Fr Francesco Cereda
General Councillor for Formation
At the end of January the Rector Major announced for the whole Congregation a three-year period of preparation and a year-long celebration for the bi-centenary of the birth of Don Bosco. For all of us a “time of grace” is beginning in which we have the opportunity to study further the charism of Don Bosco in some of its fundamental aspects: history, pedagogy, spirituality and the mission with and for the young. Especially the possibility is being offered to us to recognise with gratitude the gift of the Salesian consecrated vocation to which God has called us and which we have accepted with joy. The Strenna for 2011 also suggests that we re-examine and describe to the young our vocation story. This then is a favourable time to re-discover and to revitalise the gift of our vocation and commitment to fidelity to it.
In recent years the Provinces have undertaken a process of reflection on the vocational fragility[ 1 ] of candidates and of those in formation, seeking its roots, expressions, causes, and identifying the priorities in what needs to be done to overcome it. This fragility is a feature of the younger generations nowadays and continues to persist in our initial formation, especially in the Provinces which have not resolved the problems of weakness in the teams of formation personnel, in the processes of formation, in the formation procedures. In these years we have had an annual average loss of about 110 novices and 220 temporary professed out of an average of 530 novices who begin; vocational fragility is one cause of these leaving, even though it is not the only one; it is important therefore to keep it in mind.
Now the time has come to begin in the Provinces a process aimed at strengthening the vocational fidelity of the confreres in the period of ongoing formation but also of those who are in initial formation. In fact it should be noted that the period of temporary profession requires fidelity; it is not a provisional experience. The formula for temporary profession makes it clear that it is a decision which is subjectively definitive; in it the one making the profession says that, “although it is my intention” to offer himself to God “for all my life,” he makes the vow “to live obedient poor and chaste” for a specific period of time, “in accordance with the Church’s dispositions.”[ 2 ] This should be taken more into account in initial formation. It should also be observed that vocational fidelity is a reminder of the possibility of infidelity in its various forms, and that the lack of fidelity does not coincide with leaving; but it is also useful to remember that by encouraging processes of fidelity, to some extent infidelities, in other words failures in religious discipline, and the phenomenon of those leaving can be overcome.[ 3 ]
1. EXPERIENCE OF VOCATIONAL FIDELITY
1.1. Re-examining the story of one’s own vocation
Vocational fidelity is first of all a gift from God, as is the vocation itself. We are aware that the initiative of God is at the very beginning of our vocation story. Through love He has called us into existence, he has made us grow up in a family, he has made us live in a particular culture. In Baptism He made us his children. Through the course of our lives, by means of encounters and particular situations, He has accompanied our maturing in the faith, in love for Jesus, in accepting His Word and the Sacraments, in entrusting ourselves to Mary, in our feeling part of the Church, in giving ourselves to others.
Then the day came when we felt drawn to follow Jesus more closely. The call did not come out of the blue; it was the result of a plan of love which God had first thought of before our birth and put into effect through His actions and our responses. With the eyes of faith, looking back over the past, we can see how we have been the object of God’s predilection. He chose us before we chose Him, He placed His trust in us, He seduced us;[ 4 ] He guided us. We fell in love with Jesus; we felt happy about continuing His presence and action in the world.[ 5 ] God opened up our hearts, giving us the grace to make us feel loved by Jesus and to love Him with all our hearts; He helped us to identify with His feelings and His way of life; He made us ready to serve the young as Don Bosco did. Thus with religious profession in the Congregation we offered to God and to the young not only our heart, our goods, our independence but our whole selves.
We were aware that every choice we make means the renunciation of other opportunities; on the other hand we found the decision for Jesus and his mission so attractive that we felt happy to leave other things. That is what Don Bosco did, for the sake of souls letting everything else go; that is what the merchant in the gospel did, who after having found the precious pearl, with joy sold everything so as to be able to acquire it.[ 6 ] The acceptance of the vocation to consecrated life was motivated by the beauty of the gift; we were convinced that we were finding happiness in this vocation; we preferred to say no to some good things in order to say yes to others which to us were better. And so we began a journey of fidelity to the vocation God had given us; in fact, it is on the vocation that fidelity is based.
