Provincial Letter May 7th, 2020

Dear Salesian sisters and brothers,

I write to you today, at the end of the feast of St. Dominic Savio.   Happy Feast day!  I hope you celebrated this important Salesian feast as well as possible, despite our limitations and restrictions with the CoronaVirus Pandemic.

As we have already mentioned in earlier letters, Dominic Savio formed part of the group of young boys who helped out in the Cholera outbreak of 1854-56.   Dominic was among the 44 boys who accepted Don Bosco’s invitation to volunteer to help the sick.  Because of God’s protection and being warned by Don Bosco to be in God’s grace, Dominic was not infected and proved to be a wonderful example of courage and service.   Dominic was nourished and sustained by his deep devotion and relationship with Jesus and Mary.   He frequented the sacraments and vowed to put God first in his daily life.   There is so much we can learn from this young boy.   We know that his ascent to holiness came primarily because of the accompaniment he received from Don Bosco and other Salesians.  An important Salesian element which also made a difference in helping Dominic and so many other young people become saints, was the holy/healthy environment created at the Oratory in Valdocco.   Don Bosco created a place where the young felt at home, respected, loved, experienced joy and encouraged a desire to love God and serve Him.  As we deal with Covid-19 and try to make sense of our “new normal,” let us ask Dominic to intercede for us, especially, for those who are sick.   Let us also make an effort to create “holy environments “ in our homes, communities or wherever we may be these days, so that we may draw closer to God and his Mother, Mary.   May our environments, which can be constraining and more limiting these days, help us grow in patience, charity and offer us the space and time to pray and reflect more deeply.   Stay well and healthy.

As many of you know, Fr. Chinh Nguyen, Director of Don Bosco Tech Salesian community, suffered a stroke a week ago.   He was taken to Kaiser in Fontana after his initial admission at Kaiser in Baldwin Park.   The community, Fr. Chinh’s family and I were in daily contact with the hospital.   While there was progress in his condition (brain bleed and weakness on his left side), he was released two days ago without much consultation.   After a conference call with his doctor this morning, Fr. Chinh was taken back to the hospital for more observation and care.   Please keep Fr. Chinh in your prayers as we find the best way to care for him.   And, may Mary Help of Christians assist in his recovery to good health.  Because of the Coronavirus, visitors are not allowed at this point.

This morning we also learned that Fr. Maria Arokiam Kanaga, regional emeritus for the South Asia region, was appointed as Nuevo Superiore della Visitatoria “Maria Sede Della Sapienza” in Rome.   What that means is that Fr Arokiam was named provincial of the communities and works which make up the Salesian Pontifical University which is based in Rome.  Many of you will remember Fr. Maria Arokiam who made the extraordinary visitation of our province last year.   He was very well accepted with his simple style, his brotherly affection and wit.  He made us feel at ease and gave us some good insights to ponder on and some direction for our future.  We offer our Congratulations to Fr. Arokiam and promise him our prayers for the new and demanding assignment.   While at the General Chapter, Fr. Maria spoke to me about the possibility of some type of sabbatical.    Obviously, the Rector Major and his council had other ideas.   We thank Fr. Kanaga for his “yes,” and his example of availability and service.

The following months will continue to bring some uncertainty as the economy tries to get on its feet and open businesses and public places.   Many summer activities have been cancelled and we as a Church are still unsure of how the future will look like, especially, in the area of worship and ministry to the young.   We are very aware of the government restrictions and advise given to us by the medical world.  Our Safety and the health of the young people will always take priority in all our decisions.   I know that in the province some wonderful and creative structures have been put in place to continue ministering to people and, especially, to the young.   I am amazed by the work and dedication that so many of you have given to our “mission” as Salesians, especially, in the area of social media.   It has not been easy but you have done an excellent job.  CONGRATULATIONS! We continue to dialogue, listen to each other and try as best as we can to plan for the near future.  We continue to trust that God will guide us and not lose hope.   While life will not be what it was, at least for the foreseeable future, we are looking for ways to continue being resilient, flexible, effective, upbeat and faith-filled.

This week (May 4-8) we are celebrating “Teachers Appreciation Week.”   In the name of the Province of St. Andrew the Apostle, I wish to congratulate all of our teachers in the province!  This is a special time to honor the men and women who lend their passion and skills to making a difference in the lives of the young (and, in some educational centers, not so young).   Teachers change the lives of millions of young people every day.   Perhaps, many of us have stories of how a teacher or teachers impacted and changed our lives.  We are moved beyond words for their immense work, dedication and impact.   And, especially, at this time with Covid-19 and the abrupt end of the school year, we salute our teachers and administrators for their commitment to the education of young people through virtual classrooms and learning at home.   So, we say THANK YOU AND WISH TO SHOW OUR APPRECIATION AND LOVE AND CELEBRATE YOUR CARE AND LOVE FOR STUDENTS AND FOR THE YOUNG!!   May God continue to bless you and your families, especially, during this difficult time.

And, finally, this coming Sunday, we here in the United States, celebrate Mother’s Day! To all of our Moms, living and deceased, we say THANK YOU AND WE LOVE YOU VERY MUCH!   We promise our prayers, especially, at the Eucharist.   In a way, during this Covid-19 pandemic, we should include our Moms in honoring them during this “Teachers Appreciation Week.”   Many of our Moms, although not official teachers, also serve as teachers at home.  We also consider them as first responders,  putting themselves at risk for the sake of their families, either because of still having to go outside to work (some in the medical field), shop for food and necessities and see to the health and care of the family.   We too congratulate you for what you have done and are doing.  It would be good to take some time this week to say THANK YOU and show our appreciation to our Moms.    This year many of you will not be able to take Mom out for brunch or some fancy meal.   I am not sure if I should suggest to get “take-out” or even attempt to cook.   So, as it happens so often, Moms will end up cooking themselves!   However you celebrate this special day, may it be filled with love and may you be surrounded by those who care for you, even if it needs to be virtually.   We honor and esteem our Moms and thank God for the gift of who our Moms have been to and for us.   May Mary Help of Christians, our Spiritual Mother, bless all of our Moms and keep them safe and abundantly blessed.

With warm regards and gratitude ,