GC27: Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony – 1

The solemn opening ceremony of the General Chapter of the Salesian Congregation took place on the morning of 3 March in the presence of a large number of religious and ecclesiastical authorities. In his opening message, the Rector Major, Fr Pascual Chávez, declared: “our concern is not for the future of the congregation, as if it were a question of survival, but our ability to act as prophets.”

03-03-2014-GC27-OpeningCeremony1The first act consisted in the liturgy to invoke the Holy Spirit. The Gospel was enthroned, the  passage Jn 21, 20.22-24  was read and the article of the Constitutions which describes the General Chapter was recited. The entire Assembly joined in a prayer to Don Bosco and the Veni Creator Spiritus was sung.

Fr Chávez then gave the keynote address. In it he said: “In this Chapter the Congregation is called to renew itself by returning to the freshness of our origins, the missionary zeal of the early years, the dynamism of youth and the holiness of maturity.” We are united but “the unity of the congregation does not mean uniformity.”

“It is evident, therefore, that the Chapter should open the door to a discussion that takes account of all these elements. All are free to express their thoughts about the task facing the Congregation today and the most urgent challenges. At the same time, all proposals must be in the line and spirit of the Gospel, in fidelity to what is indicated by the Constitutions.”

“Of course, rules and traditions, which are purely accidental, may change, but not every change means progress. We must discern whether the changes we make really serve to reaffirm our identity, to strengthen our unity and to promote the vitality and holiness of the Congregation.”

Every chapter is an important event that plans the next six-year term for  the congregation. “But,” Fr Chávez said, “GC27 is pointing us towards something new and unusual. It calls for urgency in the radical approach of the Gospel. We are called to go back to basics, to be a poor Congregation for the poor, and to draw inspiration from the apostolic zeal of Don Bosco.”

Before concluding, the Rector Major thanked the Council members for their loyal, generous and competent collaboration and invited the assembly to an active participation: “I invite all of you, dear Confreres, to speak your minds but also to open your hearts to the Spirit, the great interior Teacher who always guides us towards the truth and the fullness of life.”

Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, then addressed the Assembly. He took as his starting point the letter of convocation of the Rector Major Fr Chávez which posed the question: “what kind of consecrated life is necessary and relevant in today’s world?” The Cardinal summed up his answer in the expression: living the prophecy of communion and fraternity.

This means sequela Christi, the following of Christ, by individual confreres and by Communities, and, to paraphrase St. Teresa of Avila, building on both the interior castle and the outer castle to go to God together with our brothers and sisters.

A spirituality of Communion on the model of the Trinity is the paradigm for today’s reality in which we are called to be builders of community as well as beneficiaries. It means living every day the family spiritcharacteristic of the educational andspiritual life of Don Bosco.

Opening Ceremony – 2

The General Chapter of the Salesian Congregation is an event which concerns not only the Salesians of Don Bosco. The opening ceremony was attended by members of the Roman Curia, bishops of various dioceses and leaders and representatives of almost all the groups of the Salesian Family.

03-03-2014-GC27-OpeningCeremony5All the guests were warmly welcomed by the Rector Major, Fr Pascual Chávez, at the beginning of his speech. Their presence was not just an act, but an expression of sincere friendship. Many of the representatives of the various religious families came to thank Fr Chávez at the end of his twelve years as Rector Major.

Fr Chávez mentioned, in particular, the presence of Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, four Salesian Cardinals Bertone, Farina, Rodríguez Maradiaga and Ezzati, Bishop Gino Reali of the diocese of Porto-Santa Rufina (in which the Generalate is located), of Salesian Past Pupil, Bishop Brugnaro and of Mother Yvonne Reungoat.

After the address of the Rector Major and the intervention of Cardinal Braz de Aviz, some of the other guests spoke. The first was Cardinal Bertone, representing the Salesian Bishops and Cardinals. He spoke of “their unwavering attachment to the Salesian charism, their closeness, even physical, to many Salesian works in the world, and their fraternal passion for the anxieties and joys of the youth ministry in the various countries.”

Next to speak was Mother Reungoat, Superior of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, who pointed to  the similarity of views between the two Salesian Congregations: “In our twenty-third General Chapter which will take place from September to November 2014, the preparatory documents emphasize the theme of family as the fulcrum of our ministry with young people. The importance of the home and the family are among the greatest insights of Don Bosco. Our prophecy begins there. (…) It is a spirit that bears witness to fraternity, joy in our vocation and enthusiasm for the mission.”

The World Coordinator of the Salesian Cooperators then spoke, emphasizing the common elements of the different groups within the Salesian Family. She said to the Salesians: “On our common path to holiness your presence at our side will become increasingly important, with the spiritual accompaniment you offer to sustain us in our ongoing formation and our growth in holiness, in our different roles.”

03-03-2014-GC27-OpeningCeremony6The Central Leader of the  Don Bosco Volunteers also repeated, on behalf of the whole Salesian Family, their sense of gratitude to Fr Chávez. She said that in his twelve years as Rector Major, “there has been a growing  awareness of this great spiritual and charismatic community that gives the Church and the world an original contribution in educational and pastoral ministry.”

At 13:05 local time, when all the contributions were finished, Fr Francis Cereda, Moderator of GC27 declared: “In accordance with the General Regulations, with the approval of and on behalf of the President Fr Pascual Chávez, asking God’s help, through the mediation of the Lord Jesus, with the light of the Holy Spirit and through the intercession of Mary Help of Christians, I declare the twenty-seventh General Chapter of the Society of St. Francis de Sales open.”

First Published by InfoANS