SDB Missions Sector and FMA Missions Sector
Rome 2017Editrice S.D.B.
Edizione extra commerciale
Original text: Il Primo Annuncio Oggi
Translated by George Menamparampil SDB3
Table of Contents
Introduction ...................................................................................................... 9
INITIAL PROCLAMATION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT ....................................... 13
Encounters with Jesus.................................................................................. 15
Initial Proclamation in Saint Paul ........................................................... 17
Initial Proclamation in the Early Christian Community..................... 19
THEOLOGICAL-PASTORAL REFLECTION ON INITIAL PROCLAMATION ....... 21
Development of the Understanding of Initial Proclamation................ 23
Study Days ..................................................................................................... 27
WHAT IS INITIAL PROCLAMATION? .................................................................. 29
“Courage! Get up, He is Calling You!” ..................................................... 31
Initial Proclamation as ‘Falling in love’.................................................. 31
A Definition of Initial Proclamation......................................................... 34
To Whom is it Addressed? ........................................................................... 35
Relevance of Initial Proclamation ............................................................. 36
Way Forward ................................................................................................. 38
INITIAL PROCLAMATION IN CHRISTIAN CONTEXTS ...................................... 39
“He went about all the Cities and Villages” ............................................ 41
Initial Proclamation or New Evangelisation? ........................................ 42
New Evangelisation as ‘Second Proclamation’ ...................................... 42
Initial Proclamation in Urban Contexts................................................... 45
Way Forward ................................................................................................. 484
KERYGMA AND INITIAL PROCLAMATION.......................................................... 51
“Go up and join that Chariot”.................................................................... 53
Kerygma .......................................................................................................... 53
Oriented Towards the Catechumenate and Missionary Catechesis.... 56
Way Forward ................................................................................................. 58
WITNESS OF LIFE AND OF CHARITY AS INITIAL PROCLAMATION .............. 59
“Give them Something to Eat Yourselves!”.............................................. 61
Charity ............................................................................................................. 65
Conversion in Multireligious Contexts ..................................................... 67
Way Forward ................................................................................................. 69
INITIAL PROCLAMATION AND SALESIAN CHARISM ....................................... 71
“Enlarge your Tent!” .................................................................................... 73
A Glance at our Origins............................................................................... 73
Preventive System.......................................................................................... 75
Preventive System as Initial Proclamation.............................................. 76
Youth Ministry Imbued with Initial Proclamation ................................ 77
Way Forward ................................................................................................. 79
Operative Conclusions of the Study Days (2010-2015)............. 89
The Letter from Roma............................................................................ 102
Selected Bibliography............................................................................. 111Presentation It is with feelings of humble gratitude for the long journey
shared together by the FMA and SDB that today we present to
you this valuable working tool.
It is, above all, an entrustment. We entrust to you a summary
of this significant journey, which we jointly made through the
eight Study Days on initial proclamation that we held around the
world between 2010 and 2015. During these Study Days we applied ourselves to a serious search for an initial proclamation
of first quality, according the spirit of Don Bosco and Mother
Mazzarello, aimed at young people from all continents.
This document has one main purpose: to stir up in us, FMA
and SDB, a greater awareness and a stronger missionary
commitment. Rather than give rise to discussions that risk
becoming sterile, the intention is to strengthen in each of our
religious communities a sensitivity to our missionary responsibilities. Therefore, this is an instrument to be put into practice
in our apostolate!
To achieve this we propose a fundamental and indispensable means: personal study and reflection. This text is not
merely to be read; it is to be studied, and to be used as a foundation for further research and analysis. The abundant footnotes
on each page are already a clear indication that we have in our
hands a wealth of ecclesial and Salesian missionary reflection
and guidelines that require study and reflection.
Let us, therefore, vow that the punctilious work in the preparation of this synthesis, in particular through the generous
dedication of Fr. Alfred Maravilla SDB, may, thanks to a prayerful and critical study, bear abundant apostolic fruits.
Sister Alaide Deretti FMA Fr. Guillermo Basañes SDB
Councilor, Missions Sector Councilor, Missions Sector
The eight Study Days on Initial Proclamation in different
continents, promoted by the Missions Sectors, have been a
real kairos, that is, privileged moments in which the Holy Spirit
manifested His presence to renew ourselves and our communities. “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day
of salvation” (2Cor 6: 2). In fact, it is the Spirit who guides us,
profoundly touching our hearts and our minds for our renewal.
