Rev. Fr. Orpheus Mantovani – Our Founder
Don Bosco Beatitudes has been the transforming force of Vyasarpadi. It has been a part of its history ever since it was a vast slum area with poverty, disease, and crime. The older generation remember with love how this institution took its first steps as the meeting place that served cheese and biscuits for the young and the old and even encouraged their football talent!
It all began with Rev. Fr. Orpheus Mantovani, a zealous Salesian priest from Italy who had a vision of helping the poorest of the poor in Chennai (known as Madras at that time). His vision came true when the then Salesian Archbishop, Louis Mathias of Madras, Mylapore, gave him permission to survey Vyasarpadi for a new mission. He was moved by the poverty of the people and the pitiful condition of the lepers. After studying the place, in 1964, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, he purchased a land that was a dumping ground for cinders. He converted this land into a living space. The area was over crowded with the evacuated slum and pavement dwellers from the city and with 20,000 Indians repatriated from Burma. The work was officially inaugurated on 2nd Feb.1965. Eventually the lepers were shifted to their new home in Pope John’s Garden which is 8 kms away from the Centre.
The small sapling that Fr. Mantovani planted and nurtured between 1964-1965 has grown into a mighty tree, now called ‘The Beatitudes Social Welfare Centre’ (BSWC), that provides food, shelter, education, training, job opportunities, entertainment, sporting facilities, and the gift of faith to orphaned and semi-orphaned children, juvenile children, poor and unemployed youth and adults, women from poor economic backgrounds, poor slum dwellers, and abandoned elderly people. It is a parish, a playground, a school and above all else a home, thus completely realizing Don Bosco’s dream.
This center is sustained solely by Divine Providence, which is seen through the contribution of generous people from different parts of the world. Our motto, “No one has the right to be happy alone”, were the inspiring words of Rev. Fr. Francis Schlooz, a great missionary and lover of the poor, who was the Director of Don Bosco Beatitudes for 13 years after Fr. Mantovani’s sudden demise on 19th May 1967. This spirit of charity and compassion is what sustains this institution. Help is given to every one irrespective of caste or creed. Most of the young and old of Vyasarpadi will remember the Beatitudes as a place that has given them food, education and training in sporting activities.