The Provincial’s weekly letter to the Salesian Family:
Dear Salesian Sisters and Brothers,
Today, Sunday, July 31st, I participated in the beautiful celebration for Fr. Tuan Nguyen’s 25th anniversary of Priesthood, which took place at our Vietnamese center, Mary Help of Christians, in Stockton. Bishop Steven Blaire was present at the Eucharistic celebration, along with 10 other priests. The Vietnamese Center community, which is overseen by Fr. Paul Tran, SDB, did a marvelous job in organizing a beautiful liturgy and reception afterwards. I was honored to be present and celebrate Fr. Tuan’s 25 years of priesthood and service to the Church and the Salesian Congregation. It was obvious that the community still remembers and loves Fr. Tuan very much. Fr. Tuan spent close to twenty years with the Vietnamese community at the Mary Help of Christians Center. He did much for the people. In my short reflection at the end of the Mass, I mentioned to the Congregation that Fr. Tuan had the smell of the sheep, as Pope Francis so powerfully challenged us to have during his first year of his Pontificate, at the Chrism Mass. We thank Tuan for his dedication, leadership and love for the people. I am particularly impressed and thankful for his pastoral zeal and love for his Salesian Priesthood. While we will celebrate all of our Salesian Jubiliarians at the end of September, at Sts. Peter and Paul’s Church, San Francisco, I was happy to be present today in Stockton and, along with the people of God, to give thanks for Tuan’s many years of fidelity and service. Truly, he has the “smell of the sheep.”
Tonight, I fly out to Columbus, Ohio. I arrive there tomorrow morning. These days I will attend the CMSM (Conference of Major Superiors of Men). While I am sad that I will not be present at our second Salesian retreat, where many of our young SDBs will be present, I know that attending this annual conference always fills me with encouragement and connects me with the greater Church, especially, with other major superiors, provincials, abbots and priors of different monasteries. While I debated whether to miss being present at our annual retreat and not being present with the gathering of our confreres, I decided to attend the Conference and connect with members of the Church who struggle to be good and effective leaders in their respective Congregations. I also look forward to seeing Fr. Steve Shafran and Fr. Tim Zak and brainstorming on ways to connect more closely our two SDB provinces and grow in communion, as Don Bosco would want it. Our Rector Major, Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime also speaks of this unity and collaboration between provinces. I am grateful for Frs. Steve and Tim’s great willingness to work together and keep the lines of communication open.
On Thursday evening, I will fly to San Antonio to preside at the FMA final Vows celebration for Srs. Jaden Tran and Linda Gonzalez. I look forward to being with the FMA again (I was there July 16th, to celebrate the Jubilees of 15 Salesian Sisters of the Western Province), and join in the celebration of these two young women who make a commitment for the rest of their lives, to serve God and the young people entrusted to their care, in the Salesian way of life, with Don Bosco and Mary Mazzarello as models and Saints to inspire them. Congratulations, Sisters!
I will spend a few days at home in Laredo and preside at a family wedding. I fly back to Los Angeles on August 14th, to preside at the induction ceremony for our two novices, Damien and Quang.
On Monday, August 15th, the Directors and Pastors of the province, will gather at De Sales Hall, Bellflower, for a day of reflection and to celebrate Br. Vien Nguyen’s final vows in the evening, at St. Dominic Savio Church. We are grateful to God for these young men who are dedicating their lives to the service of the young. We accompany these young men and women (SDB and FMA) as they enter more deeply into a commitment of service with us, their brothers and sisters. Let us keep them in our prayers.
This year, in our province, we are strengthening our Vocation Team by adding Fr. Thien Nguyen and Fr. Kristian Laygo (part-time) to the vocation ministry, to work with Fr. Jose Lucero. While I am aware that vocation ministry belongs to everyone in the province and not just the vocation director, we must try new and different things to awaken in us and in so many young people, the desire to promote and hear God’s call to serve as a Salesian Sister, Brother or Priest. As the famous slogan, quoted often today, says: “It takes a village.” It takes a village to form a child. It takes a village (a team, a province, a community) to attract vocations to our Religious Life.
Recently, the Archbishop of San Antonio, Archbishop Gustavo, mentioned to me that in his diocese, he has 6 full-time vocation directors. Some are lay people and paid staff. But, this shows the commitment of that diocese to animate and promote vocations. This year, the Provincial Council, wants to stress “accompaniment” in our province. The Provincial needs to accompany the Directors, the Directors, the community members and the community accompany the young people and the lay people who work with us. Accompaniment is the key. This is how we will get more vocations. We must accompany our young people, not just in fun and games, but in leading them to a deeper relationship with God and in service. We must create moments of prayer, adoration, service and family events. If we are willing to do this and continue to invite and accompany, we will have many young men and women asking to join our communities. They will be attracted by our joy, our depth, our family spirit and our service. Let us pray and say, “yes,” but, let us also act.
May God answer our prayers for vocations, which we pray daily, but also strengthen and give us the zeal and courage to invite, accompany and lead our young people to fall in love with God and stay with Don Bosco forever. May it be so!
With warm regards,
Fr. Ted Montemayor, SDB