In his missionary appeal last December 8, the Rector Major told us: “There are presences of the Congregation that we can no longer support because in some countries of the five continents we do not have Salesians … I think especially of the young people who are waiting for us in the context of Project Europe, the Middle East, in countries with a Muslim-majority, the islands of Oceania, in South Sudan, Mongolia, Siberia, Cambodia and Malaysia, as well as among young migrants in the Americas … and in many other places!”
Interesting. We seem to be listening to Don Bosco himself. We seem to see him in his office-room at Valdocco, on the upper floor, turning the globe round and round, and looking at all the places on earth where he wanted to send his children. We could take each of these nations and these youth missionary frontiers and (1) pray for them, (2) seek information about them, (3) make them known. In this way neither indifference nor ignorance will paralyze us.
“Don Bosco is alive”, Don Ángel repeats this to us. He is very much alive, especially he wishes to keep alive the missionary spirit in each of his children.
Fr. Guillermo Basañes SDB
Councillor for the Missions
“The voice of Blessed Óscar Romero continues to resonate today to remind us that the Church, a convocation of brothers around their Lord, is the family of God, in which there should be no division. Faith in Jesus Christ, when correctly understood and its final consequences accepted, generates communities that build peace and solidarity. This is what the Church in El Salvador is called to today, in America and in the whole world: to be rich in mercy and to become a leaven of reconciliation for society.
“Archbishop Romero invites us to good sense and reflection, to respect for life and harmony. It is necessary to renounce “the violence of the sword, of hate” and to live “the violence of love, that left Christ nailed to the Cross, that makes each one of us overcome selfishness and so that there be no more such cruel inequality between us”. He knew how to see and he experienced in his own flesh “the selfishness that hides itself in those who do not wish to give up what is theirs for the benefit of others”. And, with the heart of a father, he would worry about the “poor majority”, asking the powerful to convert “weapons into sickles for work”.
“May those who hold Archbishop Romero as a friend of faith, those who invoke him as protector and intercessor, those who admire his image, find in him the strength and courage to build the Kingdom of God, to commit to a more equal and dignified social order.”
(letter on the occasion of the beatification of Msgr. Romero, 23 May 2015)
When I came to know the Salesians the whole Congregation was full of missionary fervour not only because of Project Africa, but also because Fr. Viganò had asked every Province to take up a mission territory. Many Salesians of my Province had already gone as missionaries. My heart was restless because I also felt that inner call to leave behind familiar shores and set my heart upon the deep.
When my missionary application was accepted my initial joy quickly turned to dis-belief when I realised that I was assigned to Papua New Guinea! “Could I survive in such a tough place?” My fear and anxieties soon became a firm resolve to learn well the language and culture of ‘my people’! Together with 4 other Salesians we started a new presence in the capital. Don Bosco was practically unknown yet in the country. Pioneering was tough. We had to improvise everything. But those years were full of initiatives, enthusiasm and joy. After my ordination I was sent back to this work. This time we worked to form our local lay collaborators. I also started the first group of Salesian Cooperators and the ADMA. I could literally see before my eyes the Salesian charism taking root.
Then, one day, the Provincial informed me that the Bishops’ Conference was asking me to be the Director of the national Liturgical-Catechetical Institute. I initially refused this totally new field for me. I was not sure I wanted to walk past horizons that I know! Yet, again, I was restless. I felt a stirring deep within to go beyond the fears which were closing me in! Looking back, I realised that accompanying the work of evangelisation of the 23 dioceses widened my ecclesial and missionary horizons!
Later, while I was working on my thesis in Rome, out of the blue, I received a call from the Councillor for the Mis-sions asking me to be part of the Missions Sector at the Generalate. This time I was deeply troubled. But I also realised that the Lord was inviting me to get out of the fortress of my mind, and learn again to trust in Him and set out once more. I accepted only after an agonising discernment. Now I am grateful for the worldwide perspective I have of the Congregation, after meeting missionaries in 5 continents and often in difficult situations.
I have already started preparing to conclude my service in the Missions Sector. Then one morning the Rector Major called me to his office and asked me to be the Superior of the new Vice Province of Papua New Guinea-Solomon Islands. While he was explaining to me his choice, my mind was clouded with questions and doubts. But I also felt an inner voice whispering to me, to dare and set out one more time!
Hence, to me being a missionary is living in a permanent state of restlessness, always ready to dare the improbable so that we may learn to trust the Lord, who invites us to constantly set our hearts upon the deep!
Fr. Alfred Maravilla SDB
Filipino, missionary in Papua New Guinea
Venerable José Vandor (1909-1979), Hungarian missionary in Cuba, always paid much attention to the training of young apprentices especially those coming from poor families for whom he did not hesitate to ask for help: “This training centre has as its purpose the technical and practical formation of apprentices. Our students are mostly children of peasant or average families and among them there is a significant number of orphans”.
That Salesians may continue to be signs of faith and hope among the persecuted Christians of the Middle East.
The Salesians continue to be present in sensitive places of conflict, such as Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Iran, Israel, Turkey and Lebanon. Although these are places with ancient and deep Christian roots, the disciples of Christ are still considered foreigners. The Salesians through their mission as educators and witnesses of Christ, make the discriminated and persecuted Christians in Islamic context feel the affection, solidarity, communion and faith of the Universal Church.
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