Don Chavez: “I am leaving the congregation in a healthy state.”

On the 17 February, the Rector Major, Fr Pascual Chávez, gave the traditional Good Night to the Salesians of the Generalate. It was a very special moment, one of the last community meetings between Fr Chávez, as the Rector Major, and the confreres of the house.

PascualChavesThe Rector Major began by recalling the figure of Fr Juan Edmundo Vecchi. While he was Rector Major, Fr Chávez held the position of Regional Councillor for the Inter-American region. He said that for Fr Vecchi the major challenge was fraternity in the Salesian communities. The Rector should be regarded as Don Bosco, a father who leads and forms the members of the community.

The situation today is that there are many Salesian communities but the overall number of Salesians is decreasing. This means that the communities often have a reduced number of confreres, and it makes it difficult to achieve a high quality of Salesian community life. Only with  a high quality of community life, said the Rector Major, can we give effective living witness to young people. “Fr Vecchi was convinced that the congregation could achieve a profound renewal only if the life of the community was transformed. Today, twelve years later, I say that the big challenge is the community.

Fr Chavez went on to say that the second major challenge for the Congregation is a return to youth. He pointed out that nowadays the Salesian Congregation is engaged in many works on behalf of the young: schools, training centres, oratories … but this is not enough. Referring to the appeal of Pope Francis to go on mission, and to go out, Fr Chávez said: “If we are happy with the thousands of young people who attend our works and we think we know all about young people, we are  wrong. The big challenge is to reach those outside, to really get to them, to understand their culture, their language, their needs and expectations. Otherwise we remain closed in our works, dying of asphyxiation … For this reason,  we must be present also in the Digital Continent.”

The third area for reflection proposed by the Rector Major is that of Salesian formation. He acknowledged that at this stage of our history, formation needs to be rethought. In the past, Salesians lived their vocation in very structured communities, which made it easier for the older confreres to pass on the meaning of Salesian religious life to younger members. Today, however, we need to focus on a very strong formation. Every Salesian must take responsibility for his vocation, working personally, sometimes alone, on his relationship with God. “I think the grace of unity continues to be a major challenge for us. This is expressed in article 11 of our Constitutions which says we are to be ‘contemplatives in action’, and again in article 21 when it speaks about Don Bosco’s ‘splendid blending of nature and grace’.”

The Rector Major thanked the members of the community for accompanying him faithfully in his service as Rector Major over the past twelve years. He concluded by saying: “I am leaving the congregation in a healthy state.”

First Published by InfoANS