The Salesian Catechist/Chaplain takes a particular interest in the rhythm of prayer, religious services and sacraments within a Salesian Centre.
While the term ‘Chaplain’ would have been known to Don Bosco, the concept of ‘Catechist/Spiritual Director’ was more commonly used in the early Salesian centres. It was a key position in Don Bosco’s first Oratory where the core duty of the role was to “point out to the young the way to become good Christians, good citizens, a credit to their own families and to society”.
The work of the catechist/spiritual director was two fold: introducing and accompanying the young in the practice and learning of the faith and, secondly in preparing them to live in a moral and ethical way their public and professional lives. As spiritual director, the Chaplain speaks to the young about Christ, tells of their own spiritual story, tells of their own relationship with Jesus, offers to the young a programme of happiness based on Jesus’ own message and invites them to accept the challenge of being co-workers in building a community of faith.
Salesian Chaplains to Schools, Universities and Irish Army
In Ireland Salesians provide chaplaincy services to their centres, whether it is in our schools or in our care homes. Irish Salesians have a long tradition of being involved in third level chaplaincy and currently are part of the chaplaincy team of the University of Limerick. Salesians are also involved in offering chaplaincy to the Armed Services and to other youth movements.
In so doing we try to immolate our founder Don Bosco who sought to provide a living witness to the love of God for all. In particular he wanted to share with the young people in his care the God who he prayed to throughout his life as Father and Shepherd. In the words of one of his pupils at the Oratory: It was his gentleness and his love that attracted, conquered, and transformed our hearts. (Paul Albera, Pupil of and successor to Don Bosco).
Salesian work began with a simple catechism class, which Don Bosco gave to a sixteen year old apprentice bricklayer. For Don Bosco, education is genuine when it takes into account all the different social contexts and characteristics of each child, adolescent or young person and is clearly directed towards the all-round formation of the individual, opening him or her up to the transcendent.
Spirituality and religious practices are to be presented as having a dual focus; that of self reflection in the company of the person of Jesus and, that of action for the good of one’s neighbours and community. It is in group activities, guided by the Chaplain/Catechist and his/her team that young people learn to mentor each other in their faith and build bonds that helped them to understand the importance of friendship, solidarity, charity and duty.