This month we pray with missionary eyes gazing towards South America, like Don Bosco from Valdocco, looking towards the people of Patagonia; like our first missionaries in 1875 from the port of Genoa gazing southwards. But what was in the mind of these Salesian missionaries, what was in their souls? Pope Francis replied with the words of his message for World Mission Sunday 2015: “mission is passion for Jesus Christ and at the same time a passion for the people.” And precisely this is what we find in the heart of Don Bosco and his good missionaries: passion for Jesus Christ and love for people, for young people. How can I know if the Lord is calling me to mission ad gentes? The first “test” is to see what is the “temperature” of my passion for Jesus Christ and for His loved ones!
Fr. Guillermo Basañes SDB
Councillor for the Missions
A year after the conclusion of the 27th General Chapter, the Sector for the Missions has published some materials for reflection in provinces and communities. The document entitled “A Missionary Re-Reading of GC27” is short but rich in missiology. It tries to bring together everything in GC27 that refers to the missions and to help Salesians to live their consecrated life in “a permanent state of mission”(EG 25).
This approach, the document says, calls on us to overcome self-centredness and lack of missionary daring. This is the missionary spirit that drives us to move from the tendency of self-preservation to a “pastoral conversion” and to live our faith and religious consecration with joy and authenticity.
It hopes for an effective collaboration with the Sectors for Social Communication, Youth Ministry and Formation to rediscover the importance and relevance of Initial Proclamation in all pastoral activities. It points out that this initial proclamation is the key that can shed more light on the strategies in accompanying young people in their search for knowledge and encounter with Christ. It encourages a Salesian missionary presence in the digital environment and among immigrants and refugees. It calls on Salesians to rediscover the Preventive System as a way of evangelising and highlights the relationship between education and evangelisation.
The document also stresses that prayer and sacrifice, especially by sick and elderly Salesians, are a spiritual force that strengthens the commitment and missionary activity of the entire congregation. In the introduction the Councillor for the Missions, Fr. Guillermo Basañes, writes: “If taken seriously, the questions offered at the end of this booklet, and many other questions that will certainly arise in the soul of the confreres and communities, can cause a real revolution in our houses and works!”
The document was sent to all the provinces last April, and the response was very positive: “It is a very useful tool in drawing attention to the missionary content of the final document of GC27,” says Fr. Andrew Fung, Vice-Provincial of the Province of China, based in Hong Kong. Fr. François Dufour, Provincial in Southern Africa, considers it “a useful tool”. Fr. Gildasio dos Santos, Provincial of Campo Grande, Brazil wrote: “This morning, in my meditation, I read the document ‘A Missionary Re-Reading of GC27’ with interest and joy. I found it a short text, consistent and clear, written with conviction and missionary zeal!”
When I was a child my parents used to take me to church every Sunday to participate in the the Eucharistic celebration. After the Mass we would meet our parish priest who was a missionary priest. He taught us how to sing, dance and
pray. Once a month he would visit and celebrate Mass in our village. As a good missionary priest, he was very diligent in visiting his people in remote areas, very kind and generous with them. Since I was a child I met many European missionary priests from other congregations working in our parish. But my missionary vocation became stronger when I entered the Salesian Society. The testimony of the life and holiness of the Salesian missionaries working in my country strengthened my Salesian missionary vocation. Their witness of faith and concern for the poor and simple youth made me dream that someday I could be a missionary priest like them.
Today many people say that Indonesia needs missionaries because there are many Indonesians who have not yet heard the Good News nor know Jesus. Well, when I told my parents I wanted to be a missionary, they were surprised and somewhat sad. My mother told me: “Why do you go so far, whereas here we lack missionaries? But if it is God’s will and it is your vocation, go and do not be afraid, we will always support you with our prayers.” I am very grateful to my Salesian formators who have accompanied me in my missionary vocation. Since we in Indonesia have received a lot from missionaries, we ought to share the fruits, even in a small way. “What you received freely, give freely” (Mt 10,18). I think we should be witnesses with joy to the young and love Christ and others without borders. After my discernment, I said “yes” surrendering myself completely to mission ad gentes and ad vitam. Then the Rector Major, Fr Pascual Chávez, sent me to Paraguay.
As a missionary I had to learn not only Spanish, a language that was completely unknown to me, but also Guarani, the two languages spoken by most Paraguayans. I also experienced “culture shock” because I had to adapt to a new culture and traditions which are very rich yet different from my own. I sometimes feel nostalgia for Indonesian food, friends and family. But as a challenge and with patience, little by little, I’m learning the country’s history, and try to accept and love people and their cultures. Undoubtedly contact with people from other cultures brings light to my own unquestioned beliefs, unlearn my prejudices and improve my self knowledge. All these help me to grow in my religious and missionary vocation.
I feel happy and joyful in living Salesian missionary life through prayer, work, sacrifice and the witness of life in the community, the accompaniment of my Salesian confreres and the joy of young people who are part of my life. So I am more motivated to follow Jesus Christ and to help the poor and needy youth like Don Bosco. To the Salesians who want to be missionaries I say: we are called to share the love of Christ to others especially the neediest and poorest youth. God calls us to proclaim the Good News. Do not be afraid to be missionaries. Sincerely, with the charism of Don Bosco, say: “Here am I, send me” (Is 6,8).
Cl. Agustinus Jou Poma
Indonesian, missionary in Paraguay
In the life of Venerable Fr. Rudolf Komorek (1890-1949), whose 125th birthday we celebrate this year (11 August 1890), among all virtues what was outstanding was that of penance. He was a Polish Salesian missionary in Brazil who was called “Holy Father” for his virtuous life. Fr. Rudolf felt the attraction for life, almost like a personal response to a mysterious and divine inspiration. “The Superiors urged him to mitigate the rigour of his penance due to his health, even though they were convinced that the inspiration of the Spirit guided him, like the Cure of Ars and Benedict Labre, whom the Servant of God loved to remember”.
For the Social Commitment of Salesians in America South Cone
That Salesians of America South Cone learn to dialogue with culture and challenge the social reality in which they live in.
GC 27 asks us to put ourselves into the attitude of “listening” to life, to the situations, to the expectations of the world especially young people because God speaks to us through life, people, events and history. We pray that Salesians learn to question themselves in order to understand the multiple social realities of the region and understand God’s message as missionary disciples in a “Church which goes forth”.