During these Study Days, moved by the Holy Spirit, participants from different continents and cultures wanted to find a
way to stir up an interest in Jesus Christ in the hearts of people,
especially the young. They discussed the many concerns that
arose from their pastoral experience among young people, many
of whom are looking for truth and happiness. Their search could
also result in some confusion and they remain deprived of the
true values that lead them to true happiness. In fact, the great
challenge and opportunity we have is to offer Jesus Christ to
everyone, for only He can satisfy all our desires.
It was, of course, not possible to arrive at answers to all these
questions during each of these Study Days. In each of them we
did deepen the various dimensions of an initial proclamation of
Jesus Christ, through a progressive reflection, sharing of experiences, listening to the Word of God and through prayer. These
various Study Days, besides identifying techniques and methods,
made us aware that to foster initial proclamation, we are first of
all called to live more intensely our own Christian life. It is thus
that we show the wonderful fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5: 22-23) and
bear witness to the love and mercy of God in this world. We also
need a “renewal of the mind” (Rm 12: 2) to widen our horizons
and to see the countless possibilities for fostering initial proclamation in the context of our daily activities.
Chapter I of this study looks at initial proclamation in the
New Testament, especially in the Gospels, in the activities and
writings of St. Paul, and in the life of the early Christian commu-12
nity. Chapter II outlines the development of theological and pastoral reflection, especially from Vatican Council II till today.
Chapters III, IV, V and VI could be considered the heart of
this text because they harvest the essential elements of the discussions of all the Study Days. They define initial proclamation,
showing its importance even in what is traditionally considered
as Christian contexts, and its relationship with kerygma,
through a life of witness and works of charity.
Chapter VII presents the urgent need to rethink our pastoral
work among young people, pointing to initial proclamation as
our primary concern. This implies a true missionary conversion
to rethink and develop new strategies for our youth ministry.
“Take heart; rise, he is calling you!” (Mk 10: 49), the crowd at
Jericho said to Bartimaeus. The same invitation is addressed to
us today. “Take heart! Let’s get up! Let us not allow anyone to
steal from us the joy of evangelisation! Let no one rob us of our
missionary zeal! We shouldn’t miss out on our joy, dedication
and boldness in fostering initial proclamation.”
May this gift be a help for every Salesian, Daughter of Mary
help of Christians and member of the Salesian Family, to seize
this kairos and launch courageous and bold initiatives to foment
the initial proclamation of Christ today!Initial Proclamation
in the New Testament
ENCOUNTERS WITH JESUS
Matthew summed up the missionary activity of Jesus in a rich
and concise and manner: “Jesus went about all the cities and
villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel
of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity”
(Mt 9: 35). Jesus did not expect people to come to him. Instead he
went to their homes, villages and cities to meet them while they
were engaged in their ordinary, daily, routine activities: Peter
and Andrew while they were fishing from their boat (Mt 4:16 20), Zacchaeus watching from a tree (Lk 19: 1-10), Martha and
Mary in their home (Lk 10: 38-42). This also allowed Jesus to find
faith where it is not expected to be found, as in the case of the
Syro-Phoenician woman (Mt 7: 24-30), the centurion (Mt 8: 5-13)
and the eunuch (Mt 19:12). In fact, he went everywhere in search
of lost sheep. 1
The three personal encounters of Jesus in the Gospel of John
are wonderful paradigms of initial proclamation. For the evangelist John, the ‘going around’ by Jesus is first of all the initiative
of the Father. Although this is not always explicitly clear, the initiative of the Father is real and often surprising: “No one can
come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (Jn 6: 44).
The disciples were drawn to Jesus; then they transmitted this
attraction to others.
The call of the brothers Peter and Andrew, James and John (Jn
1: 35-50) is actually an initial proclamation of Jesus to humanity.
It takes place in an unspecified place, as if to suggest that this first
encounter with Jesus can take place anywhere. The disciples are
called at different times. In the Gospel of John we have John the
Baptist who, seeing Jesus passing by, exclaimed with a contagious
enthusiasm: “Behold the Lamb of God!” Two of his disciples went
to Jesus out of curiosity and asked him, “Where are you staying?”.
