On 8thof December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Salesian Province of Ireland began a year-long centenary celebration of the presence of the Salesian mission in Ireland.
The opening ceremony had two parts: the holy Eucharist and a Salesian family gathering. The mass that was scheduled for 3pm in the afternoon was largely attended by different members of the Salesian Family. The was a visible intergenerational presence of young and old, present and past pupils of the different Salesian institutions. The college church was filled to capacity and the liturgy was lively animated by a choir and the students from the Salesian Secondary School showing a true sense of family and unity of different vocations in the Salesian Congregation.
The symbol of 5 lighted candles representing different stages and intentions of the Church in Ireland was presented by some delegates and animated by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. In the background, and as an accompanying symbol for the year, was the statute of the blessed Virgin Mary who inspired don Bosco and directed him in his work. In his homily, the Provincial, Fr Eunan McDonnell SDB, explained that Mary still continues to accompany us today and it may take a while before we fully understand her very powerful role in shaping the congregation and the Church at this time; just as Don Bosco did towards the end of his life.
The many number of Salesian priests and other invited priests concelebrating at the eucharist expressed the ongoing historical journey between the congregation and the local church especially in the area of education and faith formation. The younger priests and clerics serving at the mass from different parts of the world reflected the missionary dimension of the Salesian congregation and the growth of the years to come. The song to Don Bosco title ‘Here is a Man’ by Fr Hugh O’Donnell was sung with delight as it marked its 30thyear and has become a favourite school song. The provincial also acknowledged the contribution of the Salesian brother David O’Hara won the Irish national award on his contribution to youth work at the end of the Mass.
The second part of the celebration was a moment of felicitation, sharing a meal and gathering in the college hall with highlights of Salesian works digitally displayed on the screen. There was also the release of a book on pastoral reflections titled ‘Just Glimpses’ by Fr John Horan SDB which was presented a complementary gift to all. The 100 years (1919-2019) celebrations continues throughout the year 2019.