We do not chose a vocation, rather it is given to us; we can only recognise it and accept it; if it were us to chose it, we would no longer be dealing with a vocation but with a plan that we could always change. With religious profession God confirms the covenant established with us in baptism.[ 7 ] He consecrates us to live totally for Him in communities of brothers, following Christ obedient, poor and chaste, at the service of the young;[ 8 ] we respond to His action of consecration offering ourselves. Being faithful means renewing our response to this special Covenant that the Lord has made with us.[ 9 ] Following the example of Don Bosco, each day we say: “I have promised God that I would give of myself to my last breath for my poor boys.” Sometimes our response can be uncertain, weak, unfaithful, but not for this reason does God’s Covenant with us cease; He does not withdraw His Covenant. God’s faithfulness is the foundation of ours and invites it.
1.2. The possibility of a definitive choice
Vocational fidelity is a commitment of love; it is a free choice which involves the whole of life until the very end. The commitment “for ever” is demanded by love; in fact the measure of love is not to have any limit; such was the love of Jesus who “having loved his own who were in the world he loved them to the end.”[ 10 ] In inter-personal relationships, love is total and unconditional commitment; a partial or provisional love is not genuine; putting conditions to love, for example a time limit, empties love of its meaning. Love demands totality and to be definitive. This applies even more so with regard to love for God and for Jesus, a radical, total love, for ever.
Sometimes a question may come to us: is it possible to live faithfully until the very end? If we were to rely solely on our own strength, it would be difficult to answer; but fidelity finds its support in the faithfulness of God. Through His covenant God unites Himself to us as a trustworthy partner; it is not a question therefore of how long our strength lasts but how long His lasts; it lasts for ever. The history of salvation is the testimony to the fidelity of God. God is always faithful. That gives us confidence because we know that, in spite of our weakness, God who began His work in us will see that it is finished;[ 11 ] He will not let us be tempted beyond our strength;[ 12 ] His grace will be sufficient for us.[ 13 ] In spite of our infidelities, He remains faithful because He cannot deny Himself.[ 14 ] God never takes back His gifts.[ 15 ] God’s faithfulness make ours possible.
Another question could trouble us: how can we be faithful until the very end? We cannot know whether or not our commitment will be definitive; only fidelity day by day is what, with the grace of God, we can ensure. When in religious profession we say “for ever,” we are not stating what will happen, but what we want to happen. In this regard the Rector Major writes: “Fidelity has a typical feature that distinguishes it from other virtues. We can compare it, in the area of the fine arts, to music, as compared with painting or sculpture. In a single moment of time I can contemplate a beautiful statue or a famous painting, but I cannot listen, instantaneously to the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven or the Magic Flute of Mozart: here is indispensible its “unfolding” in time, its ‘historicity’... In similar fashion fidelity cannot be realised except as an historical experience.”[ 16 ] Therefore it is necessary to ensure a response to God every single day.
Since we are living in a world which is constantly changing and we ourselves are changing, there can only be a dynamic and creative fidelity. It is not a question of remaining faithful but of becoming faithful. Making religious profession is “like designing a frame: marking its limits and separating what it inside from what remains outside; this space has to be filled with future decisions which will be considered successful and true only if they are in accordance with the first freely chosen one.”[ 17 ] It is necessary to deal with new circumstances by making decisions consistent with the initial commitment. It will not always be easy; there may perhaps be infidelities; the doubt may arise that we have chosen the wrong path, that we did not understand what we were choosing, that we never imagined the difficulties. No one can know how the future will be and therefore anticipate the problems; one cannot have complete knowledge of a form of life before having committed oneself to it; no one can have an experience of the different forms of life and then chose the right one. Life is a continuous unfolding of the choice made and a renewed commitment to live it to the full.
