Letter to the Old Confreres by the Councilor for the Missions
Rome, November 11th, 2017
I greet you with affection from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, located close to Termini Railway Station, in Rome. As you know, this is now the home of Don Bosco’s Successor, and therefore the home of all of us!
From here, dear confreres, I think of you, remembering our poor father, Don Bosco, who, exhausted, with enormous efforts and tears, was able to make his last visit to Rome (his 20th), handing over to us, as our inheritance, a young, vibrant, missionary Congregation.
Once again this year, I greet you, dear confreres, who because of your age, illnesses or other reasons are usually away from the daily educational and pastoral engagement of our mission.
As you know, I offer you this greeting calling to mind the first Missionary Expedition sent by our dear Don Bosco on November 11th, 1875. That same missionary fire is still burning in our beloved Society of Saint Francis de Sales. Not a few young people from all over the world feel drawn by the call of the Lord Jesus upon seeing the courage and generosity of today’s missionaries.
And you, dear confreres, have the enormous responsibility of collaborating so that this Salesian missionary flame may not be put out. “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm!”, “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization!”: these are Pope Francis’ words in Evangelii Gaudium (No. 80 and No. 83). Every little or great suffering of yours, every little or great gesture of patience and tenderness, every prayer of yours – long or short – is a burning coal that does not let this fire go out!
There are not a few temptations that missionaries now endure, and our communities also suffer, those who are at the forefront of Salesian missionary activity in all five continents. Temptations of discouragement, weakening or even loss of faith! Temptations of intolerance, divisions, individualism, power. Temptations that directly attack the missionary’s fidelity to his three vows of obedience, poverty, chastity.
Yet, the Lord continues to say to every missionary: “Make yourself humble, steadfast and strong.”
My dear confrere, please, I beg you: make your own this prayer:
Heart of Jesus, make our missionaries humble!
Heart of Jesus, make our missionaries steadfast!
Heart of Jesus, make our missionaries strong!
Of course, I also feel compelled to thank you very much, each one of you, for your abundant and ever-increasing prayers of this year that is about to end. A glittering fruit of your prayers was the last Missionary Expedition, number 148. It was sent by our dear Rector Major, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, on 24th September, from Valdocco. Twenty-one new missionaries – between the ages of 22 and 61 – have been sent to all five continents. Brothers, priests and clerics, in temporary or perpetual vows – all ready to proclaim Jesus Christ everywhere.
I also know that you have been very close, through your prayers and sacrifices, to the difficult trial that our beloved missionary confrere, Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, underwent, he who was imprisoned for eighteen months in Yemen. His testimony of prayer, fortitude, and serenity has highlighted how prayerful missionaries should be, and how we should sustain them through our prayers.
Finally, the beatification of our Slovak confrere, Fr Titus Zeman, has made us understand how many fruits – in terms of vocations and missionary spirit – the Lord has offered to the Congregation and to all his Church, through his long suffering, the torments he underwent and his confident and persevering prayer. While his active and courageous work to save vocations lasted less than a year, it was later on – through a long passion – that the Lord guided him to complete in his flesh “what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Col 1: 24).
I know, therefore, dear confreres, that you felt the example of Fr Tom and now the intercession of Blessed Titus Zeman very close to you and to your daily life.
To conclude, besides your daily prayers for Salesian missionaries around the world, I entrust to you these two special intentions:
- For refugees, especially for the South Sudanese who are in Northern Uganda; nowadays there are more than 1.4 million of them and the majority are children and young people. As Salesians we are already present, but we still need to strengthen this presence;
- For our Salesian presence among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon forest: we are present in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela. The calling of a special Synod for 2019 on this topic strengthens our missionary responsibility in those contexts.
I entrust you to the motherly and consoling blessing of Mary Help of Christians!
In Don Bosco,
Fr Guillermo Basañes