Provincial Letter: August 20th, 2019

Dear Salesian Sisters and Brothers,

Last Thursday, August 15th, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mother into heaven, the Western Province of St. Andrew had the blessing of witnessing the first professions of two of our brothers:  Leo Imbert and Kris Tran.   We wish to congratulate them and promise them our prayers.  We wish to thank their parents for the love and encouragement given to our two new brothers in their decision to embrace our Salesian way of life as consecrated men.   The Province also thanks the formation team at our novitiate in Richmond, especially, Fr. Joe Nguyen and Fr. John Puntino.


We are grateful for their accompaniment and walking with the novices during the Novitiate year.   And, we pray for our two new novices:  John Castonguay and Kevin White, who are beginning their Novitiate year.


The Mass of Profession took place at St. Dominic Savio Parish at 5pm followed by a simple but festive reception at St. John Bosco High School.   The ceremony took around and hour and a half and all commented on the beauty of the service.   We were happy to have some young people present and some representation from places where Leo and kris had previously worked and ministered.   After a few days with family, both Leo and Kris will head out to Orange, New Jersey for their post-novitiate studies.


On August 15th, during the day, the Provincial Council met with the delegates and coordinators of the province.   We met from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm.  This meeting was mandated by the provincial chapter to improve the communication and implementation of our Organic Plan.   The Organic Plan, with its six priorities:  To grow in the witness of apostolic consecration in fraternal communities;  To seek out, call forth and accompany new vocations to the Salesian religious life;  To identify and form religious and lay personnel for the Salesian mission; To develop a planning mentality in all aspects of our apostolic and consecrated life;  To respond prophetically in all our presences to the economically poor with a special focus on the undocumented;  To develop the means to seek financial sustainability in order to support province works, especially to reach poor and disadvantaged youth, was the focus of the day.  After reviewing the plan together, we discerned that we should focus on one priority and strategy for the coming year.   The group chose priority 2:  To seek out, call forth and accompany new vocations to the Salesian religious life, strategy 1: By rediscovering the joy of accompanying young people and finding out God’s plan for them;  line of action 1:  Foster among the Salesian Family a strong sense of belonging in order to witness to the value of living and working together.   The sense of belonging is something that young people seek and we felt that it is an important value to foster in the province with the entire Salesian Family.   And, if we succeed to foster this spirit of belonging among all, this alone can be a powerful witness which will also attract vocations to the Salesian life, in whatever capacity that might be and help us all persevere.

I often find that when young people (and, really all of us) feel the sense of family, of belonging, that can create a magnet which causes people to want to gather and return to our Salesian houses.   This is part of what we call the Spirit of the Salesian Family so dear to Don Bosco and to us Salesians.   It is sad when it is lost.   Don Bosco’s letter from Rome in 1884, found in our rule book, reminds us that even in Don Bosco’s days, he struggled to get his Salesians to understand this family spirit.  He lamented the absence and distance of the Salesians with the boys and the cold attitude that some exuded.   Don Bosco’s guide (a past pupil) showed him the coldness, lack of gratitude, boredom and lack spiritual devotion of the boys.  Don Bosco asked:  “but how can we bring these youngsters to life again, so that we can get back to the liveliness, the happiness, the warmth of the old days?”  Don Bosco’s guide responded:  “with charity!”  The guide insisted that those who took Don Bosco’s place should not only love the youngsters but they themselves (the young) should know they are loved.  The Salesians should love the things the young love and become involved in their games and lives.  The guide told Don Bosco that this family spirit would be accomplished “By a friendly informal relationship with the boys, especially in recreation.  You cannot have affection without this familiarity, and where affection is not evident there can be no confidence.  If you want to be loved, you must make it clear that you love.  Jesus Christ made himself little with the little ones and bore our weaknesses.   He is our master in the matter of the friendly approach….One who knows he is loved loves in return, and one who loves can obtain anything, especially from the young.”  (Don Bosco’s letter from Rome, 1884).


As we begin this new scholastic/pastoral  year, this focus will be very important in our ministry and work with the young.  It will also be very important in our communities and in our relationships with one another.  Most of us were drawn into the Salesian life not only because someone invited us but also because we felt loved and that we belonged.   Don Cagliero’s cry, “I will stay with Don Bosco,” was a response to the love he felt from Don Bosco and his sense of belonging.   Our decision to focus on this second priority and strategy is an inspired one.   Fr. Maria Arokiam, during his visitation, felt that the confreres and members of the Salesian Family in general, felt a sense of belonging to their community and to the province.   But, more can be done.   Let us also seek out those who might feel disconnected and as though they do not belong and make the first move to include them and make them feel welcomed in our circle of friends.   Sometimes, we might feel more at home in our cultural circle, due to customs, language or likes.   But, in a world where we see division, racism, grouping by class, by our culture or “our people,” we must be brave and bold and witness the Gospel of unity, inclusiveness and welcome.  This is our collective witness as religious and as Salesians.

Today, Tuesday, I leave for San Francisco where I will stay at the provincial house and visit some of the Northern communities before heading back down to Los Angeles for our Pastors/Directors meeting on Monday, August 26, at St. Joseph’s in Rosemead.   Our delegates and coordinators have also been invited to attend.  Please keep us in your prayers.   May we exemplify true Salesian Leadership, in the style of Don Bosco, with his warmth, openness and welcoming style.

Please keep Fr. Thomas Thodukulam in your prayers.   Fr. Thomas left to India a few days ago due to his Mother’s failing health.   He was told that she was dying and might not have much time left to live.  It is not easy to lose a loved one but, especially, a parent.   Please also keep Fr. Thomas’ Mom and the entire family in your prayers.

With warm regards and gratitude,