2. FIDELITY “UNDER THREAT”
In the modern age fidelity is not immediately perceived as of value; it is therefore hard to create a mentality of fidelity. Culture, especially postmodern culture, while it appreciates values such as, for example, a person’s sincerity or the authenticity of his relationships, it does not favour firm ties. On the other hand, fidelity also becomes weakened as a result of ways of thinking about and living the Christian vocation and in particular the vocation to consecrated life. Even though situations may present difficulties and threats, it is always necessary to look for ways of changing them into opportunities and advantages.
2.1. The speed of cultural change
In recent times the accelerated expansion of technology, the central role of economic activity and the enormous impact of the media have contributed to a notable cultural shift in society, not only in that of the West but, on account of globalisation, also in the rest of the world. Some aspects of one’s own culture or cultures present challenges to vocational fidelity or threaten it. It is necessary to be aware of this in order to change such challenges into the starting point for action.
In the consumer society a person experiences the difficulty of making a choice; often he is led to satisfy what is immediate and close at hand; one becomes accustomed to a “use and throw away” mentality. Even convictions, values and relationships are considered commodities to be obtained, used and thrown away. The culture of pleasure-seeking is making rapid strides, of what I like and what gives me satisfaction. The consumer models of life are spreading also in poor countries. With this mentality, if a choice is not liked or proves difficult, it can be changed. Priority is given to the exclusive fulfilment of one’s own needs and desires; respect for fidelity, truth, stable relationships is lost; long term commitments are neglected. In this way a person is in danger of being psychologically fragile and immature.
In addition, there is a widespread relativist mentality. There are a huge number of images and opinions. Not having the time or the opportunity to stop and think, there is the danger of knowing about everything new but of living superficially. The search for truth is not attractive because such an effort requires hard work, and the result is uncertain. One does not know how to distinguish what is essential from what is ephemeral. Thus everything becomes fluid; history loses it meaning and nihilism is always on the horizon. We are in a “fluid” society. Living with constant change, people are afraid of taking on commitments. They prefers to live “for the day” and to be involved in the present. They find if difficult to understand why anyone should tie themselves down with definitive choices in early youth, when they have no experience of the future. If by chance, commitments have previously been made, abandoning the decisions taken is justified by saying: “today I see things differently, and tomorrow I might see them different again.”
In an atmosphere like this therefore, decisions often depend more on one’s own first reactions, emotions and desires rather than on motivations and convictions; one is easily carried away by facile enthusiasm and a spontaneous response. A strong impression can sometimes lead to radical and unexpected changes in life-choices without the consequences being assessed; what is important is to overcome the situation of uneasiness in which one finds oneself and achieve a state of well-being hoped for though not guaranteed. In this way the ability to wait, renounce and make sacrifices in view of more long-lasting benefits in the future is diminished. It becomes hard to accept the cross of everyday life, discipline, asceticism, self-control, and therefore one easily gives up in the face of difficulties. So the question arises: how can we live faithful to the vocation of consecration at a time of radical changes and of swift transformations?
2.2. The weakness of the identity of consecrated life
In addition to cultural aspects, there are also factors within consecrated life which make it weak. This happens especially when the sense is weakened or lost of one’s own identity as a consecrated person, who is called to live as “a living memorial of Jesus’ way of living and acting” among the young.[ 18 ] If consecrated life is not lived in a prophetic way, the spiritual approach of the primacy of God, service of the poorest ones, the brotherly atmosphere of communion not only lose their proper identity, but they also put at risk the fidelity of the consecrated person. Then the risk increases when the “liberal model” of consecrated life, which can make headway especially in secularised cultures, is adopted,. [ 19 ]
Consecrated life requires a deep experience of faith and of the spiritual life, which permeates one’s way of life, gives the primacy to God, makes us experience the love of the Lord Jesus, fills the heart with apostolic passion. However, when the spiritual life is lived on a superficial level or the spiritual experience is only marginal or loses its mystical power, the values of consecrated life are not interiorised so as to penetrate the heart at the level of the affections, sentiments, convictions and motivations. Then it is possible to live in an exterior manner a life of prayer, obedience, poverty and chastity, or community life; there is no longer an authentic life but only formal observance; the radical nature of the gospel is not being lived. Progressively the vocation of consecrated life loses its meaning.
