Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Don Bosco Youth Centre: A beam of hope

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Shillong is home to many educational and vocational institutions that have been rendering their services for decades, some even spanning over 100 years – moulding students in various dimensions.

In this episode of Shillong’s Iconic Structures, we bring to our readers the Don Bosco Youth Centre (DBYC) and its age-old structure that once housed the pro-Cathedral, after the devastating fire of 1936 that destroyed the wooden structure of the Divine Saviour Cathedral, currently known as the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians.

The Don Bosco Youth Centre is located at Don Bosco Square in the centre of Laitumkhrah. Though the Centre was established not very long ago, the structure that houses the Don Bosco Youth Centre, however, dates back to the 1920s.

The old structure was a two-storey concrete building and a portion of the top floor resembling an Assam-type style of architecture with a Cross on top supported by four round pillars.

Years later, when the new complex was constructed, its premises was an open space with the statue of Don Bosco at the centre and was surrounded by flower beds and benches on the sides. At present, the statue stands next to the main entrance of the building and a portion of the open space has been converted into a parking area.

The Don Bosco Youth Centre was officially administered in April 1983 under the Directorship of Fr. Joseph Cilia with the purpose of empowering the youths in the state and equipping them with the skills to face modern-day challenges.

According to the present Director of Don Bosco Youth Centre, Fr Michael Makri, though the purpose of setting up the building in the 1920s is unclear, it is assumed that the structure was used by the Salesian missionaries for educational purposes.

The Salesians of Don Bosco, a religious congregation of men in the Catholic Church, reached Shillong from Rome on January 26, 1922, to further the mission of the Catholic Church in Shillong following the departure of the Salvatorian Missionaries during the First World War.

Under the Salesians, many institutions were built in Shillong like the Novitiate in 1924, the Salesian Theologate in 1928, St. Anthony’s College in 1934 and St Mary’s College in 1936. Fr Makri assumes that it must be during this time around that the building was constructed to serve the same purpose – imparting education.

It was only when Fr. Joseph Cilia was appointed in charge of the new venture that the official announcement of the opening of Don Bosco Youth Centre was made in April 1983.

After the Don Bosco Youth Centre was established, many changes were made to the building. Since the place was small, a need was felt to have a bigger premises. The blessing of the foundation for the new complex was done on 1st July 1988 by Archbishop Hubert D’Rosario. The entire complex was completed three years later, and Don Bosco Youth Centre began to offer varied types of services. At present, the Centre offers 47 different courses like computer classes, media and sound engineering, music, karate, judo and other soft skills like training in beauty services, tailoring and others with over 10,000 students opting for these courses every year.

Did you know that the relic containing the left index finger of Don Bosco was enthroned at the Chapel of Don Bosco Youth Centre on October 23, 2021? To know more about the history of this heritage structure, watch the full episode on our Youtube Channel @TheShillongTimes as we take you on a trip down memory lane.

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