Jesus answered – these are the first words of Jesus in the Gospel
i MARIA KO HA FONG, “Gesù Percorreva tutte le Città e i Villaggi” in A. MARAVILLA (ed),
Giornate di Studio sul Primo Annuncio di Cristo in Città (Rome: SDB-FMA, 2016) 245-252.16
of John – “Come and see.” Jesus allows those who seek Him to find
him in an original way. He does not give them a doctrine to be understood, nor a commandment to be obeyed; he invites them to
share a personal experience with him and to stay with him. Therefore, “they went and saw where he was staying, and they remained
with him that day.” This ‘being with him’ becomes an inexhaustible
internal resource for the life and mission of the disciples. One of
them, Andrew, after he found the Messiah, leads his brother Peter
to him. The next day Philip, after becoming a disciple of Jesus,
brings Nathanael to him. The disciple starts off a chain reaction of
attraction and the circle of Jesus disciples widens. 2
In his dialogue with “a Pharisee named Nicodemus” (Jn 3: 142), it is Nicodemus who utters the first words, but it is Jesus who
guides the development of the dialogue. Nicodemus claims that
he knows Jesus; but in reality he only knows something about
Jesus. He had a little data in his hands whose full significance he
had not fully grasped yet. Nicodemus is a sincere and good person
who prefers to meet Jesus in the dark of the night because he is
unable to open up to the new, to live with flexibility and freedom.
Through their dialogue, Jesus helps him to make a leap from the
dark of his narrow-mindedness towards the totally new and transcendent. John will later narrate that Nicodemus spoke in defense
of Jesus against the entire Sanhedrin (Jn 7: 48-52). After the crucifixion he anointed his body with precious oils and, with Joseph
of Arimathea, provided him with a proper burial (Jn 19, 39). Thus
we see initial proclamation gradually guiding a person to move
from ambiguity and fear to knowledge and faith in Jesus.
Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman (Jn 4: 5-42)
evokes the image of one who is in permanent initial proclamation.
The village well is the place where the lives of people are intertwined, where water is sought for and given, where strangers become friends and where they create unexpected relationships.
The well becomes the place of encounter between Jesus and the
Samaritan woman who ends up transformed. Jesus takes the ini2 MARIA KO HA FONG, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” “We have Found the Messiah!”
“What are you Looking for?” “Come and See” in Salesian Mission in Frontier Situations
and Initial Proclamation in Europe Today (Rome: SDB-FMA, 2013) 21-30.17
tiative and makes a request: “Give me a drink.” The request not
only opens the woman to a dialogue that dissipates ethnic hatred
and widens her horizons, but leads her to enter into herself and
face the truth she finds there. Under the guidance of Jesus she
not only finds herself but, more importantly, recognises Jesus as
the Messiah. At the end of this encounter the woman runs to the
village to preach Jesus to her countrymen.
The encounter of Jesus with the royal official whose son was
sick takes place at Capernaum (Jn 4: 43-54). Jesus leads the official to take a leap of faith from seeing Jesus only as a miracle
worker to believing in him. We see the same dynamics in the
healing of the centurion’s servant (Mt 8: 5-13) and the daughter
of the Canaanite woman (Mk 7: 24-30). Ordinary life situations,
suffering and disease, become the starting point of faith that
takes birth, and then develops to the extent that people grow in
their knowledge of the person of Jesus. 3
INITIAL PROCLAMATION IN SAINT PAUL
St. Paul is an incomparable model of initial proclamation. He
felt that his mission in life was the promotion of initial proclamation of the Gospel in order to establish new communities. He
clearly stated: “I have fully preached the gospel of Christ, thus
making it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has
already been named, lest I build on another man’s foundation”
(Rm 15: 19-20). He did it especially through the witness of his life
and his preaching. He introduces himself as “a servant of Jesus
Christ” (Rm 1: 1), a humble and unworthy herald of his Gospel,
a fragile earthen vessel holding a great treasure (2Cor 4: 7). He
himself was “the servant of all, to win over the largest number
possible” (1Cor 9: 19), “I have become all things to all, that I might
by all means save some.” (1Cor 9: 22). To the Corinthians to whom
he proclaimed the Gospel against all odds, opposition and adversity, he writes: “we do not intend to lord it over your faith; we
3 MARIA KO HA FONG, “The Encounter of Jesus with three Different Persons in
Different Contexts” in Salesian Mission in Frontier Situations and Initial Proclamation
in Europe Today, 47-57.18
work with you for your joy” (2Cor 1: 24). He invited his Christian
communities to imitate him as he himself imitated Christ (1Cor
11: 1) and to have “the same spirit as Christ” (Phil 2: 5). 4
At the heart of the Christian experience of Paul is a concrete
event which gave him a sublime vision. He knew Jesus Christ as
Lord and Savior. His ‘knowledge’ does not have the usual Greek
meaning of intellectual engagement. It is beyond knowledge and
understanding. Knowledge in the biblical sense implies more.
