Dear Salesian Sisters and Brothers,
I am presently in Santa Cruz, at Villa Del Mar Retreat House ran by the Holy Names Sisters. The Provincial Council and I are here for a week of meetings: prayer, planning, reflection and some fraternal time together. We arrived on Sunday evening and will finish on Friday at noon. It is a beautiful setting, close to the ocean and a quiet atmosphere. The Sisters have been most gracious and hospitable. There is a group of 25 Sisters and 5 or more directors who are making a silent retreat. This also forces us to keep a somewhat reflective atmosphere, especially, at table. But, you can’t keep Salesians totally quiet. But everyone has been most patient with us.
The first two days here at Villa Maria were spent doing a Lectio Divina on next Sunday’s Scriptures, reflecting on Fr. Maria Arokiam Kanaga’s final draft presented to the province at the end of his extraordinary visitation and what that might mean to us. Today, Fr. John Itzaina led us through an evaluation of our last Provincial Chapter, its deliberations and how to make that concrete and part of or plan for the future. This afternoon, Br. Al Vu led the council through our Province Organic Plan of 2016. We are in the process of updating the Organic Plan, with its six priorities, based on the outcomes of our last provincial chapter and Fr. Arokiam’s final remarks to our province. While we worked hard this afternoon, we have yet to finish the last three of the six Priorities. Tomorrow, Wednesday, we will tackle the last three priorities, do some reflection on an article by Gabe Huck and spend the afternoon visiting Point Lobo near Monterey, go through the 17 mile drive and see if we can visit Bishop Sylvester Ryan in Monterey. Bishop Ryan has been a very good friend of the Salesians, and he was instrumental in helping us build and start the new St. Francis Salesian College Preparatory School almost 20 years ago. Bishop Sylvester, although no longer Bishop of Monterey, has continued to be very supportive of the school and the Salesians. We will continue with our work on Thursday and Friday addressing some Province and personnel issues. We are grateful to be here and enjoy this beautiful setting and, at the same time, work on ways to help the province move into the future.
The Provincial Council has been focusing on ways to do ongoing formation. This formation, which was a key issue at the Provincial Chapter, deals with our Salesian formation, meaning, our way of doing ministry, our style of life, imitating Don Bosco and St. Francis de Sales’ kindness and family spirit. As we look at what kind of Salesian for the young today, we are constantly reminded that we must be men of prayer, convinced that God has called us for a mission, able to live fraternal life in a healthy and happy manner and not afraid to meet the young wherever they may be, in their situations, their struggles and their dreams. Dialogue, closeness (smell of the sheep as Pope Francis reminded us) and openness to where God will lead us are essential characteristics of our Salesian style today. We need to get out of our comfort zone and be available for the mission to and with the young. That is not easy, especially, if we feel we cannot leave the place of ministry where we have been, and we unable to see that the mission is given to the Salesians and the province and not to one person. This requires faith, trust and and a spirit of availability.
The next few days of our provincial council “retreat” will focus on ways to animate and govern the province. We have good plans and a way forward, despite all the challenges we face in our province. What we might need to reflect on is how best to get that vision across to everyone, how to help the province take ownership of the vision and plans and how to hold each other accountable for that vision and the lines of action we have decided upon after our Provincial Chapter.
Please continue to keep us in prayer. Each morning, at 7:30 am, the council celebrates the Eucharist in a small country-like Church/chapel, a stone throw from our meeting room, the Josephine House. Each day, at prayer, we remember our Salesian brothers and sisters in the province, especially, those who are sick, undergoing difficulties and those involved in summer ministries. We pray that the Good Shepherd guide us and guide all of you who care about our Mission to the young. May Mary, the Help of Christians, protect and bless each one of us as we do our best to evangelize, to proclaim the Good news of life and hope and to be signs and bearers of God’s love for the young.
With warm regards and gratitude,
With warm regards and gratitude,