Provincial Letter June 4th, 2020

Dear Salesian sisters and brothers,

Yesterday, June 3rd, a huge protest and rally of 10, 000 people or more (some even reported 30,000) took place in the Mission district of San Francisco.   The protest was peaceful.  The march was organized by a 17 year old high school student and her friends.   Simone Jacques and her friends organized the demonstration through an Instagram group called NOJusticeNoPeaceSF that now has nearly 10,000 followers.  Yesterday, Jacques addressed the crowd that stretched for blocks along Dolores Avenue and spilled across Dolores Park.  She is black and Latina (Afrochicana).   This is what she said, “This entire time, people have been asking us, ‘are you under an org?’”  She said. “They want to know, ‘who is it?’  We’re just youth who grew up in the city.  We’re just people who care and love each other, and love each other enough to take care of each other.”   Those were powerful words coming from a young person and addressing many young people her age as well as families, children and older folks.

These days we are all experiencing a multitude of emotions.  Besides dealing with all of what Covid-19 has brought and how it has changed our lives drastically, now we as a country (and, world) are dealing with the injustices and violence of the racism that still dominates our country.  Once again we are reminded of the oppression against minorities, the entitlement of certain cultures over others, the lack of compassion and clear direction from our leaders, including Church leaders.   It can leave us confused, angry and hopeless.

As Christians and as Salesians, optimism, hope and a future worth living are always viable options offered to us by our loving God.   There are some, maybe, even members of the Salesian family, who see these protests and only see violence, lack of law and order and anarchy.   While we cannot close our eyes to the reality of those who violate the law and harm others, the majority of people who march are trying to make a statement of solidarity with our African American community but also with all minorities and, really, with all humankind.   All lives matter because all life comes from God.   No one culture has a right to oppress another culture.  And, this is done in many ways, not just through physical slavery.

This month of June, the Rector Major sent his monthly message which highlighted what the young people said at the Chapter in Turin back in March.  There were 16 young adults from six continents who accompanied us, the Chapter members, on our journey at the General Chapter.   They connected with us Salesians and with each other in a wonderful way.   The Rector Major quoted some of the words that these young adults gave us:  “We succeeded in having our hearts beat in unison.  You’ve given us the opportunity to connect with you, Salesians, whom want among us.   You did this in your Salesian style.  Stay with us, side by side, and allow us to be protagonists, too.”   The Rector Major described how these young adults initially struggled with each other, not because of age difference, but because of different languages (not all spoke English), culture differences and ways of thinking.   But, they had a common value and a common choice to unite for the same cause.   They spent several day in dialogue, not always agreeing, but in the end coming up with a common statement to present to the Chapter assembly.  The Rector Major went on to say, “The young people told us that they love us, that they really love us as educators—love us like friends, brothers and parents—since, they added, the young people of today suffer from a great dearth of fatherly care and concern.”    The young people asked us to be companions on the road.  They don’t need someone to tell them how to think and live.  But, they do want us by their side, even when they make mistakes.  They want us close to them as they make decisions.  They wanted us to show them that God loves them, that there is a God who is Love and who loves them unconditionally.    They want us to keep saying this and say it to all the young people of the world.  The Rector Major quoted Fr. Juan Vecchi, one of the past Rector Majors, as saying: “young people save us.”  Yes, young people save us from becoming too complacent, too comfortable, too safe, too clerical (and, entitled).

I go back to Simone Jacques, the 17 year old girl who with her friends saw the injustices in our world and decided to do something.   Yes, Young people save us!!!    They have power to do much good.   What they ask of us adults (Salesians) is to love them, show them God’s unconditional love and be close to them along the journey.   They can transform the world!  They have power, creativity, hope and love to do great things.  We have seen that in recent days.  They see the hatred, the racism, the silent leadership, the fear in us that wishes to squelch any freedoms of expression and thought.   As Salesians we are always against all racism, discrimination and violence.  We stand with people of all colors and creed to create a world that promotes justice, peace, compassion, kindness and love.   The young people know how that looks.  Do we?   Do we love each other enough to take care of each other? Let us stand with the young of good will.   Let us  be close to the young.   They will save us!!!

With warm regards and gratitude,