On 28th June, 1978, at the invitation of Rt. Rev. John Mulagada, Bishop of Eluru diocese, two salesians, Fr. ChackoTthattil and Fr. Johnson Moyalan, arrived at the Pallivela mission centre which had been separated from the Amalapuram mission in 1971. Pallivela mission had an area of 400 sq. km. The parish area comprised of two revenue taluks of Kothapeta and Razole.
On 21st June, 1979, Don Bosco Gnana Bhavan, a small boarding was started for the poor children of the parish. Through these, students and their families, more contact was possible for evangelisation work. The students in the boarding attended the local school. Within three years of their arrival, the number of Christian communities increased from twenty to thirty seven. In 1981, Razole area was separated and it was erected as a new parish.
In September 1981, with the purpose of further growth and expansion of the mission, the Parish headquarters was shifted to Ravulapalem, a small town situated on the future high way between Vijayawada and Kakinada. In July 1981, at the request of the local people, an English Medium School was started at Ravulapalem. After shifting the boarding to Ravulapalem, due to several reasons, the students were not sent to the public schools. Instead, regular classes were conducted in Telugu Medium to prepare them for VII and X class public examinations privately.
On 8th August, 1981, two missionary sisters of Mary Help of Christians, Srs. Alma and Mary Arokia, arrived at the Mission to help in the mission work. In 1984, Rt. Rev. Bp. John Mulagada, Bishop of Eluru, bifurcated Pallivela Parish again – this led to some controversies. Ravulapalem parish then consisted of two mandals of Ravulapalem and Atreyapuram with 26 villages. At the time of division, there were 6 Catholic communities, and 253 Catholic families. The total catholic population was 759. Of these 98% of these belonged to scheduled castes.
In 1986, the house was canonically erected and in 1989, Fr. Sebastian Muthalakuzhiyil, who was till then in-charge of the community was appointed as the first Rector of the house. In 1991, it was decided to absorb the boarders into the English medium school to give them better opportunities. This would also reduce the financial burden on the house.
In 1983, the building for the sisters and the girls was completed. On 19th November 1987, the new construction for the salesians and the boys was blessed. On 22nd August 1992, the newly constructed church was blessed and dedicated to St. John Bosco. In August 1986, after the severe floods in the Godavari, the Salesians at Ravulapalem with the help of some volunteers, organized relief and rehabilitation works for the flood victims. As a follow up programme, a social work department was set up. In 1988, it was registered as PARA (Peoples’ Action for Rural Awakening).
The primary scope of the Ravulapalem Mission is evangelization. Considering the fact that the vast majority are poor and less fortunate, the new perspective on evangelization as laid down by the teaching of the Church, forms the basis for the various activities of the Parish. Boarding school is for boys and girls (Catholics and Catechumens). The English Medium school was started for the purpose of supporting the mission work financially and for establishing contacts with the neighbourhood. PARA concretizes the social action.
The history of PARA is inter-twined with the history of Don Bosco Mission, Ravulapalem. From the very beginning of the mission, the founding members guided by the first director, Fr. Chacko Thattil, had been engaged, even if only in a non-structured manner, in the economic development and the social upliftment of the people, the mission was accompanying.
Several developmental activities benefiting especially the fishing community at Bobbarlanka and the agricultural labourers at large had been undertaken. In the wake of the ravaging Godavari floods of August 1986, Fr. M.T. Sebastian, along with Fr. M.C. Abraham, Fr. T.D. John and Fr. Jose Alappat, launched systematic relief and rehabilitation programme under the twin banners of Don Bosco welfare centre and Don Bosco health centre.
As a follow up action of the flood relief programme it was decided along with the house council that a society would be registered to carry out the social action initiative of Don Bosco Mission. This initiative self mandated a shift in emphasis from social welfare to social justice. To reflect this shift of emphasis the society was to be named PARA and it was registered in September 1988. Fr. Thomas Pallithanam was made the first Director. In Telugu, PARA means Spade, which is the symbol of livelihood of the marginalized, not only of the Parish but of the whole region. Over the years, there have also been other shifts of emphasis. Particularly important was the shift from a purely class perspective to caste and gender perspective in its work of emancipation.
PARA initially operated from the Don Bosco campus and limited its activities to the Parish. Later, as the activities and area of operation increased, the office was shifted to rented premises in the town. The office was shifted back to Don Bosco Campus when more space became available there.
In 1995, land was acquired for PARA and an office cum training centre named Ekalavya was inaugurated and dedicated to the oppressed Bahujana of the area, in September 1996 by Fr. Provoost of COMIDE. The name Ekalavya reflects the “am hares” and “anawim” theme of the Bible and helps symbolize the people of concern. The same year, Fr. P.G. Francis was appointd the Assistant Director of PARA.
In 1990, PARA began to be funded by Bread for the World for its regular programmes. In 1993 PARA initiated the Guntur initiative (GI) and the East Godavari Initiative (EGI) with support from BFW. Since 1997 EGI and GI have been expanded and new initiatives started in Cuddapah, Krishna and Nalgonda under the banner – in secular terms – Dalit Bahujan Front and in our own parlance – lay project. Also in 1997 PARA has taken up the responsibility of identifying, animating, resources supporting and accompanying 5 organizations in Krishna and 5 others in West Godavari.
a) To promote the rights and entitlements of the poor agricultural labourers through setting up of rights bodies;
b) to protect and promote human rights especially of the Dalit Bahujans;
c) to set up viable cooperatives for savings and credit and entrepreneurial development and empowerment of women;
d) to enhance access to primary universal education to child labourers and school dropouts;
e) to set up Community Based Rehabilitation for the Differently Abled People;
f) to strive for the eradication of Manual Scavenging ;
g) to revive and rejuvenate traditional culture and evolve an alternate culture by promoting folk arts and the values that permeate folk art;
h) to reach out to the subaltern youth for their own empowerment.
DON BOSCO MISSION
RAVULAPALEM – 533 238
EAST GODAVARI DT.
(08855) 25 54 88 – House
(08855) 25 51 30 – School
(08855) 25 50 10 – PARA
(08855) 25 65 01 – Parish Priest