Sr. Imelda Malovan. Every year they held the vocational fields, usually one in Madras and another at Madurai.
The first attention went to the formation of young people who meanwhile Divine Providence sent us from year to year. In agreement with the bishops, they were able to accommodate small groups of three, four, diocesan seminaries of Madras, Cuddalore, Madurai and Tuticorin, and then they opened the doors of the minor seminaries in Palayamkottay, Trichy and Kumbakonam, until there was the first Guanellian Minor Seminary in cuddalore (1996).
As the vocational promotion went on, at the vocational annual camps always new students were selected, and in different seminaries of Tamil Nadu “The Guanellians” were the majority. Hence the need of our own seminary was felt as urgent. Since the first years, looking to the future, we had bought some land at Madurai and at cuddalore. The way of Providence suggested us to Cuddalore as a piace for our first Indian seminary. Here another dear friend, Fr. John Duraisamy for some years gave hospitality to our students in the minor seminary of Pondicherry Diocese, where he was Rector. He himself bought for our congregation a good number of acres of and.
So here is the second line of projects to prepare our houses of formation. The thing was as urgent. We could not ask the bishops a favor for a long time so extraordinary. More important and more difficult to solve, was the problem of ‘Guanellian Formators’. Civil laws in India did not allow an enclosure of fellow foreigners and had to rely only on fellow Indians. But they were all young, and even in the formation. Problem was much suffering.
The first Guanellian priests who studied in Rome
1st Batch: Fr. John Bosco (1986)
2nd Batch: Fr. Aloysius, Fr. Gabriel (1988)
3rd Batch: Fr. Thanasekar, Fr. Carmel (1990)
4th Batch: Fr. Panneer raja and Fr. John Joseph (1991)
5th Batch: Fr. Soosairathinam, Fr. Peter Sebastian, Fr. Kuriakose and Fr. Maria Arokiadass ( 1992)
6th Batch: Fr. Roosewelt, Fr. Robert Arockiam (1993)
Confreres who have done their novitiate in Philippines
1st batch: Frs. Satheesh, Nevice (1996)
2nd batch : Frs. Ligory, Visuvasam (1997)
3rd batch : Frs. Ronald, John doss, Periyanayagam, Kulandai, Praveen, Jesu Raj, Benson, Jeyasoosai (1998)
Divine Providence Province
In July of 2006, the leaders of the Servants of Charity Congregation called for a General Chapter meeting in Rome, Italy at the world headquarters of the Order. These meetings occur once every six years for the purpose of selecting their worldwide leadership and planning the course of their future. One of the most significant accomplishments of the General Chapter meeting was that a reconfiguration of the provinces and communities of the Congregation took place throughout the world, and the Divine Providence Province was created from the former Immaculate Conception Province and the Divine Providence delegation.
This brought together the very diverse cultures of India, the Philippines, and the United States of America. Combining these amazing countries together will allow for each culture to learn from the other, and to make a more significant impact in helping the poor. The mission of the Divine Providence Province comes from our Founder Saint Louis Guanella, who stated that, “We are here to witness the love of Christ for all, especially the poor”. The Very Rev. Fr. Alfonso Crippa became the Superior General of the Servants of Charity at their special assembly in Rome, and subsequently, the following leaders were selected to lead the Divine Providence Province. Rev. Fr. Luigi De Giambattista, SdC as Provincial Superior, Fr. A. Soosai Rathinam, SdC as Provincial Vicar and Secretary, Fr. M. Peter Sebastian, SdC as Councilor, Fr. Battista Omodei, SdC as Councilor, Link for Philippines, Fr. Dennis Weber, SdC as Councilor, Link for USA and Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC as Provincial Treasurer.