It signifies entering into communion and developing an intimate
relationship to such an extent that he himself does just as Jesus
would. This relationship allows Christ to shape the destiny of
Paul’s life. The fruit of this knowledge is a radical and permanent
change of values, the way of looking at reality and, above all, the
way people see themselves before God. 5 However, for Paul, the
source and strength of all his preaching was totally “from the
Spirit and His power” (1Cor 2: 4).
“The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”
(Phil 3: 8) is the root and foundation of the apostolic understanding of Paul. He understood that his primary duty in life was to
proclaim “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1Cor 2: 2). He was
fully aware that God had intervened in his life in an unusual way
and, as a consequence, he insisted that he was sent to the nations
(Gal 1: 17) with a single supreme duty: “Woe to me if I do not
preach the Gospel!” (1Cor 9: 16). 6
For his missionary strategy Paul chose the areas that had not
been evangelised, making big cities the launching pad to spread
the Gospel. All major roads led to these cities in which almost
everyone understood Greek. Paul felt at home in an urban environment where he could use his skills for popular preaching. The
4 MARIA KO HA FONG, “¿Comprenden lo que Acabo de Hacer con Ustedes?” in M. LOES
(ed), Las Jornadas de Estudio del Primer Anuncio al Discipulado Misionero en América
y el Caribe (Rome: SDB-FMA, 2014) 222-223; IDEM, “Paolo, Missionario della Città” in
A. MARAVILLA (ed), Giornate di Studio sul Primo Annuncio di Cristo in Città (Rome: SDBFMA, 2015), 257.
5 JUAN JOSÉ BARTOLOMÉ, “To feel Oneself Conquered by Christ, the Core of Paul’s
Christian Experience” in A. MARAVILLA (ed), Study days on the Salesian Presence Among
Muslims (Rome: SDB-FMA, 2013) 191-196.
6 JUAN JOSÉ BARTOLOMÉ, “‘To Reveal his Son to Me’, Source and Cause of Paul’s
Mission” in Study days on the Salesian Presence Among Muslims, 179-184.19
presence of the Jews in Diaspora also facilitated his mission, but
he did not allow himself to remain shut in within their ghetto.
He tried to bring the Gospel to all. He established deep personal
relationships with people and with the communities he founded,
creating a movement of people for the sake of the Gospel. 7
His speech at the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17: 16-34) is a
classic example of Pauline initial proclamation. Paul tried to explain to the citizens of this great city of the Mediterranean world,
as concisely as possible, the characteristics of this new religion.
He used various strategies that allowed him to deal with his
listeners and immediately to feel in tune with them. He touched
on the fundamental philosophical presuppositions of the Stoics,
Epicureans and the prestigious philosophical schools of Athens;
he showed great familiarity with the significant literary and historical traditions of the Athenians; he used an apologetic scheme
common to pagan mentality, appealing to natural revelation
where it dealt with universal norms. Although many left him
when he started talking about the resurrection of the dead, some
did follow him and believed him; among them was Dionysius the
Areopagite and a woman named Damaris.
INITIAL PROCLAMATION IN THE EARLY CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
The Acts of the Apostles presents the simple way of life of the
members of the early Christian community. They “found favour
with all the people” (Acts 2: 47) because of their lifestyle: they sold
everything they had and pooled the proceeds to distribute it to
those in need (Acts 4: 32-37). They were living witnesses of the
Gospel, good news that changes lives; they did not present it as a
collection of doctrine to believe in, or a set of moral rules to be followed. Instead, the Gospel was passed on with human warmth,
witness of life and love. It was a community imbued with the
Spirit, experienced like a vital principle (Acts 2, 29-47). It “lived
in peace and grew; and, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the
comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied” (Acts 9, 31).
The early Church proclaimed with courage and frankness, as
7 MARIA KO HA FONG, “Paolo, Missionario della Città”, 253-259.20
seen in Philip’s dialogue with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8: 26-40).