Consequently, as time passes there is also the loss of apostolic passion, the capacity for selflessness and generosity is diluted, one feels psychologically and spiritually tired. The apostolate among the young ceases to be a presence which animates and evangelises; it is carried out only for the sake of duty. Because of a lack of reorganisation of the works, of people getting older and the shortage of vocations, some confreres find themselves overburdened with an excessive and not always satisfying work-load; others are discouraged by the sense of their own inadequacies or the lack of results; so it is not difficult to understand the reasons for a certain sense of apostolic frustration. There is no longer any dynamism, inventiveness, creativity. And then when apostolic commitment loses its meaning, we ask ourselves about the meaning of our vocation.
If then there is a lack of fraternal life, individualism takes hold; and this leads the confrere to distance himself from the community and to live in his own world. In this way the family spirit and the sense of belonging suffer damage. Community meetings become formalities. Everyone would like a close human contact but sometimes they feel more like employees in a business enterprise than people consecrated for a mission. Gradually, if care is not taken, there is a slide in the direction of mediocrity and a tendency to adopt bourgeois values; asceticism is avoided; an easy life is sought. Confidence in the charism is lost. Lacking a life enhancing environment in community, some begin to seek it outside. Consecrated life now begins to feel a burden and fidelity begins to cause problems.
There are also other factors which increase the difficulties. In the past the consecrated person enjoyed prestige; this facilitated fidelity, even in the cases where the individual felt fragile or less secure in his vocation. Nowadays the Church sometimes appears less than credible, and the image of the consecrated person enjoys less esteem; so there is little appreciation for his role; often indifference, lack of interest or apathy are met with. Ever more in secularised societies religion tends to be relegated to the private sphere. It requires courage and a higher level of vocational maturity than formerly to overcome this atmosphere but unfortunately not everyone manages to do so.
3. FIDELITY “SAFEGUARDED”
The vocation is an inestimable gift but it is also “a treasure in earthenware jars”;[ 20 ] it is therefore necessary to make every effort to “fan it into a flame”[ 21 ] with fidelity. Precisely because it is exposed to the dangers and threats of a mentality and of styles of life which are weak, especially to our radical fragility, fidelity is something to be lived every day. It is nourished by vigilance, prudence and care but it also needs to be cultivated and protected.
3.1. At the time of initial formation
Present day experience teaches us to give importance to the inner world of a person with its affections, emotions and feeling, but also with its attitudes, motivations and convictions. For this reason the whole process of formation needs to be one in which the individual makes it his own, beginning with initial formation which is organised so as “to have a profound effect on individuals.”[ 22 ] Here then some aspects of the experience of initial formation, which encourage a life of fidelity.
Above all from the very beginning of formation, the process of assisting in human maturity deserves great attention. A lack of self esteem, for example, makes the person feel little understood or appreciated or loved by others; when he does not receive sufficient affection and consideration, he finds life difficult and closes in on himself; this explains some problems connected with the practice of chastity which then eat away at fidelity. It is therefore necessary that the person in formation, while discovering the presence of God in his life story, pays attention to what is happening deep within himself, not keeping quiet about personal problems, questions, uncertainties and therefore having recourse to psychological help and to spiritual accompaniment. At this initial stage formation ought to aim at preparing people in psychological and affective maturity and an ability to live their chastity in a calm manner which gives strength to their fidelity.[ 23 ]
Since love occupies a central place in life, formation in affectivity and to chastity requires a deep spiritual life, aimed essentially at becoming in love with Jesus, and together with Him, with God, with Mary and with Don Bosco. Feeling the Risen Jesus to be his “friend,”[ 24 ] this “strong, lively and personal love”[ 25 ] for Him becomes the unifying centre of the life of the one in formation. He gradually takes on the sentiments of Jesus, he discovers the meaning and the beauty of giving himself to God in Salesian consecrated life, he experiences a strong sense of belonging to the Church and to the Congregation, he cultivates an attachment to Don Bosco and enthusiasm for the youth mission. It is love which keeps fidelity to the vocation alive. For this reason it is necessary to encourage a great change in formation practice and to help the one in formation to acquire the capacity for personal prayer, beginning with daily meditation, for at least half an hour and preferably in the form of “lectio divina,” the visit to the Blessed Sacrament and adoration, Confession, and leading up to union with God. Personal entrustment to Mary should be cultivated; this has a strong affective aspect which sustains chastity and fidelity.
