Bicentenary of Saint John Bosco's birth

Dear Members and friends of the Family of Don Bosco,

Warm greetings to each one as with this joint letter we officially launch the year-long bicentenary celebrations of Don Bosco’s birth in our part of the Salesian world.

In the press conference held in Rome earlier this year, our Congregation Leaders, Mother Yvonne and Don Chávez, expressed great hopes for this significant anniversary in the history of our Salesian Family, the culmination of three years of intense preparation. For them the bicentenary year is not a nostalgic looking back at the past nor a purely parochial event but an opportunity to renew again our commitment to young people as they face the challenges of life. It is a fresh call to the entire Salesian Family to engage in our mission with and for young people.

logo_2015_04Our prayer and hope for this special year is captured and expressed in a beautiful and inclusive way in the Strenna or motto offered to the Salesian world this year. It is an open invitation to all of us who share or identify with the Salesian spirit:
“Draw on the spiritual experience of Don Bosco in order to walk in holiness according to our specific vocation”.
We celebrate and rejoice in the diversity of gifts within the Salesian Family, to be used for the good of and with young people.

This year will be marked by different events at local and national level which will enable us who are part of the family to be actively involved and through our participation to:

  1. Return to our roots and the inspiration of our Salesian charism which is uniquely ours but given for the wider world;
  2. Respond to the invitation and challenge to renew energies, purpose and passion for our mission with and for the young, especially for those most vulnerable;
  3. Look to the future with hope.

We are thankful to the Bicentenary team for their work of reflection and preparation, following on from the pilgrimage of the relic of Don Bosco last year. The team will present a calendar of events and forward materials and educational resources for your use in early September. We invite you to be involved and encourage others to do the same.

At one level, two hundred years is only a drop in the ocean of the history of human endeavour and humanity’s search for meaning, but now is our time. We are called to be active agents of a new consciousness and a new history, of new endeavours, as part of God’s ever unfolding engagement with people and creation. May the “Man of Dreams” who remains ever young, inspire and guide us during this year to realise the dream of God for the young: “What I want is your happiness now and in eternity”.

May Our Lady Help of Christians, who pointed out to Don Bosco the task and the way, remain with us as our teacher and guide.

It is our hope that this Bicentenary year will be a Year of Grace as communities and groups come together in our local places on 16 August 2014 to begin the worldwide year of celebration of the 200th anniversary of Don Bosco’s birth.

Enjoy this wonderful year and be open to the newness that God wants to gift all of us with.

Happy Bicentenary Year!

Sr Mary Doran FMA, Provincial.               Fr Michael Casey SDB, Provincial.

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Bicentenary Logo:

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On January 31, 2012, the feast of St. John Bosco, Fr Pascual Chavez, Rector Major for the Salesian Congregation, sent a letter to Salesians setting out for them a journey of preparation for the bicentennial celebration of Don Bosco’s birth:

“We are approaching the bicentennial of Don Bosco’s birth, which will be celebrated on August 16, 2015. It is a very special event for us, for all the Salesian Family, and for the whole Salesian Movement, which requires an intense and profound process of preparation, so that it may prove fruitful for all of us, for the Church, for the young, and for society.”

In this letter he proposed three phases of study, one each year, for knowing Don Bosco more deeply. “In this way we can rediscover the origin of our charism, the purpose of our mission, the future of our Congregation.” (AGC 394) The same course was suggested to the Salesian Family by means of the traditional Strenna, an annual message by the Rector Major providing impetus for growth in the Salesian family.

This is the first video presented at a news conference to launch the promotion of the Bicentenary Year of the Birth of Don Bosco (St John Bosco):

6/2/2014 – Press Conference for Bicentenary of Don Bosco

It’s not a nostalgic look back at the past, nor a parochial event, but an opportunity to renew our commitment to reach young people and accompany them in their challenges.” With these words, Fr Pascual Chávez, Rector Major of the Salesians, revealed to reporters during an international press conference, the significance of the Bicentenary Year of the Birth of Don Bosco (1815-2015), which will open on 16 August 2014.

The Press Conference was held in Rome this morning, 6 February, at the Foreign Press Association in Italy. The moderator was Dr Antonio Preziosi, Director of Rai Radio News and Radio 1. In addition to Fr Chávez, those present included: Mother Yvonne Reungoat, Mother General of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians; Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace;  Fr Roberto Gottardo, President of the Commission of the Diocese of Turin for the Shroud, and two young people of the Salesian Youth Movement, Renato Cursi and Giorgia Intreccialagli.

At the opening there was a showing of a short video made by Don Bosco Missions in collaboration with the Department of Social Communications. It portrayed with authoritative citations and evocative images how the dream of Don Bosco is now shared and disseminated all over the world. The video is available on YouTube on ANSChannel.

A message from the President of the Italian Senate, the Hon. Pietro Grasso, was then read. In it he emphasized that “Don Bosco has left a message that is relevant today,” teaching us to live with differences and develop attitudes of responsibility, acceptance and solidarity.

The first to speak was Fr Chávez. Emphasizing the relevance of Don Bosco in our time, he said that “he knew how to read the social reality of his time, he recognised  poor young people as the first recipients of his efforts and he gave them the best gift had to offer – education.” The Rector Major then outlined the three major challenges facing young people today and showed how the responses of Don Bosco are still relevant today. The best way to respond to young people’s lack of self-confidence is by involving them in activities.  Fear of the future can be overcome through education and professional training. The generation gap between the world of adults and youth can be met only by being present with the young and sharing life with them.

Bishop Toso said that the Congregation and the Salesian Family are “a Church that reaches out.” Following the example of Don Bosco, we continue to go to the young people at the physical and human margins of society. The Bishop mentioned some examples of the commitment of Salesians and the Salesian Family in the field of school work, higher education and vocational training.

Mother Reungoat, recalled the close relationship of trust between Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello for the education of the young, which was quite unusual at the time. She explained that the Salesian mission does not belong exclusively to the Salesians but is shared with all the members of the Salesian Family. She defined the Bicentennial as “a new call to engage in the mission of education for young people.” This is the mission that the FMA will continue to carry out in the ninety-four countries in which they are present.

Fr Gottardo spoke of the extraordinary exposition of the Shroud in the spring of 2015, just five years since the last. He confirmed that it was planned specifically in relation to the Bicentenary of the Birth of Don Bosco. This is precisely why young people will be key players and will collaborate directly in the organization of the exposition.

Giorgia Intreccialagli then highlighted the importance of her Salesian education – something that helped her to feel loved and to know Jesus – and the value of the missionary experience she had with the Salesians in Venezuela.

Renato Cursi, a young Salesian Cooperator, said that his first meeting with Don Bosco took place in an oratory through sport, and later developed into a relationship of faith and life. He also announced the plan of the SYM to mark the bicentennial of Don Bosco by bringing 10,000 young people to Colle Don Bosco.

The final intervention was that of the television presenter, Cristina Chiabotto, Miss Italy 2004. She gave her testimony of Don Bosco and the relevance of his charism today. She recalled her experience as a pupil and past pupil of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Turin, and admitted to still having the smile and the enthusiasm of Don Bosco in her professional and personal life.

The Year of the Bicentenary of the Birth of Don Bosco (16 August 2014 – 16 August 2015) is a year of celebration to remember a man whose teaching, after 200 years, is still as relevant as the subject of the education of young. It comes after three years of preparation that led the whole Salesian Family to rediscover the history (2011-2012), pedagogy (2012-2013) and spirituality (2013-2014) of the priest, educator and saint from Turin.