Dear Salesian Sisters and Brothers,
Tomorrow, I fly out to Newark to attend the Formation of Formators of Salesian Cooperators workshop being held at the Marian Shrine in Stony Point, NY. The workshop will include the SDB and FMA delegates of each community where we have Cooperators centers. Also invited are those directing the formation of each center and others involved with formation of Cooperators. There will be around 25 attending from the SDB and FMA provinces of the West. The New Rochelle province will have another large number which includes Canada. Fr. Tom Dunne and Sr. Denise Sickinger, with a team, have been preparing for this workshop for over a year. The provincials of each province will also attend. The workshop begins Friday morning and ends Sunday evening. Please keep us in your prayers.
When Fr. Maria Arokiam Kanaga made the visitation of our province this last semester, he was impressed with our collaboration with the laity. He mentioned that in our province there is an established tradition of empowering the laity, qualifying them and respecting their roles and positions. We do this not because of the lack of vocations to the Salesian consecrated life but because it is the nature of the Church as “people of God.” It is by right of their Christian Baptism that the laity collaborate with the building of the Kingdom of God. Sometimes we do this well in our province, but sometimes, we still struggle to allow the laity to take on stronger roles and positions. We feel threatened.
While encouraging us to continue the good work of forming and empowering the laity, Fr. Arokiam also challenged us to give greater attention to the Salesian Family. Our province is blessed to have several groups of the Salesian Family. There is a good and cordial level of understanding. In most places we work well with the Salesian Sisters and Cooperators. But, Fr. Arokiam encouraged us to work more closely with the different members of the Salesian Family and encourage younger members to join those groups. The Cooperators, founded by Don Bosco, are a strong presence in our province and their numbers are increasing. We need to find ways to include them in our planning and help make them a strong force for Evangelization and spreading the mission of Don Bosco.
Our next General Chapter will study the topic of the laity, entitled: Partnership with the Laity. Our provincial chapter which just concluded last week in Three Rivers, dealt with this issue. The committee, which led this third topic, reiterated the strength of our collaboration with the laity in our province but also warned us of the obstacles which might still exist among us: Clericalism, the difficulty to accept the lay vocation, the tendency of the SDBs to step back when lay collaborators are in charge, lack of pastoral plans and CEPC (Council of the Educative Pastoral Community) and the sexual scandal which causes some to mistrust and shy away from inviting young people to join our Salesian Family. Let us continue to reflect and deepen our understanding of the role of the laity and how that fits into the vision of Don Bosco and his mission.
Last Friday, our 2019 Provincial Chapter came to a close with a Eucharistic celebration and lunch. The Chapter members, along with two Salesian Sisters and several lay people, met from Sunday, June 16 to Friday, June 21. All the Directors of our communities and their delegates, along with the provincial council and four SDBs chosen from the province at-large, met for a week of study, discernment, discussion, prayer and fraternity. (On Thursday afternoon some of us drove to Sequoia National Park for a change of scenery). The topic given to us for next year’s General Chapter is: “What kind of Salesian for Today’s Youth.” This topic was divided into three subtopics: What are the needs of the young today, what is the profile of a Salesian for the young of today and how do we partnership with the laity today? I would describe our gathering last week as fraternal, open, honest, serious in its work and focused. I wish to thank Fr. John Itzaina, our moderator, for his great job of organizing and leading the provincial chapter. Overall, everyone felt that we had had a good and successful week. I wish to thank all those who were given some task for the carrying out of the chapter, from hospitality, liturgy coordinators and presiders, music, facilitators of the different sessions, minute takers, our novices who were available for whatever was needed, especially, as scrutineers and vote counters, etc. Many THANKS TO ALL! Also a special thank to all the participants, SDBs, FMAs and laity, for their presence and contributions to the topics and discussions. A small group, being led by Fr. John Itzaina, is putting the finishing touches to the documents and will soon be sending them to Rome where all the Chapter conclusions from around the world are being sent and put together for a study draft in preparation for the General Chapter in February 2020. Let us pray that what we have said and written during our provincial chapter may truly be lived out in our province.
Most of our summer programs are beginning next week. Some have already started. Let us keep our young people and those accompanying them in our prayers. I will return from the East on Monday, July 1. I will spend that week at the provincial house preparing for the provincial council’s planning week at Villa Maria in Santa Cruz (July 7-12). We will be spending a good portion of our planning week reviewing the results of the Provincial Chapter and looking at ways to implement some of the decisions that came out from that gathering.
Have a restful and fruitful summer! We entrust our summer ministries and travels to Mary Help of Christians. May she guide, protect and watch over each of our young people and each and everyone of us.
With warm regards and gratitude,