Provincial: We Live Our Lives in the Spirit of Don Bosco Who Dreamt ‘Big’
The Provincial’s weekly letter to the Salesian Family:
Dear Salesian sisters and brothers,
These days I am in San Antonio, Texas. Last week, I attended the CMSM (Conference of Major Superiors of Men) in Columbus, Ohio. I took a “red eye” flight from San Francisco to Columbus, Ohio, via Detroit. I left on Sunday and arrived on Monday morning. I was able to spend Monday tracing some of the steps I took many years ago when I did two of my four years of Theology at the Josephinum outside of Columbus. This was over 33 years ago. I had not been back to Columbus since my Theology days. I walked to the building on State and 6th, which had been our residence for over 30 Salesians, plus a gym, bowling alley and club for youth. The building is still owned by the Salesians of the Eastern Province but is now leased out to different organizations. I reminisced remembering the good years in Columbus with our Salesian brothers, the many activities in which we were involved and the brotherly spirit we experienced. I walked to German Village and, although, I did not remember much from years past, I was able to reacquaint myself with that unique and beautifully- kept part of town. Our hotel, the Sheraton, was a few blocks from the Salesian Center and about a mile from German Village.
These days in Columbus, Ohio, were good but seemed to pass by quickly. It was good to reconnect with some of the major superiors I have met before. There were two highlights about my time at the conference. One was Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s talk which always challenges me to “think big and love big.” The other was my time with Fr. Steve Shafran, Salesian Provincial from the Eastern Province and Fr. Tim Zak, Vice-Provincial of that same province. It was good to be with them and share our lives and common visions. Besides, Fr. Steve treated me to a great dinner. I felt blessed to have experienced the richness of the conference and the Salesian brotherliness between our two provinces—East and West.
Walk With a ‘Big Mind and Big Heart’
Fr. Ron Rolheiser, in his talk to the Major Superiors, spoke on Religious Life and the vows. Ron Rolheiser mentioned that the vows we profess are exquisitely calibrated to incarnate God’s mercy. In his talk, Rolheiser challenged us to walk with a “big mind and big heart.” We need to be healers in today’s world. We can easily get caught up in indignation and anger. We can also sow division as we see so often in our world—both in politics and in Religion. We need to be more interested in dialogue—genuine dialogue. Our prophetic task is to be healers. Fr. Ron spoke of our society as a superficial culture. We need to prophesy depth. We are not called to sow fear. If you are afraid, it is not from God. Whenever God appears in the Scriptures, he says, “do not be afraid.” Or, “do not fear.” We need to trust, tear down the walls of mistrust and be bridge builders. Our symbol is not a “clenched fist.” Our symbol is the open hands of Christ on the cross-with nails piercing through his hands. Any tension I do not absorb will be transmitted. We make vows of love, not alienation. May our vows and our lives be a powerful witness of genuine dialogue, mercy, trust, and the ability to surrender and let go.
These next few days I will be in Laredo, Texas. I will preside at a wedding in Laredo and on Sunday, August 14th, fly to Los Angeles for the induction of our two novices, who are returning from World Youth Day, just in time to “officially” enter and begin their novitiate year.
SDB and FMA Professions
Our Second retreat for the SDBs has finished and two of our brothers (James Nguyen and Paul Garcia) renewed their vows. While I was sad not to be present with my brothers at retreat and the renewal of vows, I was pleased to have been able to attend the CMSM Conference and the Final Vows Ceremony for two of our Salesian Sisters, Sr. Jaden and Sr. Linda.
I was happy and honored to have been invited to attend the final vows ceremony of our two Salesian Sisters in San Antonio, Texas. I had presided at their first profession six years ago at St. Dominic Savio Church in Bellflower, California. So, I felt humbled and privileged to be present at Sr. Jaden Tran and Sr. Linda Gonzalez’s final vows. The Mass, at a nearby Church, was well organized, with beautiful music, followed by a reception in the Laura Vicuña gym at St. John Bosco’s School. It was a joyful event and I was able to connect with many Salesian Sisters, those present and those who were unable to attend and reside at the provincial house nearby.
Next week, August 15th, our brother, Vien Nguyen will profess and celebrate his Final Vows at St. Dominic Savio Church, Bellflower. We give thanks to God for his abundant love and mercy and his many blessings bestowed on Vien and our province. Let us continue praying for our brother, Vien, and for our two novices as they begin new journeys.
Province Leadership Gathers
Our Directors and Pastors will gather on Monday, August 15th, for a day of planning and reflection. We will review the results of the provincial chapter and look towards the coming year and the priorities on which we wish to focus. Please keep us in your prayers as we gather for our different events and moments of celebration, planning and reflection.
Olympic Inspirations – Overcoming Challenges
There is much for which we are grateful. And, there are also many challenges. As we follow the Olympics in Brazil these days, I cannot but be inspired by so many athletes who have given up much and dreamt big on what can be. I was inspired by the many stories televised, especially, those of the athletes from refugee camps, athletes without a country and in very difficult situations but, nevertheless, focused on the goal of winning and becoming the best, despite the great difficulties and obstacles they have encountered.
What an INSPIRATION! How about us, Salesians? Do we easily slip into criticism, negativism, doomsday attitudes? Shame on us! We are prophets and messengers of a God of surprises; a God who promises to lead us to the promised land, to send us his Holy Spirit, to create a new earth and a new heavens; a God of exquisite and abundant mercy and goodness. We are called Salesians after St. Francis de Sales who depended totally on the goodness of God and saw beauty everywhere—the Saint of “optimism.” We live our lives in the spirit of Don Bosco who dreamt “big,” and had the faith of a mustard seed—only to see it grow into a huge tree of possibilities. We follow in the footsteps of St. John Bosco who told us to have faith in Mary Help of Christians, and we would see miracles. If we have fallen into the temptation of despair, lack of hope, and unable to dream beyond the problems and obstacles we see before us, let us pray for the gift of total trust in a God who says to us, “do not be afraid,” “I will never abandon you.”
Do you believe? Believe and see miracles in your own life!
With warm regards,
Fr. Ted Montemayor, SDB