Apostolic passion drove these evangelisers to bring Christ to others
with creativity and enthusiasm. The early Christians were clearly
aware that it was the Holy Spirit that made the encounter with
the Gospel easy for people of any age, gender, race or culture. The
Spirit leads and precedes the evangelist and sustains his apostolic
passion, but also prepares the recipient of initial proclamation to
nourish his passion in his search for truth and the fullness of life. 8
The Ethiopian eunuch did not lack an open heart, but Philip
spurred him on with a short initial proclamation, which he stood
in need of to enlighten his mind and inflame his heart. The Christian community passed on their faith in Jesus – which they had
received for free – to those who were captivated by him. After his
baptism, the eunuch went on with his journey, but he had already
been inwardly transformed and he was full of joy. In fact, the Acts
of the Apostles shows that the spread of the early church is permeated with joy, even in the midst of persecution. It is the joy of
seeing someone believe in Jesus Christ. 9
8 RUTH DEL PILAR MORA, ALEXIUS MULONGO, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives during the Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis in Africa and Madagascar”
in M. LOES (ed), Study Days on the Initial Proclamation of Christ in Africa and Madagascar
(Rome: SDB-FMA, 2014), 126, 129.
9 MARIA KO HA FONG, “Go up and Join that Chariot” in A. MARAVILLA (ed), Study Days
on the Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of the Gospel in South Asia (Rome:
SDB-FMA, 2013) 135-143.
10 BISHOPS OF THE DIOCESE OF LOMBARDY, “La Sfida della Fede: il Primo Annuncio” in
Regno – Documenti, vol. 21 (2009), 726.
It is a personal encounter with Jesus that triggers faith in Him. The first
Christians also presented the encounter with Jesus as a call to conversion from the former way of life to a new life in faith. Apostolic preaching
led to a second look at various aspects of human life in the light of
the teachings of Jesus. Christianity was considered a ‘path’, a ‘way’
that invites a journey, with many implications for the life of believers. So,
initial proclamation is only the beginning of a journey, which proclaims
a promise and demands loyalty to a spiritual and communal path. 10Pastoral-Theological
on Initial Proclamation
DEVELOPMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING OF INITIAL PROCLAMATION
The Apologists at the end of the second century sought a dialogue and a comparison with pagan culture, for two reasons: on
the one hand they wanted to justify their conversion; on the other
they felt the need to eliminate the prejudices against Christians.
They tried to dialogue with Jews and Gentiles, stressing the role
of culture in the history of salvation. In this way, through dialogue, they tried to spark interest in the person of Jesus Christ
and his Gospel.
Cyril and Methodius promoted initial proclamation through
the creation of an alphabet for the Slavonic language, trying
to learn more about the inner world of the Slavic people and translating the Bible and liturgical books into their language. This enabled them to proclaim the Word of God using images and concepts
that were familiar to Slavs and easily aroused their interest. 11
Throughout history, countless missionaries have promoted this
methodology among peoples and nations on every continent.
After Vatican II, the growing onslaught of secularism has led
the Church to rediscover the importance of initial proclamation.
Evangelii Nuntiandi is one of the first documents of the Magisterium to speak of the need to promote initial proclamation (calling it ‘pre-evangelisation’) not only among those who do not know
Christ, but also among those who are baptised but have a weak
faith, who do not practise it or have abandoned it completely. 12
Initial proclamation will appear gradually in other papal documents, albeit with varying nuances.
At the beginning of his pontificate, John Paul II emphasized
that catechesis is based on initial proclamation, describing it as
“missionary preaching through the kerygma to stir up faith.” 13 In
Redemptoris Missio it is reaffirmed that initial proclamation has
11 JOHN PAUL II, Encylical Salvorum Apostoli (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1985), n.11, 21.
12 PAUL VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice
Vaticana, 1975), n. 51-52.
13 JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae (Vatican City: Libreria
Editrice Vaticana, 1979), n.18.24
a central and irreplaceable role in the Churchs mission because
it introduces each person to a personal relationship with Christ. 14
In this light, the General Directory for Catechesis underlines the
importance of initial proclamation, not only in contexts where
there is a need for a mission ad gentes, but also within the
Churches of ancient Christian tradition. 15 It is important to note,
however, that the Directory describes it as “the explicit proclamation of the Gospel” 16 and considers it the third moment of evangelisation, preceded by the witness of charity and Christian life
