Provincial Letter: August 14th, 2019

Dear Salesian Sisters and Brothers,

I flew back into Los Angeles from San Antonio late last night.   As I had mentioned before, the Salesian Sisters had invited me to preside at the Mass for Sr. Sydney Moss’ final vows.   I arrived a day early and was able to concelebrate at the Mass of Renewal of vows for three Salesian Sisters presided by Fr. Pascual Chavez who the week before had preached the Sisters’ retreat at the provincial house in San Antonio.   It was great to see Pascual again (he preached our retreats last year in California) and spend some time with him at table.   We congratulate Sr. Sydney for her commitment to remain with the Salesian Sisters forever and for her dedication to the mission entrusted to us by Don Bosco and Mary D. Mazzarello.    We also congratulate the Sisters who renewed their vows.  While in Texas I was able to visit our parish of San Luis Rey in Laredo.

This evening, two pre-novices were inducted into our Salesian Novitiate.   The induction ceremony will took place at St. Joseph’s Retreat Center in Rosemead.   We congratulate John Castonguay and Kevin White.   Both come from the Eastern United States, and we welcome them most warmly as they begin this new and very important stage of their Salesian journey here in our Western Province.   Let us keep them in our prayers.

Tomorrow, August 15th, we are extremely happy to be able to witness the first profession of our two present novices:   Leo Imbert and Kris Tran.    The Mass for the First Professions will take place at St. Dominic Savio, Bellflower,  at 5pm, followed by a reception at St. John Bosco High School.   We congratulate Leo and Kris as they they take this next step toward their commitment to serve the young as brothers consecrated with vows and living with us in community.   Leo and Kris will then travel to Orange, New Jersey where they will enter their post-novitiate period of formation attending Seton Hall University or a nearby college which will help them prepare for their future ministry.    We accompany them with our prayers.

During the retreat at San Juan Bautista, we were also very pleased to accompany Br. Damien Ho and Br. Quang Nguyen as they renewed their vows for one year.  Br. Damien will enter his practical training period at Salesian College Preparatory in Richmond and Br. Quang will enter his practical training period at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower and living at De Sales Hall with the candidates and pre-novices.   Please keep all our men in formation in your prayers.   May the Lord strengthen their resolve and commitment.    May they always find happiness in their choice, in their ministry and in living with us in fraternity.

We are blessed to have young men in our different stages of formation.   We also have three brothers in the stage of Theology as they prepare for Ordination:   Vien Minh Nguyen, who will be ordained to the Diaconate in October and living at Don Bosco Hall, Berkeley, Peter Duoc Le studying at La Crocetta in Turin, Italy and Jhoni Chamorro who will be starting his first year of Theology at our Salesian school of Theology in Guadalajara, Mexico.   We also have three pre-novices and three new candidates entering our programs at De Sales Hall.  More on them later as we officially welcome them into the program.   While we definitely need more vocations for the ministry and needs of young people, we are extremely grateful to God and his Mother, Mary, for sending us these good men for the Salesian Mission.    Again, prayers are appreciated.

While in San Antonio, in the evening of the same day as Sr. Sydney Moss’ final vows ceremony, I joined Fr. Tim Zak and Fr. Dennis Donovan with over 200 major superiors at the Omni Hotel in San Antonio.   The Major Superiors of men gather every year for a week long conference.   I have not been able to attend every year but was blessed and happy to be able to be at this one in San Antonio.    Many said this had been the best conference they had ever attended.   I concur with them.  The theme this year was :

DISCERNING OUR COLLECTIVE WITNESS.  Together we reflected on religious life and leadership today.  And, through prayer, dialogue and discernment, we reflected on how to best move toward the future.  We reflected on how we as leaders ought to respond to the changes and demands of our times.   The new leadership of CMSM (Conference of Major Superiors of Men) asked us how they could better serve us and our needs as major superiors.    There was a lot of process and dialogue with each other.   While we had some short presentations, mostly panels of religious-young and old, we spent most of our time conversing at our tables on the topics presented to us.   We had a facilitator, Jim Lundholm-Eades, a consultant for Leadership Rountable, lead and facilitate the entire conference.   It was all very well done and very practical and worthwhile.   I was inspired by the humility of the leadership and their openness to hear our suggestions and concerns.    They promised to do their best to hear us out and take back to their administrative gatherings our voices and desires.   The week surfaced many common problems, dreams and challenges.   Everyone voiced their discouragement of lack of vocations, the aging of their confreres and the demands of the ministry.   And, yet, what also surfaced as very strong was the need for hope, faith and trust in a God who guides us and courage to be prophetic witnesses in a culture of individualism, narcissism, entitlement and division.    How do we combat these tendencies and form strong, generous and more fraternal communities?    We need to listen to our young brothers and those inquiring about our life.   They strongly seek community life, prayer and authentic ministry.   We must not dismiss the young for what might seem some conservative leanings but help them and us truly discern what we really are seeking.   The conversations around the table with the major superiors were very honest and fraternal.    Transparency is the new normal and we must work towards creating that culture.    As I reflect more deeply on what I heard and experienced at the conference, I will share more on this topic in future InTouch letters.

The school year has officially begun for many of our schools.   We wish all our administrators, teachers and young people all the best.    May Mary’s hand protect, guide and bless all those involved in this very important ministry.

Please pray for Fr. John Itzaina as he recuperates from his serious operation, open heart surgery.   This was a total surprise for many of us.   John seems to be recuperating slowly but well at a skilled nursing facility in Salinas.   Again prayers are appreciated.   Heartfelt THANKS to all those who have been able to visit him and assist in any way to help John in his healing.   Unfortunately, his place for recuperating is far from our Salesian communities, but, hopefully, with time and healing, John can return to one of our Salesian communities or to a nearby facility.   Special thanks to Mike and Marie Marheineke for their constant presence and help during this difficult time.   They have been present to Fr. John almost daily and have been beautiful Salesian angels who have accompanied John and assisted where necessary.  THANK YOU!

As we celebrate the feast of the Assumption tomorrow and give thanks for our newly professed brothers, may Mary inspire and strengthen us to imitate her humility, her availability even when it was difficult or even hard to understand, and her great trust in God.   May her gratitude for what God had done with her life be our gratitude!   Like Mary, we too shall receive the crown of glory not because we are great but because God is great and good…and, because of our trust even in the midst of challenges.   Happy Feast day!

With warm regards and gratitude,