Initial formation which is the process of identifying with the Salesian consecrated vocation, sets out to form disciples and apostles of Jesus according to the style of Don Bosco; at its centre therefore is the spiritual life and apostolic commitment. Love for the Lord becomes apostolic passion which inspires the one in formation with enthusiasm for the youth mission and leads him to love young people with generous availability and willingly to be among them, putting his whole self at their service. And this sustains his fidelity.[ 26 ] Following in the steps of the re-thinking process of youth ministry, formation for ministry is needed, which involves updated reflection and committed exercise of the process that the Congregation is following.
The same love motivates intellectual formation. Full of apostolic zeal, the one in formation recognises the need to prepare himself for educative pastoral service. In intellectual formation he finds a solid foundation for his spiritual life; he acquires knowledge and skill for the Salesian mission; he acquires a mentality consistent with his vocation. At the same time he appreciates the positive aspects of modernity and post-modernity and prepares himself so as not to lose his way in the face of the relativist and nihilist tendencies of culture and of moral disorientation. For this reason intellectual formation needs to assist the change of mentality and, if it is to have an influence on the motivations and the convictions of the one in formation, it also needs to take on an affective connotation.
Nowadays we are more conscious of the importance of initial formation; on this account notable strides had been made to improve the contents and the methods employed in formation, strengthening the formation communities and the centres of study and preparing formation personnel. No matter how good initial formation is, however, there is an awareness that in life there are continuous and unforeseen changes; therefore there is the challenge for formation to develop in the one in formation the capacity to live his vocation in creative fidelity, in other words to acquire a mentality of ongoing formation. “Initial formation should be closely connected with continuing formation … creating a readiness on everyone's part to let themselves be formed every day of their lives.”[ 27 ] On this account it is necessary that the one in formation strengthens his ability for self-formation, taking care, however, not to encourage individualism in his formation or in formation procedures.
3.2. At the time of ongoing formation
Ongoing formation is a great support for vocational fidelity; in fact it is a great help in facing up to the challenges posed by a culture which changes and an individual who evolves in the course of life. In the Congregation it needs to be better taken care of. Some aspects are now suggested at personal, community and province level that can encourage fidelity.
In the first place ongoing formation is entrusted to personal responsibility.[ 28 ] What is needed is a attitude and a personal commitment to wanting to grow in one’s vocation. “All formation… is ultimately a self formation. No one can replace us in the responsible freedom that we have as individual persons.”[ 29 ] Unfortunately it happens that especially in the first years of full involvement in the apostolate, but not only then, by throwing ourselves into our work we expose ourselves to the dangers of habit, activism, lack of motivation. Therefore there needs to be a personal commitment by which we know how to use all the opportunities that come our way in our lives to keep alive within us the desire to grow and to be faithful; community guidance, an atmosphere of prayer, apostolic zeal, study, brotherly relationships, all need to be fully appreciated.
One of the most effective means to safeguard vocational fidelity is the spiritual life. Our heart is made to love and to be loved; embracing consecrated life, we have given our heart to the Lord Jesus in response to the love we have received from Him. The Eucharist, the sacrament of Reconciliation, “lectio divina”, devotion to the Virgin Mary, personal prayer, union with God are some of the fundamental expressions of our spiritual life. Prayer is like the oil with which we keep aflame the lamp of our love for the Lord Jesus and nourish joy in our Salesian vocation; but when it is neglected, the flame of love is extinguished and we find ourselves more exposed to the “temptations” which threaten fidelity.
