Dear Salesian Family and Salesian Young People:
Today I am filled with joy, grateful for the opportunity to experience in the past few days the joy and laughter of children at two different summer ministries in our Province.
The first was at the Summer Camp at San Luis Rey Parish in Laredo, Texas. When I dropped in and presided at the Eucharist at the Salesian Youth Leadership Conference (SYLC as many of us know it) in the middle of June, and then again when they visited the Provincial House in San Francisco before they flew home, I promised the youth leaders from Laredo that I would visit them and their summer camp ministry. I made good with that promise and spent time with the young people for two and a half days. One thing I learned right away was that camp was over by 1:00 PM, mainly because of the extremely hot weather in Southern Texas. As a matter of fact the average daily temperature while I was there was 110 degrees Fahrenheit. But in spite of the hot climate, it was a joy to see that the children, their youth animators and the staff were all having fun. It was also a blessing for me to know that the youth and adult leaders who have been at SYLC were using the Salesian leadership skills they have learned.
From Laredo I returned to the Los Angeles area and drove home to San Francisco the next day. However, I stopped at Camp St. Francis in Watsonville/Aptos to visit the Salesians and Novices who were running a week-long summer camp for Vietnamese children and young people. When I got to Camp St. Francis in the late afternoon the whole camp was barely returning from the beach. I would learn that many of the young people were from St. Anthony’s in Oakland, but there were also some who came from Stockton and from the states of Oregon and Washington. I have not seen Camp St. Francis as packed as when I was a young Salesian brother in the the late 70’s. Again, it was great to observe the young people having fun. A scene that made me smile was when a young girl approached one of the Salesians and asked if there was going to be cabin inspection. That brought back fond memories for me during my years as a young Salesian at Camp St. Francis.
There are other summer ministries in our Province and I thank the youth and adult leaders who animate them. Thousands of miles from Texas and California are also many Salesian summer camps that bring joy to children and young people. In a special way it gives me both hope, pride and gratitude to read about Salesians in neighboring countries to Ukraine having taken in many families displaced because of the war. There are also stories of Ukrainian children participating at Salesian summer camps in these countries.
We know that young people are happy when they feel loved. It is why it is important for us to live wholeheartedly this year’s strenna: “Do all through love, nothing through constraint.” (St. Francis de Sales) Please join me in praying for the continued success of the Salesian mission to young people in our Province and beyond. Be assured of my prayers for you and all you loved ones.
Sincerely in Christ and in Mary,