and followed by the sacraments and catechesis, from education
to faith and mission. 17
Initial proclamation was taken up again in some continental
synods and this helped to clarify its identity and emphasize some
of its elements. It is necessary for the ‘new evangelisation’ of the
old continent, because several of its social and cultural aspects
need a true missio ad gentes. Here initial proclamation is aimed
at the non-baptised in the continent, whereas the ‘renewed
proclamation’ is aimed at enabling those already baptised to be
converted to Christ and his Gospel. 18 In multi-religious contexts
such as Asia, initial proclamation needs to follow a pedagogy
which will lead people step by step, through the use of myths,
folklore and narrative methods close to local cultural forms. 19
In contexts where there are vibrant cultures and traditional
religions such as Africa, these are to be considered as a starting
point for initial proclamation which could stir up a vibrant and
exhilarating experience of Jesus Christ. 20
Although initial proclamation is not explicitly mentioned in
other continental post-synodal exhortations, one could deduce
14 JOHN PAUL II, Encylical Redemptoris Missio (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1990), n.44.
15 CONGREGATION FOR THE CLERGY, General Directory for Catechesis (Vatican City:
Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), n. 25, 58.
16 IBID, n. 47.
17 IBID, n. 48
18 JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2003), n. 45-47.
19 IBID, n. 45.
20 JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1999), n.57.25
that, in Oceania, personal encounter and dialogue with traditional religions promote initial proclamation. 21 In America,
joy, conviction and witness of life are its necessary conditions. 22
While in the Middle East, the Gospel becomes credible through
the witness of charity as an expression of God’s love for humanity
responding to the immediate needs of all. 23
Some Bishops’ Conferences have also insisted on initial
proclamation. In 2005 the French Bishops’ Conference published
the “National Document for Guidance of Catechesis in France and
its Organizational Principles” (Texte National pour l’Orientation
de la Catéchèse en France et Principes d’Organisation). The French
bishops stressed the importance and necessity of initial proclamation, inviting families and movements to promote it. They also
insisted on its importance in Catholic institutions. In addition,
they stressed the important characteristics to be identified, articulated and deepened in the reflection and the practice of initial
proclamation. In 2009 the bishops of Lombardy, too, published
a letter calling on all Christian communities in the region to be
‘witnesses of initial proclamation’. 24
Over the past 15 years, the National Catechetical Office of the
Italian Bishops’ Conference has called for a much deeper reflection and understanding of the importance of initial proclamation
in catechesis. In 2003 it organised a Study-Seminar on initial
proclamation, and also a Convention on initial proclamation
in the Parish. In 2005 it published a Pastoral Note on initial
proclamation. In 2007 it convened a Second Seminar on initial
proclamation and in 2009 a Conference on ‘Initial Proclamation
between Kerygma and Catechesis’.
The Aparecida Document of CELAM V in 2007 stressed the
importance of kerigmatic proclamation as a way to develop a personal relationship with Christ and begin discipleship. But at the
21 JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania (Vatican City Editrice
Vaticana, 2001), n.10, 20.
22 JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America (Vatican City: Libreria
Editrice Vaticana, 1999), n.67.
23 BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente (Vatican City:
Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2012), n. 11, 89.
24 BISHOPS OF THE DIOCESES OF LOMBARDY, “La Sfida della Fede: il Primo Annuncio”,
same time it referred to kerygma as initial proclamation. Aparecida did not clearly define initial proclamation and this, perhaps,
opened up the possibility of variety in the understanding it in the
American Continent. The Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, during its plenary assembly in 2013, presented initial proclamation
as part of the process of evangelisation. The Assistant Secretary
for CELAM, Leonidas Ortiz Losada, in his presentation at the
same plenary assembly of bishops, continually interchanged between kerygma and initial proclamation. At the National Seminar
on Catechesis in Argentina in 2011 initial proclamation was presented intertwined with catechesis. 25
In preparation for the Year of Faith (October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013) Cardinal Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for
the Evangelisation of Peoples, explained that the Propaganda
Fide had plans to celebrate the Year of Faith from the perspective
of initial proclamation. Similarly, the Synod on New Evangelisation held that year (7 to 28 October 2012) insisted on the importance of initial proclamation.
After Vatican II, many post-conciliar Church documents never
entirely abandoned the conciliar concept of evangelisation, but at
the same time they also adopted a broader view of it, by adding
adjectives and prefixes such as, for example, first evangelisation,
pre-evangelisation, re-evangelisation and new evangelisation.
