Venilale (Timor East). On 25 and 26 May 2024, each Community of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of St. Mary D. Mazzarello Province (TIN) of Timor-Indonesia organized an “Oratory Festival” proposed in the provincial planning of the year 2023/2024 with the aim of reviving the commitment of the oratorians, also involving the past-oratorians, thinking about the past, the present, and the future.

Venilale was the first community opened in Timor, where the first oratory began. Two months before the Festival, the Communities of Mary Help of Christians and St. Mary D. Mazzarello of Venilale contacted some of the first oratorians and set up an organizing commission to think about the realization of the event.

Although there are only a few Oratorians of 30 and more years ago who still live in Venilale, the “word of mouth” with WhatsApp reached many past-oratorians, proud to have been the pioneers of an experience that then spread even in subsequent communities. Many of them were unable to participate and with a lot of nostalgia sent messages to the participants who with their smartphones transmitted “live” what was taking place.

The afternoon of May 25, was dedicated to the past-oratorians, together with the current animators. The central moment was the Conference of Father Antonio Guterres, Salesian of Don Bosco, past-Oratorian of the FMA, who proposed a reflection on the Oratorian heart, based also on his experience begun when he was a child.

Other testimonies by past-oratorians followed according to the years. Despite the different experiences, unanimous was the feeling of gratitude for what they lived, for the different opportunities offered and received, both recreational and educational, especially at the time of the Indonesian occupation when life was not easy. Many expressed how the oratory shaped their character, allowing them, even in subsequent professional choices, to live in the awareness of the presence of a God who loves everyone. The afternoon ended with a moment of prayer in the style of Taizé.

On Sunday morning of May 26, all the oratorians of the five oratories that the two communities animate gathered in the Parish of Venilale. After the animation proposed by the ‘old’ oratorians with songs ‘of their time’ when YouTube was not used, in the Holy Mass, presided over by Father Antonio, the mystery of the Blessed Trinity was celebrated, space was given to children on the World Day dedicated to them, and above all, gratitude to God for the beauty of the Oratorian proposal. In the offertory, a family of past-oratorians donated an organ, a guitar, and some games to be divided among the five oratories, as an expression of their gratitude for what they experienced as children and young people.

After lunch together, oratorians and past-oratorians were able to attend a musical about the Dream at 9 years. In recalling the experience of Don Bosco, they sought to interpret it in the Country of today. The continuous applause suggested how much this musical spoke to those present: children, young people, and adults.

The moment awaited by all was the award ceremony of the drawing contest. The children were asked to color the drawings of the Dream at 9 years, while the older ones had the task of representing it with creativity through a drawing made by them. Each Oratory had winners, to everyone’s delight!

The event concluded with words of gratitude from a former Oratorian who, on behalf of all, also gave availability for some events – “call us, and we will try to be there to help, support, and work together” – and, above all, with the encouragement to the current animators to dedicate themselves passionately to the Oratorian activities that, as has been repeatedly expressed by those “past”, they still carry in their heart.

This first appointment was an experience that, according to everyone, cannot end in these two days, but will be repeated, therefore… see you at the next Oratory Festival!

Questo primo appuntamento è stato un’esperienza che, a detta di tutti, non può concludersi in questi due giorni, ma andrà riproposta, pertanto… arrivederci al prossimo Festival dell’oratorio!

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