THE SALESIAN RECTOR
A MINISTRY FOR THE ANIMATION AND GOVERNING
OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
ROME 8 DECEMBER 1986
I present to you this volume: THE SALESIAN RECTOR, A MINISTRY FOR THE ANIMATION AND GOVERNING OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITY", an aid requested by the GC21 and now revised to bring it into line with the definitive text of the Constitutions, the new CIC, and suggestions and contributions that have been received.
It is a book of Salesian reflections presented as an authoritative and brotherly aid to rectors who are called upon to animate and govern their community in its life and mission.
I would like to share with you some thoughts about its characteristics:
- It is first of all a personal aid based on gospel values. It asks you whether and how your attitudes measure up to those of the Risen Christ. This refers not to a generic but to a unique manner of being called and sent forth by Him. It challenges your concern for the particular kind of life of the community, for the advancement and holiness of each confrere, and for the good of young people.
Our Constitutions make very clear the need for this rapport with others and the many different ways in which it is realized in practice: "the rector represents Christ who unites his followers in the service of the Father."
- It is a text permeated with the Salesian spirit. In the ministry which has been entrusted to you, you must recreate the gifts, feelings, and attitudes of Don Bosco himself. This will help you to fathom the secret of his fatherliness and to make it come alive today with the same goals and ways of reaching them, the same efforts and obligations, and to enjoy their rich results.
- It has been prepared with our mission in view. Certainly it requires you to be spiritual men. But remember what I wrote in my letter on the Salesian Family: "The activity of pastoral charity is not inferior to its being; rather does it accompany it, reveal it, shed luster on it, fulfill it and express its genuine truth. It does not come after but resides within it as an element of its dynamic identity. It is radically interior insofar as it is a participation of the love of God. Thus it is that in the depths of an apostolic experience of the Holy Spirit (St. Francis de Sales ecstasy in action) we find after all a form of the interior Iife."
First and foremost therefore it is a practical text in the sense that it asks you to be faithful to Don Bosco in the particular way in which rectors have to be faithful, so that through your ministry the confreres may grow in their Salesian vocation and the youngsters themselves may be evangelized.
In terms of these primary duties you are offered the means which are considered at the present day to be the most suitable and efficacious.
- It is meant to be as complete as possible. Every attitude or idea naturally brings others to mind. If some of them had been left out there would have been the danger that the work as a whole would have been lacking in comprehension and completeness. The risk would have been not so much that of being insufficiently complete but rather of failing to present the overall sense of a vocation.
- The booklet is not meant to be a treatise, even though in some places it contains ideas which help us to understand our spirit. What it offers is a providential opportunity for clarifying and directing the tasks which are properly yours as rectors and indicating a priority among them. It will clear up uncertainties and foster inventiveness and creativity, so as to give back to the Salesian rector the charismatic dignity which Don Bosco meant him to have, and to the confreres the trust that stems from a good rapport with the rector and from jointly responsible obedience.
- Prove its value for yourselves! It is up to you to verify for yourselves the value of this aid. If the text is truly based on the spiritual experience of the Congregation, as we hope will prove to be the case, then as you relive and develop this experience you should be able to understand the gift given by the Lord to Don Bosco when he created the special character of the rector, and you will come to realize what a great force for animation and salvation lies in your ministry.
My dear rectors, meditate on these pages and let others know about them too. They should become a yardstick for assessing how your community is progressing. Recall what Don Albera wrote in the introduction to his Manual for Rectors: the rectors cannot fulfill their ministry "without the cooperation of all members of the Congregation. If this harmony should ever be lacking among us, we would no longer be worthy sons of such a good Father, nor would our many institutes produce the results which God, the Church, and even civil society have a right to expect from them."
May Mary Help of Christians, Mother of the Church, inspire us with confidence in all our undertakings, and give us hope and consolation in the difficult moments of our daily work.
Rome, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. 8 December 1986
Fr. Egidio Vigano Rector Major