This understanding of the process of evangelisation also led some
to emphasise one dimension over the other. 26 Similarly, the rediscovery of the actuality and importance of initial proclamation
also gave rise to different approaches to its place in the process
of evangelisation, especially as regards its identity and its relationship with kerygma and catechesis. In fact, initial proclamation is often confused with kerygma and catechesis. 27
Although Pope Francis, following Aparecida, identified kerygma
25 ALFRED MARAVILLA, “El Primer Anuncio como Fundamento del Discipulado Misionero”, in Jornadas de Estudio del Primer Anuncio al Discipulado Misionero en America
y el Caribe, 45-48.
26 UBALDO MONTISCI, “Initial Proclamation: Towards a Shared Concept” in Salesian
Mission in Frontier Situations and Initial Proclamation in Europe Today, 35.
27 FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice
Vaticana, 2013), n. 164-166.27
with initial proclamation, he also stated an important point in
his first apostolic exhortation that helps to clarify the identity of
initial proclamation. 28 He stressed that it is ‘initial’ “not because
it is there at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced
by other more important things”; but, rather “because it is the
principal proclamation, what we ought to hear repeatedly in different ways.” Initial proclamation is, then, distinct from, but
closely linked to kerygma and catechesis.
Several authors also have reflected on the importance of initial proclamation. Already in 1990, Joseph Gevaert had insisted
on the need for initial proclamation in his book Prima Evangelizzazione. In 2001 he reiterated this in La Proposta del Vangelo a
chi non Conosce il Cristo. In 2009, Xavier Morlans devoted an entire book to the subject: El Primer Anuncio. El Eslabon Perdido.
In 2011 Enzo Biemme, in Il Secondo Annuncio, shared strategies
on initial proclamation in traditionally Christian contexts. In
2013, Serge Tyvaert stressed the role of initial proclamation in a
secular context in the publication De la Première Annonce à la
28 CARLOS MARÍA GALLI, “La Teología Pastoral de Aparecida. Una de las Raíces Latinoamericanas de Evangelii Gaudium” in Gregorianum 96/1 (2015): 25-50.
In this context of continuous theological and pastoral reflection, in 2010,
the Missions Sectors of the SDB and FMA decided to organise Study
Days on initial proclamation in each continent: Europe (Prague, 2010),
South Asia (Kolkata, 2011), East Asia (Sampran, 2011), Oceania (Port
Moresby, 2011), Africa and Madagascar (Addis Ababa, 2012), America
and the Caribbean (Los Teques, 2013); furthermore, on the Salesian
presence among Muslims (2012) and initial proclamation in the city
(Rome, 2015). These eight Study Days were intended to promote
discussion and in-depth, contextualised reflection on the importance
of initial proclamation in our Salesian mission. The target was to arrive
at a deeper understanding of the challenges we face and discover 28
new insights and perspectives in view of a renewed missionary praxis.
This booklet summarises the discussions and new insights of these
Study Days to help every Salesian, Daughter of Mary Help of Christians,
member of the Salesian Family and every member of the educative
community in the promotion of initial proclamation of Christ in all our
contexts.What is Initial Proclamation?
“COURAGE! GET UP, HE IS CALLING YOU!”
“The Gospel of Mark speaks of the encounter between Jesus
and Bartimaeus in Jericho (Mk10,46-52), not only as a story of
the healing of a blind man but, even more so, as the healing of
the blindness of his disciples to the mystery of Jesus. Mark wants
to emphasise, above everything else, that the blindness of people
can be healed if they follow Jesus and accept his rule, entering
more deeply into the mystery of his person and his mission.
In fact, the disciples are cured of their blindness, gradually and
in stages, in the same way that the mystery of Jesus is revealed
to them step by step.
The journey of Jesus to Jericho became initial proclamation
for Bartimaeus. In the awareness of his blindness Bartimaeus accepted the good news in his heart and cried out for Jesus to have
mercy on him that he might see. Once cured of his blindness, Bartimaeus became a disciple “and followed him on the way” (Mk 10:
52). Similarly, initial proclamation is to lead people to meet Jesus
saying to them, “Courage! Get up, he is calling you.” 29
INITIAL PROCLAMATION AS “FALLING IN LOVE”
Just as we compare initial proclamation to the healing of Bartimaeus, we could compare it to falling in love. 30 When two people
from different backgrounds meet and in some way discover some
mutual feeling for each other, their initial curiosity grows into a
desire know each other better. It all starts from the level of the
senses, the experiential level. Love evolves only when the two
lovers learn to accept the other’s uniqueness, when they are capable of considering their differences as mutual enrichment. So,
too, initial proclamation always involves inculturation through
an awareness and understanding of the language, the culture,
29 MARIA KO HA FONG, “Take courage, get up, He is calling you!” in M. LOES (ed),
Study Days on the Initial Proclamation of Christ in Africa and Madagascar (Rome: SDBFMA, 2014), 151-158.
