Thousands in Kenya Witness Final Transfer of St. Don Bosco’s Relics
CANAA || By Sr. Lydia Mukari, SMK, Nairobi || 30 January 2017
Over four thousand Catholic faithful from different nations of the world congregated Sunday, January 29, in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, to witness the final transfer of the first class relics of the patron of the youth, St. Don Bosco.
The relics, which consist of pieces of bone and tissue from Don Bosco’s right hand and arm, were permanently transferred to Mary Help of Christians Shrine in Nairobi’s Upper Hill area during the Sunday morning ceremony presided over the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya, Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo.
The event started with a solemn procession from Kenya’s Nyayo Stadium after the relics, which were previously at Don Bosco’s Utume Institute in Nairobi’s Karen area, were brought there.
Placed in a wax replica of Don Bosco’s body at the time of his death in 1888 and set in a glass box mounted on a wood and metal cart, the relics were in the middle of the procession, which was led by a police band.
The bone and tissue were exhumed from Don Bosco’s grave at the time of his beatification in 1929.
The relics have been viewed in all continents of the world through a 130-country tour, which started in January 2009 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Salesians of Don Bosco and the 200th birthday of Don Bosco in 2015.
St. feast day of St. Don Bosco is January 31.
In his homily, The Nuncio expressed his “great admiration” for the Salesian family for the good work they are doing for children and the youth by following the principles of reason, religion and kindness, which Don Bosco left them.
The Papal representative to Kenya called on the faithful to be good shepherds in the example of St. Don Bosco saying, “Jesus called other people to continue the work he had begun, to be the good shepherds who would shepherd people according to the heart of Christ. One of them is Saint Don Bosco who cared for street children and the young people.”
Born in Northern Italy in 1815, Don Bosco grew up at a time when Italy was going through tough times economically, socially and politically. Through self-giving, he transformed the situation of the youth he could reach.
“Like Saint Don Bosco,” Archbishop Balvo continued, “we too are called to follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ who laid down his life for humanity.”
He further said that children are innocent and dependent on adults and termed breaking our trust with children as a grave sin in the eyes of God. He reiterated the words of Saint Don Bosco to his brothers that we need to be patient with children even though they may not be easy to deal with.
“Even if you have to disappoint children, do so with love,” he said.
Also in attendance were the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) Chair, Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homabay diocese, the Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Father Angel Fernandez Artime, Sisters of Mary Help of Christians founded by St. Don Bosco, hundreds of religious men and women from different religious institutes and orders, youth, pupils and students from Don Bosco schools, among thousands of other Catholic faithful.
New members of the family of the Salesians of Don Bosco made a public promise to live as Salesian Cooperators during the event.
KCCB Chairman, Bishop Anyolo called on Christians to show mercy to each other especially the young who are vulnerable following the example of St. Don Bosco.
He also had a message of peace to Kenyans as they prepare for the general elections scheduled for August 8, 2017.
“For the year of elections, we want people to talk to each other especially politicians. They are using very abusive language, which is not good because our identity is destroyed. Let us use good language that can build the nation and promote peace,” Bishop Anyolo said.
Meanwhile, the Director of Mary Help of Christians Shrine where Don Bosco’s relics were permanently transferred, Father Abel Njeru described Don Bosco as “a friend, teacher and father of youth who is coming among us to bless our young people.”
“Saint Don Bosco comes at a time when our country is entering elections and he will intercede and pray for us,” Father Njeru said.
A body part or piece of clothing, relics are venerated for providing a physical connection between a saint and God.
The practice has been known to date back to the beginning of the Church, when Roman authorities persecuted and put to death early Christians.
Sr. Lydia Mukari belongs to the congregation of the Sisters of Mary of Kakamega (SMK). She is studying Communications at Daystar University in Nairobi.