By Bro. Reegan Ledet, SDB
518. This was the approximate number of Salesians of Don Bosco that were present at a historical event, the Canonization of Brother Artemide Zatti. Really, even that number isn’t quite accurate, 518 SDBs registered for the week of events, but present at both St. Peter’s Square and later in Valdocco (the birthplace of the Salesian Family) was a number beyond my comprehension. It’s hard for me to write about the emotions, pride, and gratitude that my heart was filled with that week, but here I will attempt to share.
The moment three of my brother Salesians and I stepped off the bus and walked into the small alley just to the right of Sacro Cuore (the Generalate or Salesian worldwide headquarters), we were instantly welcomed with a palpable sense of family and that classic Salesian Hospitality. There were snacks and water, but most importantly there were Salesians all around. There were some Salesians running around from side to side preparing the check-in table, and some Salesians from Africa sitting waiting for the check-in table to be ready. Without missing a beat there was an instant connection and desire to just share pleasantries, and quickly the recognition of family created a moment to share and be together. Within, I would say 30 minutes, the few Salesians doubled, then tripled so that the small alley was filled with laughter and talking and of course eating.
I was a little overwhelmed with just the amount of people from all around the world in one place—acting as though they have known each other for years. It was fun seeing Salesians who really DID know each other, but haven’t seen each other for years. I saw fraternal reunions of Novitiate classmates, Specific Formation Houses, and Missionaries with their home provinces.
Yes, this was the first of many “teary-eyed moments for me”. I decided to finally go out and just start saying hi, and I immediately met new brothers that I can even now call friends. One being a young brother from the Philippines, after talking for a few minutes we realized that we are from the same “profession batch”, we were so excited! Later we realized we were at the same lodging! Immediately after, I also encountered and spoke with a quiet and friendly older Salesian who introduced himself as “Clement from Zambia,” and after speaking for a while he “let slip” that he was the First Salesian Bishop of Zambia!
As interactions were continuing, it was evident that regardless of age and experiences, we were simply confreres to one another—nothing more nothing less, but truly just brothers! This was an amazing realization for me.
These first hours preparing for the festivities were only a small part of what I experienced. The following days were filled with activities, meals, prayer moments, and tours. However, another particular experience I want to share is the first steps I took in Valdocco. Of course, for me, this was another “waterworks moment.” As we stepped off the bus and took in the beauty of the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, I was overcome with a deep sense of gratitude for not only the opportunity to go to Italy, but I was filled with immense gratitude for my vocation to the Salesian Family, particularly as a Salesian of Don Bosco!
My newly found brothers and I would often say to each other, “We are home!”
- “We”—together as Salesians, as brothers, as family, following in the footsteps of great Salesians like Brother Zatti.
- “Are”—the presence, the “taking it all in.”
- “Home”—the overwhelming sense of belonging, of safety, of comfort.
- “!”—the palpable excitement and the overflowing sense of gratitude that my Salesian brothers and I experienced.
Although I didn’t speak directly about the Canonization itself, I did recognize while I was reflecting on my recent experience that the proclamation of a Saint for the Church means that it is not only about what the holy figure had been, but rather what he or she continues to be for each one of us and for the Church, shining stars above the heavens guiding our feet on the way to holiness, the path to our Heavenly Home with God.
For Brother Zatti, the path to holiness was the sense of service and recognizing the True Presence of Christ in his brothers and sisters, and experiencing the True Joy that comes with that everyday relational experience! Brother Zatti, pray for us!