By: Andres Neria
Social Communication and Media Coordinator
This year’s RE (Religious Education) Congress certainly felt different with the limited number of attendees and exhibitors. Despite that, for those who were in attendance (physically and virtually) there was a sense of hope that it’s still possible to gather, be formed, and share in community our living faith with others. Participants and organizers support one another while keeping in mind that we are still transitioning out of a two-year long pandemic and trying to adapt to this new “normal.”
This year’s theme for RE Congress was “Living Waters of Hope”.
As a Salesian Family, this was the goal at this year’s conference, to be “living waters of hope” for others by sharing our Salesian charism, our joy and optimism, our Salesian story that has been present here in the United States for 125 years. It is interesting to point out that visitors to our booth weren’t necessarily looking to buy resources, they were looking for prayers, someone to talk to, someone to listen to them. Attendees and exhibitors alike wanted to reconnect with one another and support one another. With the help and animation of our vocation director, Fr. Vien Nguyen, SDB, we were able to do just that and offer a prayer space for those who wish to write a prayer intention or simply just to talk about their spiritual journey and faith.
“If there is something this pandemic has not taken away from us, it’s the power of prayer” said a mother of three as her sons wrote their prayer intentions and hung them on our prayer tree.
Underneath our prayer tree, a 20-minute video montage played on repeat each day, showed the ongoing humanitarian work of the Salesian Family in Poland for the people of Ukraine. We continue to pray for the people of Ukraine and all those affected by these attacks.
This year’s theme for RE Congress is a call to action, to be “living waters of hope”, especially to those who have lost hope or feel lost during these difficult times. We continue to be “signs and bearers of God’s love” like our bracelets that we were giving away said, but our actions must be done “through love”.
“Do all things through love…”, is the Strenna for this year for the entire Salesian Family that was presented by our Rector Major. Every detail, every resource, every interaction we had at our booth was done with love (seen and unseen). We were blessed and fortunate enough to have Fr. Alejandro Rodriguez, SDB with us at this year’s conference and highlighted his recent publications on Don Bosco’s Preventive System—an educative and pastoral approach that continues to be relevant in current times, but with new and updated perspectives and applications. Along with Fr. Alejandro’s publications we also had other resources on St. Francis de Sales, St. John Bosco, and Salesian spirituality.
Every year the youth ministry department of our province assists in the design of a shirt based on the Strenna and every year catechists and religious education coordinators come to our booth to check out our latest design.
“My students love these shirts and it’s just a simple way for me to spread a positive message” shared a first-year catechist. For every donation of $25 attendees received a shirt of their choosing or a sticker for any smaller donation.
Walking around the conference, the atmosphere was filled with a lot of laughter, a lot of fraternal embraces—living waters of hope that refreshed and renewed each attendee to continue the journey.
Present at the booth was also our provincial, Fr. Mel Trinidad. He reflected, “It feels different…but it’s good to finally be in person and connect with others, it’s been a long time, a lot of people needed this”.
It certainly felt different, but that could also be because we are slowly transitioning out of a pandemic and trying to live our “normal” lives or it could be that a new movement is coming, filled with hope and motivation to do all things through love and if there is anything we as Salesians know about a movement is that it only takes a few to start a “quake”.
Our time at this year’s RE Congress would not have been possible without the support and collaboration of our provincial Fr. Mel Trinidad and our provincial treasurer Br. Tom Mass, the provincial council, the Youth Ministry, Social Communications and Vocation departments, booth volunteers, and all of you who contributed with caring thoughts and prayers for us this past weekend. As a province and as a Salesian Family we did our best to accompany the many visiting catechists and educators, who are doing their best to accompany young people on this journey of faith and hope. We pray that our Salesian presence at these events may continue to also be living waters of hope for each of them. We hope to see you all next year!