Dear Salesian Sisters and Brothers,
On Sunday, October 27th, I flew back from Quito, Ecuador, where I spent the last week with Fr. Tim Ploch, our Regional and most of the 13 provincials from our Inter-American Region. Two of our provincials could not enter the Ecuador for different reasons.
The annual Inter-American provincials gathering took place in Quito this year. We stayed at a retreat house run by the Salesian Sisters in Cumbaya, an area in Quito. The retreat house was beautiful and very clean with manicured gardens and great hospitality. The provincials gathered from Sunday, October 20th to Sunday, October 27th. Fr. Tim Ploch led the meetings. Many thanks to all who hosted us and organized such a wonderful event. A special Thank You to Fr. Paco Sanchez, Provincial of Ecuador, who was most welcoming and treated us with great Salesian warmth.
The gathering began with a festive meal at the provincial house with the provincial house community. Then, after lunch we drove to Cumbaya, to the Salesian Sisters retreat center. That evening we started with evening prayer, followed by supper, a goodnight and a simple social.
On Monday Fr. Tim Ploch had scheduled a retreat day and day of sharing. After breakfast, we had morning prayers and a sharing on our roles as provincials, led by Fr. Manuel (Manolo) Cayo, provincial of Peru. Manolo shared with us Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It was very well presented and led to some discussion on how well each of us practiced these seven principles. In the afternoon we gathered for a “climate check,” meaning, how are we doing personally in our role as provincial and what are some of the challenges and blessings. This session (done every year) always lasts a good hour to two and evokes a lot of feelings and deep sharing. It is good to share and know that all of us face challenges and blessings. It is a great support when we are able to be vulnerable with each other and not afraid to share our weaknesses and failures but also our blessings which come from God and from the brothers and friends who support us.
The rest of the week focused on different topics. Fr. Ivo Coelho, delegate of formation for the Congregation, was scheduled to be with us all day Wednesday, but he was not allowed to enter Ecuador because of a new rule asking some countries for a visa. The new rule was instituted in August and Ivo was not aware of the change. We spent the day reviewing texts which Fr. Ivo had sent and discussing other formation topics.
On Thursday, an all day outing was organized to Lagos del Norte. These are lakes formed from Volcanic craters. Beautiful scenery. We took a boat ride which was cut short due to heavy rains, thunder and lightning. All the provincials and our regional, Tim Ploch, boarded a small boat which took us around the huge lake. But with weather conditions as they were, our trip was cut short. Luckily we made it safely to shore where a special cultural drink with liquor awaited us and which cured all symptoms and possibilities of getting sick. We also spent some time visiting some cultural towns and markets where clothing and artistic pieces made by the indigenous people are sold. A great meal was also enjoyed at a local restaurant where some provincials ordered cuy (guinea pig), a traditional Ecuadorian meal.
The rest of the week continued with sundry topics and an asado (barbecue) at the prenovitiate house several miles away to finish the week and bid farewell to the provincials. The week started well and ended well. It was good to be with our brother provincials. We get along quite well. Four of us finish our terms this summer. We vowed to meet again in Turin for the General Chapter and celebrate, along with Fr. Tim Ploch who also finishes his six year term. I give thanks to God for my Salesian brothers from different countries who bring their own style of Salesianity and cultural behaviors. But, in the end you realize we are all Salesians, we have the same mission, love for Don Bosco and the young, and we are on the same journey toward holiness.
These next few days I will be at the Provincial House and office. I plan on traveling down to Los Angeles for a Baptism this weekend and, perhaps, some quick visits to the communities. Next week, November 5th, I fly out to Newark, New York for our East/West join provincial council meetings. I hope to spend a day or two visiting our brothers in the post-novitiate in Orange, New Jersey. I will return to San Francisco on November 10th.
Today we celebrate the feast of Don Rua! Hopefully, we can all reflect on his life and give thanks to God for the availability of this holy man and Salesian. Without his openness to the Holy Spirit, his deep and trusting relationship with Don Bosco, his availability to the mission and what was needed, his trust in God’s providence and Mary’s guidance, his kindness and faithful living of the Salesian Rule, the Congregation would not have progressed as rapidly and would not have grown as much as it did. It was Don Rua who sent the first Salesians to the United States (San Francisco in 1897) and the rest is history. We are grateful for this gift. Let us thank God for Don Rua!
This Friday we begin the month of November. It is a rich month liturgically and culturally. We celebrate the feasts of all saints, all souls, remembrance of our deceased benefactors and members of the Salesian Family, Blessed Artemides Zatti, Blessed Magdalena Morano and St. Andrew, Apostle and patron of our Province. First Sunday of Advent is celebrated on December 1st. Of course there is Thanksgiving Day and the beginning of so many festivities associated with this time of year. May these feasts and celebrations inspire us to be forever grateful and draw closer to our very generous God who wishes an abundance of blessings on all of us and desires our happiness and a life of joy and holiness as exemplified in our Salesian Saints and spirit.
With warm regards and gratitude,