Rector Major from 1996 - 2002
Juan Edmundo Vecchi Monti, was born at Viedma (Argentina) on 23 June 1931, the youngest of seven children of a family of Italian emigrants who between 1898 and 1906 moved from Emilia Romagna to Argentina in a period in which many Italians dreamed of escaping from the poverty of their own country by finding work and tranquility in foreign parts.
His father Albino Vecchi came from Boretto (Reggio Emilia), and his mother Maria Monti from Montescudo (Forlì). They became acquainted in Argentina and were married there. Juan is a nephew of Blessed Artemide Zatti.
Juan got to know the Salesians in Viedma and decided to follow a salesian vocation. He made his first vows at Fortín Mercedes, 29 January 1947, and studied theology at Turin-Crocetta, where he was ordained priest on 1 July 1958. In the same year at Turin he obtained the licentiate in theology. On his return to Argentina he was Rector at Viedma from '65 to '72.
In the same year he began his long service - some 30 years - to the Congregation as a member of the General Council. From '72 to '78 he was Regional Councillor for the Atlantic part of Latin America; from '78 to '90 he was Councillor General for Youth Pastoral Work; from '90 al '96 Vicar General; and finally from 20 March 1996 he was the eighth successor of Don Bosco.
He will be remembered as an innovator in youth pastoral work, but also for his outstanding gifts of government. He could listen and give due weight to all suggestions and opinions, and to individual needs. He had a strong sense of fatherliness and of fidelity to the founder's charism, and was moreover a competent leader and animator of teamwork, sensitive and open to signs of the times.
As Rector Major from the time of the GC24, the Chapter on the laity, Fr Vecchi always believed in them and kept up a trusting and sharing >relationship with the thousands of lay people who take part in different ways in Don Bosco's mission for the service of the young. Noteworthy too was his post-conciliar sensitivity, in which he followed his predecessor Fr Egidio Viganò in believing in a 'Church-communion' and in a 'Church-mission' for the service of the poor, in a Congregation incarnate in all cultures and reaching out to the poorest and most marginalized of every continent. But as distinct from Fr Viganò, what stands out in Fr Vecchi is the prominence of the anthropological and educative aspect over the theological and spiritual, while the latter characteristic remains high in his personality (cf. his many letters and publications on this latter aspect). Those who have known him will bear witness to the great spiritual momentum which always animated him and made him enthusiastic and optimistic.
Without any doubt Fr Vecchi was the greatest bond of union between the testimony of convinced spirituality and consistent salesian pastoral activity among young people; he was convinced that only one who is spiritual, one who believes in Him who gives life and identity, can pass on Christ to the young.
To the twofold aspects of spirituality and pastoral work, Fr Vecchi always added witness of salesian religious and community life. Credible communities that are spiritual and pastorally committed are the fruitful expression of that love of God for young people of which Salesians profess to be 'signs and bearers. This is a point in which Fr Vecchi always believed, even to the extent of choosing as the theme of the GC25, which he convoked, an expression which places three components in a close relationship: the testimony of spirituality, community life, and action among the young.
The eighth successor of Don Bosco was also a man of communication, a pastoral sector in which he firmly b>elieved and to which he gave strong encouragement. In the program of his six years as Rector Major, the communication dimension entered every environment, and found concrete expression, among other items, in the renewal and relaunching of the 52 editions of the Salesian Bulletin.
Fr Vecchi was without any doubt a great worker, a man of faith, and a faithful reflection of the charismatic understanding of Christ that the Holy Spirit entrusted to Don Bosco. A man who was a good listener and attentive to modern culture, he believed in the possibility of a meeting between faith and culture, between lay and religious aspects. He had the great ability to get to the heart of questions without any lack of respect for the point of view of others; he was an animator with clear ideas that were open and shared with others, able to detect new horizons with optimism, and to impart drive once a project had been decided on.
CURRICULUM OF THE RECTOR MAJOR
1. Name and surname.
Juan Edmundo VECCHI MONTI
Rector Major (Superior General) of the Salesians, elected by the 24th General Charter, 20 March 1996, on the first ballot. In the line of succession, Fr Vecchi is the eighth successor of Don Bosco, Founder of the Salesians.
3. Origin and family
Born at Viedma (Argentina) 23 June 1931. His mother language is Spanish, but he speaks Italian, English and Portuguese and understands French.
His father was Albino Vecchi, originally from Boretto (Reggio Emilia, Italia) and his mother Maria Monti di Montescudo (Forlì, Italia). They left Italy for Argentina between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th (1906 and 1898 respectively. Juan is the youngest of seven children and has both Italian and Argentine citizenship.
- First religious vows: Fortin Mercedes 29.01.1947
- Ordained priest: Turin 1.7.1958
- Spiritual Director of salesian seminary of Fortín Mercedes (Argentina) from 1958 to 1960.
- Rector and teacher in the Dominic Savio Secondary College of General Roca (1961) and then of Don Bosco of Bahía Blanca (1962‑1965).
- Rector of the Viedma Formation Centre for young Salesians of Argentina (1966‑1970)
- Member of the Provincial Council of Southern Argentina (1968‑71)
5. Important offices held
- Delegate to the 20th General Chapter (1972). Member of all the following General Chapters (21, 22, 23 and 24). In these he was respectively: Reporter of the Commission in charge of the definitive drafting of the Constitutions (21), Moderator (22), president of the group with responsibility for the text (23), elected as Rector Major (24).
- Member of the General Council of the Salesian Congregation with headquarters at Rome, as Regional Councillor for Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay (1972‑1977)
- General Councillor for Youth Pastoral Work, in charge of the education and religious formation of young people to whom salesian work is directed throughout the world (1977‑1990).
- Vicar of the Rector Major (Vicar General) (1990‑1996)
- Took over the guidance of the Salesian Congregation on the death of Fr Egidio Viganò, 23 June 1995, in the period preceding the election of the successor.
- Elected Rector Major 20 March 1996.
6. Studies and specialization
- Licentiate in Theology, Salesian Pontifical Athenaeum, Turin (1958).
- Specialized in the sector of youth pastoral work, and particularly in salesian pedagogy.
In addition to collaboratio>n with various reviews (Note di Pastorale Giovanile, Catechesi, Mission Joven), Fr Vecchi published various books in collaboration with other authors specializing in the field of youth pastoral work, and cooperated in the publication of various Dictionaries (Pastorale Giovanile, Scienze dell'educazione). In 1990 he published through the CSS of Madrid: "Un proyecto de pastoral juvenil en la Iglesia de hoy. Orientaciones para caminar con los jovenes". In 1992 the LDC of Turin published his: "Pastorale giovanile: una sfida per la comunità ecclesiale", and again in 1993: "Animatori di gruppi giovanili". The ELLEDICI published in 1999: 'Dire Dio ai Giovani' and 'I guardiani dei sogni con il dito sul mouse', and in 2001 'Spiritualità salesiana. Temi fondamentali'.