Together with the spiritual life and as its fruit is the apostolic passion of “da mihi animas, cetera tolle”. It is a question of a pastoral zeal inspired by love for the Lord Jesus and for the charism of Don Bosco, which makes us seek in everything “the glory of God and the salvation of souls.” Apostolic passion brings out the best in us: love for the young, generosity, dedication, creativity, communion with other pastoral workers, but also a spirit of sacrifice, asceticism, self discipline. It purifies our motives; it keeps us from discouragement in times of difficulty; in exchange it fills us with joy and satisfaction in our vocation.
In spite of all this, a vocational crisis is always possible; it does not arrive out of the blue, but develops progressively; it may have to do with the life of faith, psychological weariness, apostolic disappointment, a loss of motivation. Often these crises have something to do with affectivity and chastity; it begins with little concessions and self satisfactions which at first may seem permissable or innocuous, but which gradually become habits and ambiguous forms of behaviour, finally evolving into a vocational crisis. In these moments too, however, it is always possible to turn back and to take up a faithful life again; these situations are not irreversible. It is important to recognise that we are fragile; we can never presume on our own strength. Precisely on this account we need to exercise prudence and vigilance and have self discipline and self control. Very helpful in this area is sincerity with ourselves and with a spiritual guide; it takes courage to look at ourselves honestly before God, to recognise in ourselves sentiments, behaviour and attitudes which are not coherent. This shows that we are taking responsibilty for our life and our vocation, and a seriousness in wanting to live faithful to our commitment.
The community is the great support for fidelity, being close to the confreres in their concrete circumstances. The community may have its weaknesses and limitations but it also has elements of vitality which make it the ideal place to deal with the challenges of the vocational fragility of those in formation and with the difficulties in vocational fidelity of the confreres of all ages. When something is enthusiastic, vibrant and full of life, it stirs up interest, captivates and attracts. But, above all, it brings about fruitfulness, authenticity and total commitment. Life begets life. Therefore, if a community is to help its confreres live their fidelity in a creative manner, it must give full expression to the life-giving elements it already possesses, namely the ability to offer a prophetic witness, to attract vocations, to strengthen the sense of belonging, to engage its confreres in tasks and ways of life requiring greater commitment, to draw in lay people and the young, and to increase its impact on the Church and on the local area.
Among the vital elements one which contains great reserves of strength for fidelity is the style of life and of work. Acceptance and the joy of being together make each one feel loved, appreciated and valued. There is a rich depth of relationships to be discovered and to be experienced. The family spirit creates a mentality of shared searching and discernment; the atmosphere of faith and of prayer strengthens inner motivations and makes the members ready to live their lives in a radical gospel manner and apostolic dedication; a working together that is well organised, and community and pastoral projects encourage development, improve the apostolic enterprise, help avoid stress and exhaustion. And if someone should find himself in difficulty, the sense of mutual responsibility of the confreres makes them attentive to the first signs of his being unsettled, their friendship, concern and understanding support him; their lives and example act as a stimulus for him.
Also of particular significance is the effort made by the community to help the confreres to study more deeply the nature of consecrated Salesian life. The community encourages the updating in Salesianity,[ 30 ] reflection on the Constitutions,[ 31 ] the study of the situation of young people, also by means of their presence at its meetings and its presence in the places where they live their lives,[ 32 ] learning new approaches in youth ministry and in catechetics, communicating the charism.[ 33 ] In this way the confreres express a deep sense of gratitude to God for the gift of their vocation; they feel proud to be members of the Congregation and sons of Don Bosco; they experience joy, enthusiasm and commitment in their vocation.
