It is not easy to interpret the statistical data of an international congregation committed to education like the Salesians. The figures need to be viewed in context, highlighting the Gospel horizon in which we work and the timing. The statistics cannot always be evaluated from a merely human point of view.
The changes in the number of Salesians over the past eighteen years – from GC24 to today, the period under review by the chapter members – need to be examined from many different aspects and in several contexts, geographical, historical, social and cultural.
Certainly some people, out of curiosity, may find it interesting to check the increase in the number of confreres who have died, the fact that the number of novices remains largely unchanged at just under 500, the slight but steady increase in the number of Salesian Bishops (122 at present).
The variations in the geographical context are due to changes in some regions and the creation of new jurisdictions. In five regions the number of Salesians is decreasing, but in the other three (Africa-Madagascar, East Asia-Oceania and South Asia) the number is on the increase.
Over the past eighteen years, the number of countries where the congregation is present has grown from 126 to 132. At present, the number of canonically erected communities stands at just over 1,800.
It is also interesting to note the changes in the type of work in which we are engaged. The number of schools and vocational training centres has increased, the number of hostels or boarding schools remains constant, and there is an increase also in activities geared towards vocation promotion and accompaniment.
There has been a significant increase in the area of social development and works to assist young people who are marginalized. These include projects for street children, homes for young people at risk, the social and pastoral care of migrants, dispensaries, clinics, and centres for social promotion. Overall the number of such works has nearly doubled – from 564 to 1168 in eighteen years.
Our missionary commitment continues: in the last six expeditions 206 missionaries were sent from 56 provinces.
Despite the decline in the number of consecrated Salesians, the overall number of works and communities has not diminished. In every sector there has been an increase in the number of lay people who are members of the Salesian Family, and also consecrated religious from other congregations.
The congregation is in continuous evolution and the Chapter members have access to the overall statistics, by region and province, and the changes that have occurred since GC25 and GC26. These add up a picture to be interpreted wisely for a better understanding of the situation of the congregation.
First Published by InfoANS