The International Congress on Salesian Pedagogy ended last Saturday 21 March. The Rector Major thanked the organizers and speakers for giving us a taste of “the flavour of the Salesian educational system in the different social and cultural contexts”. The participants renewed their commitment to preserve and live the treasure of the preventive system inherited from Don Bosco.
by Gian Francesco Romano
After the talks on the previous days and the final working session on Saturday morning at the Salesianum in Rome, the final act of the International Conference was the Mass presided over by the Rector Major, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime. In his homily he pulled together the different strands of this important event in the Year of the Bicentenary of the birth of Don Bosco.
Taking a cue from the liturgy of the day and the reading from Jeremiah, he stressed that while the spirit of the world tends to knock the righteous, members of the Salesian Family by vocation are called to be like farmers who prepare the ground and help to raise life. “We are guardians of life that grows!” he said.
The Rector Major then looked at Don Bosco, pointing him out as a model for educators today and for the whole Salesian Family. He was deeply human, and deeply a man of God.
He went on to say that “our education system is essentially about evangelization”. In some contexts, it may not be possible to speak explicitly about Jesus, but we must always bear witness by our lives, with the values of the Gospel and our total donation of self. And, where it is possible, we evangelize by proclaiming Jesus “explicitly and with the strength of people who love the Lord of Life, the one who was crucified and has risen for us.”
He also stressed the importance of being with young people and for young people, “as sign, expression and sacrament of God’s love that gives us a name, a history, a mission and never forgets who we are” unlike many others in the world who want young people to lose their identity.
The Rector Major ended with two quotations. One is from Alberto Caviglia who, in the 1930s, defined the Preventive System of Don Bosco as “kindness raised to a system”. The other is from Pere Duvallet at the European Conference on the Salesian Educational System of Don Bosco in 1974, when he said about the Preventive System: “The Lord has entrusted to you a pedagogy in which respect for the young person’s greatness and his fragility, and his dignity as a child of God is paramount. Preserve it, renew it, enrich it with all the latest discoveries, adapt it to the needs of these poor creatures and the difficulties they face, difficulties Don Bosco could not have known. But for goodness sake keep it! Change everything, lose even your houses if necessary, but preserve this treasure.”