Brian Oswald mhm
New Mill Hill Formation House in Pune, India
Discretion is the better part of valour, so the Shakespearean saying goes. On this the 400th hundred anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, I thought it would be a good idea to throw in at least one of his quotes in every article I write this year. This phrase was followed to a tee by the previous general council: no unnecessary risks were to be taken in building a new formation house here in Pune, especially if it were found to be non-viable and impractical.
Four years on from our initial arrival in Pune, we now have a new formation house. The official inauguration took place on the 17th March of this current year. The two main celebrants at the mass of blessing were Bishop Thomas Dabre and Fr Jimmy Lindero, representing the General Council. The inauguration was the climax of a long 4 year journey, taking many unexpected twists and turns. Our first formation house was in a narrow lane, bang in the middle of what was meant to be a residential area: the building next to ours was a mosque, carefully hidden behind some two storey residential houses. During Ramadan, the students and formators would be kept awake until 4 in the morning as the Koran was recited at full volume through loud speakers. The students would then have to keep awake for the rest of the day for their theology exams at the JDV. Even though the students were all 1st theology students, there were 5 of them sharing one large room, and two sharing a smaller room. I had my own room on the ground floor, sharing my toilet and shower with the students. After spending 6 months in this house, we eventually moved into a 3 storey block of flats named Vinsel Heights.
It felt like moving into a palace. The students each had individual rooms, while the formators had their own apartments. In a strange turn of events, this was found to be a suitable accommodation for all parties concerned. The house could comfortably accommodate up to 12 people, and also one visitor. But it was found to be too small for our formation needs, especially as the number of students entering into 2nd cycle was increasing. Coupled with this were the following inconveniences: the building was situated in the centre of an industrial estate: on one side was a paint factory, emitting noxious fumes; in the front, there was a garbage dump, which was set alight on a daily basis, giving off smoke each day. And finally, to cap it all, there was a large construction site behind our building, where large quantities of dust came to settle into our rooms. There was not much respite from the considerable volumes of air pollution from these three sites during our 3 year stay there.
One date stands out for me in the process of planning for the building of a new formation house: on the 1st April 2014, Tony Chantry came on a 2 day visitation to Pune to confirm – or not confirm- the building of a new formation house. After meeting with JDV administration staff – the university where our students study for their theology degree- and various other parties, Tony drew up a final report about the viability of building a new formation house in Pune. At the following GC meeting, the general council members met to discuss the report: the project was given the green light and funds were to be made available to start the project. It was a remarkable decision made in spite of the many risks involved!
General Councillor, Jimmy Lindero mhm, cutting the cake at the official opening
The laying of the foundation stone took place on the 10th November that year. The digging of the foundations started one week later. Sixteen months later, I moved into the building. After the confined space of Vinsel Heights, there were masses of it in our new house. So what are some of the advantages of having and living in our new formation house, officially named “Mill Hill House”? The dining room is very spacious, and can be used eat in informally: 4 to a table, rather like a college canteen. There is also plenty of kitchen storage space. The chapel really is a chapel: it has a proper crucifix, tabernacle, altar and lectern. It also has sound proof windows, so that we can sing early in the morning without disturbing our neighbours. There are enough student rooms to accommodate 22 students, without sharing; and 28 with sharing. Finally, most of our electricity is powered by solar power; and all our hot water supply is powered by thermal, solar-power. We are currently in the process of building two compost heaps, so that all our biodegradable waste can be made into compost. So we have made big efforts to go green. What more one can add about the new building except that at the end of this long, sometimes arduous formation journey here in Pune, I hope that I can confidently say that All’s well that ends well!
Brian Oswald mhm