The way which the service of authority is exercised in the community makes a decisive contrbution to all of this. The Rector sets out to create an atmosphere of acceptance and respect for each confrere, so as to make him “feel at home”;[ 34 ] maintains daily contact with each one, acting always as “father, brother and friend.”[ 35 ] It is his concern to keep everyone united in a brotherly atmosphere and one of co-responsibility. He shows solicitude for anyone who is suffering, who feels alone, who finds himself on the fringe, who is in difficulty. With the friendly chat and spiritual accompaniment he helps the confrere to live a mature affective life, to assume responsibility for his own formation, to find joy in a warm relationship with the Lord Jesus, to make good use of his time and of the media, to plan his own personal life and to face up to the difficulties of apostolic activity. His animation has the aim of ensuring a good level of spiritual and pastoral life in the community, seeing to the prayer and ascetical dimension of the community,[ 36 ] fraternal sharing and the apostolate.
Responsibility at Province level
Although it is something quite complex, the Province community also plays a notable part in cultivating the fidelity of its members, in that it infuses in them above all the sense of belonging. The sense of fraternity which is experienced in the Province, especially on the occasions of professions, ordinations and anniversaries, solicitude in the case of illness, closeness at times of loss in the family are proof of the affection for the confreres and ties which link the Province together. It is important that the relationship between the confreres and the superiors is peaceful; the confreres should be involved in the processes of discernment with regard to important provincial decisions; within the Province a mentality and a “culture” should be perceptible which is consistent with the nature of Salesian consecrated life.
At the same time ongoing formation is of great help for the development and the fidelity of the confreres. In a world which is changing rapidly and where people develop with the passing of the years, “ongoing formation assists a religious in integrating creativity within fidelity… in the concrete circumstances of life.” [ 37 ] It facilitates the changing of the “province culture” especially with regard to the nature of consecrated life. Good provincial animation helps in this, when it provides a variety of opportunities for the growth and spiritual and pastoral renewal of the confreres. In particular, special attention needs to be given to the confreres on practical training and during the “quinquennium”; in fact the change is not always easy from a organised and accompanied life in the formation community to full involvement in educational and pastoral work; there needs to be a re-thinking of the ways in which these confreres are involved and accompanied.
Finally of relevance is the way in which the Province carries out its mission in the local area. This in fact exerts a considerable influence on the fidelity of the confreres. Therefore this means that they should be able to dedicate themselves to the young especially the poorest ones using their gifts and abilities and having the opportunity of a guiding presence among them. It means that they can live and work together in communities which contain the appropriate number and quality of consecrated confreres, fully dedicated to God and sustained by Him. It means that in the educative pastoral communites those present are sufficient to carry out a calm and effective work which bears witness, attracts vocations and involves the co-workers. The mission plays a central role in the lives of the confreres and constitutes a stimulus for their vocational fidelity; the Constitutions state that “our mission sets the tenor of our whole life.”[ 38 ] Therefore every Province engaged in the process of “redesigning its presences” paying attention to the processes of re-organisation, re-shaping, re-location, cannot but take these criteria into account if it wishes to ensure that the confreres are happy and are faithful to their vocation. It should be aiming not so much at beginning or continuing the works, important though this may be, but above all at ensuring a better quality of pastoral activity of the Salesian presence in the area, since only in this way will the Salesian charism have a future.
PRO-FORMA FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
1. The confrere, in either initial formation or ongoing formation, reflects personally on these guidelines; reviews his life at present, assessing it from the point of view of vocational fidelity; enters in his personal plan of life whatever can help him live faithfully.
2. The local community organises moments for sharing in which it reflects on its vitality, on how it is living the Salesian consecrated vocation and on the assistance it offers its members to live in fidelity.
3. The formation community examines itself on what it is doing to assist those in formation to assume a mentality of vocational fidelity and of ongoing formation.
4. The Province reflects on its “culture,” on the arrangements for ongoing formation, on the means for strengthening vocational fidelity. It looks for the best way to involve the confreres, the local communities and the formation communities in this process regarding fidelity.