Provincial Letter May 14th, 2020

Dear Salesian sisters and brothers,

I wish all of you a very Happy Feast of Mary Dominica Mazzarello today, May 13th.   In a special way, I wish the Salesian Sisters a Happy Feast Day!   Mary Mazzarello was a simple peasant girl who opened herself to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and allowed herself to be guided by Don Bosco and other important figures in her life.   Sometimes misunderstood and, perhaps, not always appreciated, Mary Dominica, like Don Bosco, continued to trust in Divine Providence and Mary.   In her simple spirituality she encouraged her sisters to be humble and live in the presence of God.   Because of her humility and trust, she was able to found a new Congregation of women, along with Don Bosco, which would grow and blossom into one of the largest Congregations of women religious in our world today.  Today, we pray for our Salesian Sisters and ask God to continue to bless them and their work among the young.  We ask that Mary Help of Christians keep them safe, especially, during this pandemic.   May they, our Sisters, continue to be a witness of Mary’s presence in our lives.  Thank you for your service!

Today, our Western province connected through zoom.   The meeting/gathering lasted almost two hours.  Communities all connected with most of the confreres present and shared their experiences of fraternal life during this Covid-19 epidemic.   Three things stayed with me:   First, we are all dealing with a new and difficult situation in a calm and fraternal manner.   We are safe, happy and living with each other in a caring and brotherly manner.  Brothers are pitching in to help out and care for each other.   I am very grateful for this fraternal witness.  Secondly, we are creatively trying to reach out to our young people and to those who are suffering, through distant teaching, live-streaming Masses, retreats and other services, virtual oratory models, handing out food and supplies to poor and needy families, praying for them and even attending to their needs, whether through listening, administering some sacraments or encouraging them through the internet.  THANK YOU!  Thirdly, we have been blessed by so many good people who continue to support us, bring us food, look after us or share their supplies with us.   And, many pray for us.  THANK YOU!  While so many are suffering, we give thanks and are grateful for what we do have and the abundance showered upon us by God.  May we also be moved to share!

Tomorrow, May 14th, Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has invited all religions to a day of prayer, fasting and doing good to others.  We are all in different situations, but I encourage us all to keep tomorrow as a day of remembrance and do something different that will help us be in union with the world, with our Church and with those who are suffering.

On May 15th, the Salesian World begins its nine day novena in preparation for the celebration of the feast of Mary Help of Christians on May 24th.  This year, because May 24 falls on a Sunday, we are asked to celebrate the feast of Mary on Monday, May 25th.   Let us be creative and try to make these nine days very special.   Let us ask Mary for her continual protection, for her guidance as we move forward and for her presence to give us courage, peace and serenity.  MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS, PRAY FOR US!

I wish to announce and congratulate the following for accepting the invitation to serve the province in a special capacity:

  1. FABIAN CARDENAS has been appointed as Delegate for Youth Ministry.  He will take Br. Al Vu’s place.
  2. Vien Nguyen has been appointed as part of the Vocation Team with a possibility of taking on a greater role in the near future.
  3. Elizabeth Gamarra, with her acceptance, has been appointed as Delegate for the Salesian Family.

I WISH TO THANK ALL THREE FOR ACCEPTING AND SAYING, “YES” TO THIS NEW CHALLENGE IN THEIR LIVES AND TO THE SERVICE OF THE PROVINCE.   IN THE NAME OF THE PROVINCE WE SAY:  THANK YOU!! We hope to accompany you with our presence and our prayers!

Fr. Tim Ploch, who was our provincial from 2019 -2014 and was elected Councilor for our Inter-America Region for six years, has finished his term of service for the Congregation.   He could have been re-elected for another six years, but he and the Chapter members felt that Fr. Tim deserved a break.   In the name of our Western Province of St. Andrew the Apostle, we wish to say, THANK YOU to Fr. Tim for his service and commitment during the last six years as Regional.   Definitely, I did not envy his job and obligations, his many hours of travel and commitment to the provinces of the region.   The Provincials of the Region had planned to have taken him out for a special dinner during the Chapter to say, THANK YOU!  But, then came Covid-19 and that changed all of our plans.   So, in a very simple way, with some wine from California and Amaro, we said thank you and good-bye while at the Chapter during one of our meals.   You could sense that the provincials of the region were very grateful for his service, his warmth and closeness to the confreres, provincials and provinces.    Later during the summer months, Fr. Tim will return from Rome to his home province of New Rochelle in the Eastern United States.   Fr. Tim hopes to take care of some medical needs and be given a short sabbatical.   After that, Fr. Tim Zak and the new provincial of the Western Province will have to negotiate Fr. Tim’s future.  We wish Tim all the best and good health.  And, we accompany him with our prayers and offer him our warm welcome anytime he wishes to return to visit or stay in our province.

We do not have a clear path to our future!  Should Schools reopen and when?  When is the best time to begin reopening our businesses?  When should we start opening our Churches and begin Masses and Sacramental services for our people?  When is it safe to travel, etc.?   We do live in a very precarious time.   Many of us probably feel safe and secure.   However, there are many who have lost jobs or feel very uncertain about the future.   We Salesians, while blessed in so many ways and we are grateful to God and to so many generous people, still don’t know what the future will bring and how best to confront the reality of the future.   Finances will be diminished, regulations for continuing to minister will be different and restricting, our ability to move freely will be limited.   We really do not know our future and what it will look like.   We may return to what it was before….but, I doubt it.   We will return to some form of ministry and post-Covid-19 life.   But, this I do know:   We will not be abandoned by our God.  Yes, life might be different, but God will continue to accompany us and walk by our side.   Mary Help of Christians will continue to guide us and give us her protection, as she has done throughout the centuries and she did with Don Bosco and Mary Mazzarello.   Let us open our hearts to God’s Holy Spirit who continues to move in our Church and in our world.  We will be victorious!   But, much will depend on our trust, resilience, our faith, flexibility and openness!   God writes straight with crooked lines.   Those who cannot change or surrender to what life will offer us, will continue to struggle.  Those who can surrender to God’s spirit and newness, will see new dreams!  Let us ask Mary Help of Christians to give us a heart like hers, trusting, open, kind and humble.

With warm regards and gratitude ,

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