Provincial Letter: September 19th, 2019

Dear Salesian Sisters and Brothers,

On Tuesday, September 17th, I met with the small Board of Directors of our Salesian Family Youth Center in Boyle Heights.  I wish to congratulate Juan Carlos Montenegro for his hard work, dedication and commitment to the young people from the east side of Los Angeles.   Their summer camp was a big success, and there are many projects being initiated at the Club (Family Youth Center)  which contribute to the formation and education of our young people.   Money is always an issue when working with poor families and in lower economic areas.  But, JC (Juan Carlos) with the help of some very generous Donors and foundations, has been able to continue to build up the Center.   Many young people are positively influenced and Don Bosco’s work continues in an area where his charism is much needed.  Many thanks also to the many volunteers who have donated their time to work with the kids.  THANK YOU!

On Saturday, September 14th, I was at Don Bosco Tech participating at an all day retreat/in-service for the Board of Directors.   Dr. Steven R. Neiheisel, from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, was invited to facilitate the day.   He did a wonderful job in leading the Board through a very good reflection on how to better ourselves, function more effectively and continue to help the Salesian Spirit of St. John Bosco grow and be the driving force (the Mission) of all we do.   Thanks to Memo Gutierrez for organizing the day and inviting Steve Neiheisel to help us navigate the day.  Bishop David O’Connell, Board member, also joined us and presided at the opening Mass at 8:30 am in the Father Felix Penna School Chapel.

Yesterday I drove up to San Francisco and will spend a few days at the Provincial council preparing for our next provincial council meetings which will take place on Sunday to Tuesday (September 22-24) at the Provincial Residence.   I will also spend some time preparing for some  upcoming events and visitations.  October will also be a busy month of traveling—to Texas for our joint provincial council meetings with the FMA provincial council in San Antonio/Laredo and traveling to Ecuador for the provincials meeting in Quito.

As I reflected on our Board Retreat at Don Bosco Tech on Saturday, once again, I was reminded rather strongly that “Mission” is everything.   School Board leadership requires commitment and courage.  It requires taking ownership of Board performance.   But, most of all, it requires mission-centeredness.  When the Board is clear on its mission and why we gather, everything will fall into place.  We Salesians have a very clear and strong mission and style of accomplishing that mission.  But, unfortunately, we are not always intentional, strategic and focused.   We allow other issues to cloud the mission to young people.  In many organizations we call this mission, “branding.”   Every organization tries to brand itself and when successful, it moves forward.  We Salesians have our “branding.”   But, we need a good formation of our boards (and, all of our different levels of leadership).   Br. Al Vu, SDB has been doing a very good job in making sure that our school personnel is being formed, understands our brand and has in place some strategic and intentional formation.   We as a provincial council are also looking at doing the same with our parishes.   Many other segments of our Salesian Family and ministries are already moving ahead in this area.   The Salesian Cooperators come to mind with their great emphasis on formation and the Formation weekend in Stony Point back in June, where a good number of our SDBs, FMAs and Salesian Cooperators were in attendance.   How do we continue to form our different groups so that the mission of Don Bosco is always at the center and the focus of all we do?

Our province delegates and coordinators will meet again next Tuesday, September 24, at the provincial house for our (almost) monthly gathering to plan and find ways to make sure we are moving forward with our mission and with formation of our teams and commissions.   When our institutions lose their mission and the Salesian Charism, we become generic.   Generic does not succeed, except, maybe, at the grocery store.   What makes us distinctive Salesian followers of Don Bosco?   Running a good school, a good parish or a good club is not enough.    What is our mission, what is our style, what makes us different as Salesians?   We need to continue to reflect on this, especially, at the beginning of our pastoral year.   We always claim that people who do not know us Salesians can walk onto our campuses or sites and sense that there is something different “here.”    What is that “something different here?”  Hopefully, our kindness, family spirit, joy and optimism, deep devotion to Mary (Help of Christians) and passion for the good of the young.   Overall, our trust in the Good Shepherd who guided Don Bosco and guides us today.    Let us pray that this mission and “brand” may be truly evident in all we do and who we are, from the maintenance personnel to those in leadership.   May it be so!

With warm regards and gratitude,

Fr. Ted




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