By Sr. Mary Greenan, FMA
It was at the same time both simple and profound. Three key factors were on display representing three essential elements of the Salesian booth at the LA Religious Education Congress 2023:
1) The Salesian name or ‘brand,’
2) Education of the young and
3) Don Bosco appearing behind the shoulder of the towering statue of a life-size Mary, Help of Christians
Hearts Accompanying Hearts
One key lesson was being taught: An inspired combination of identity, devotion and educational mission continues to move the hearts of people open to making the journey into the mystery of God through their following of Christ.
By far the majority of those who stopped by the booth were good, committed, and faith filled lay people, open to God being in their daily lives and consequently continuing to be that “yeast in today’s human family” (2023 Strenna).
It was a truly humbling experience to be in that booth on two levels. In the first instance the experience of devotion to the figure of Mary was almost tangible. She attracted visitors and then drew them in. Her significance as “Help of Christians” was real to many and as if affirming her presence one more time. The image of Don Bosco behind her right shoulder confirmed the awesome reality that true devotion engenders hope and entrustment to God. True, there were a few who did not know her immediately, yet still they were drawn by the need for that same hope and entrustment.
Then the simple act of taking a slip of paper and writing the name or need that each one had in their hearts, and the equally unpretentious act of offering this prayer, entrusting this need to Mary to bring to her Son, Jesus.
Looking from Deeply Within
From inside the booth, we had the vantage point of seeing the faces, the expressions, the intensity and the demeanor of each one as they presented their petitions. From inside the booth, we witnessed the devotion and the love so obviously intermingled with the pain and the tears of people burdened by their own personal stories.
Outside: An Atmospheric River
While outside of the booth, and even the convention center, California was once again experiencing another ‘atmospheric river’ of rain and wind; from inside the booth we were experiencing a different and maybe even greater atmospheric river of our own.
Inside: A Devotional River
For, from inside the booth, we were witnessing a devotional river of the world’s problems being entrusted in faith to God’s goodness, God’s love for each one of us. From inside the booth, we became a container of hope and a receptacle of boundless love simply by being present, fully and wholeheartedly present to all as Salesians.
Identity, Devotion, Educational Mission
From inside the booth, we could not help but become aware that the combination of identity, devotion, and educational mission at the heart of our Salesian endeavors is as necessary today as it was when first it began to evolve all those years ago. Indeed, perhaps we were having confirmed for us that the Salesian charism continues to grow and evolve to the degree that we remain among the people of God, encouraging and loving them to the fullness of life promised to us by Jesus. Truly the experience of recognizing God at work in our lives is at the heart of our Salesian Mission today.
To the extent that we continue to take any and all opportunities to inspire, encourage and even cajole our young people especially, to live for each other and for others with love and devotion and hope we shape the future faith of the generations to come.