23/10/2012 15:34

Brother Mario Fardin PIME: a builder of skills and an inspiration for the Year of Faith

By Zen de Guzman-Alaluku

“I believe that a missionary like him will be an inspiration for the Year of Faith”, says Alotau Bishop Rolando Santos, CM about  Brother Mario Fardin, PIME who has spent 5 years of his missionary life in Italy, 25 in Bangladesh, and 20 in Papua New Guinea. 

If Brother Mario had his way, you wouldn’t be reading about him, or toasting him for his achievements in his fifty years of missionary work as a PIME lay brother, the last twenty of which were spent in Milne Bay. Not for him the drums and the dancing, public tributes and emotional farewells: please, no fuss or fanfare. “Whatever I did - he said - was the result of my Society’s decision, not of my own will”.

He described it as a “crazy but holy idea”. In 1992 PIME decided to set up a technical training centre that would equip Grade 6 and Grade 8 school leaver boys with productive skills. The chosen site was Watuluma on Goodenough Island, where a hospital had been built and a high school was under construction.

The task was given to Brother Mario, a trained mechanic and carpenter. He had done the same thing in Bangladesh, but the second time around was not easier. What he had to begin with was a small tool shed hidden by tall grass. With funding from Italian benefactors, however, classrooms, fully equipped workshops and dormitories were built and a curriculum modeled on the Don Bosco system was put in place. Students were given both theory and practical work and were trained in motor mechanics, carpentry, electrical work and electronics. By the time they left they could operate machines, repair equipment and build a house from foundation to the roof. “And we followed them from 6am to 9pm.”

Twenty years since it opened, hundreds of graduates have gone through its doors, many of them now working or running their own businesses. Brother Mario proudly said that the Technical Training Centre (he always refused to call it “Vocational”) was “one of the most useful things we did.”

Last month Brother Mario has gone back to Italy, the homeland he had been mostly away from since he was 25. Now 75, he has been appointed Director of Formation in Milan with the task of mentoring intending new lay missionaries: PIME Brothers, volunteers and families. Younger Bro. Roberto Valenti PIME now takes care of the boys and their future in Goodenough Island.

(CBC Communications 20121023 – giorgiolicini@yahoo.com)