30 ALFRED MARAVILLA, “El Primer Anuncio como Fundamento del Discipulado
the needs and the capacities of those at whom the initial proclamation is targeted. There is also a need for the capacity to discern
the seeds of the Word in their context.
When, at last, a young man says to his beloved, “I love you”,
the verbal expression, which is very common, is actually the result of the steps that went before. They were timid and awkward
steps at times, but aimed at knowing each other better. For a person who loves, this is not just a cliché; it, in fact, uncovers, reveals
and brings to life the deeper meaning of all the previous good
times they enjoyed together. Although it is an overused expression, which risks losing its meaning, for these two people, “I love
you” becomes a challenging invitation to which one may respond.
Just like the encounter of Bartimaeus with Jesus, or the meeting of two people who do not have a plan to fall in love, initial
proclamation is not planned and organised. It is neither a programme nor a method, neither an activity nor a celebration.
Therefore, we do not make an initial proclamation. It occurs in
“each single daily moment of our lives, through Christian charity,
faith and hope”, 31 in season and out of season (2 Tim 4: 2), especially in the context of ordinary daily life, in different forms, according to the culture, context, the pace of life and the historical
and social situation of those to whom the proclamation is directed. It is an invitation, free and respectful, to the interlocutor,
who freely decides to accept or reject the invitation. We see this
in the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s
well (Jn 4, 3-42).
It is “initial” not only because it is heard for the first time; it
is not even to be understood in a strictly chronological sense. It is
that moment, preceded by other essential conditions that,
through the power of the Spirit, can arouse an initial interest in
the person of Jesus Christ. Initial proclamation is like the spark
that, after several strikes with the match, finally lights the flame.
It is the moment when, through the power of the Spirit, the
human heart opens to the person of Jesus, triggering an initial
31 UNITED STATES CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS, Committee on Evangelization
and Catechesis, Disciples Called to Witness. The New Evangelization (Washington D. C:
USCCB, 2012) Parte IV, 11.33
interest in the person of Christ, or raising questions about the
place they give to God in their lives. 32 Therefore, the discernment
of the right moment and the most appropriate method to promote
initial proclamation are crucial to its effectiveness.
It is therefore necessary, first of all, to create an environment,
an atmosphere, in which we can encourage and provoke the desire to know Jesus Christ. Certainly, a clear understanding of
Christology is important for Christians. But the main challenge
regarding initial proclamation is not the correct formulation of
the faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, the concern of initial proclamation is not to proclaim who Jesus is, but rather how to lead others
to the discovery of Jesus Christ and to be fascinated by his person, who alone leads to faith.
Life witness, a personal relationship and dialogue prepare the
heart for initial proclamation. Faith is not the result of an educational program or a scientific study. In fact, neither an ethical nor
a doctrinal discourse, nor even a logical exhortation or a presentation of faith-based arguments can trigger the desire to know
Jesus Christ. 33 Faith is but the result of an encounter with God
who reveals Himself freely in Jesus Christ. 34
Just like the young man who focuses on identifying the right
time to reveal his feelings to his beloved, so also a Christian who
lives his life in a permanent state of mission is always attentive to
discern the moment for initial proclamation. He is like a sentinel
always ready to give reasons for his hope. 35 After getting to know
each other better, there is that magical moment when the young
man finally says to his beloved: “I love you.” There is no programmed plan to reveal his personal feelings to the beloved. How32 JOSEPH HERVEAU, Moment 3. Le Bulletin de la Première Annonce, n. 1 (April 2012),
2; ANDRÉ FOSSION, “La Désirabilité de la Foi Chrétienne comme Condition de l’Evangélisation et de l’Initiation à l’Expérience Chrétienne”, Revue Théologique de Louvain, vol 44
33 JOSEPH PHUOC, ALMA CASTAGNA, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives during these
Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, in A. MARAVILLA (ed), Study Days
on the Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of Christ in East Asia (Rome: SDBFMA, 2013), 114.
34 BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Deus Caritas Est (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2006), n. 1.
35 BENEDICT XVI, Africae Munus, n.30.34
ever, having this thought firmly in place, the lover is always vigilant
to seize the opportune time to freely make his declaration of love.
This ‘I love you’ is not the end but the beginning of a process
that leads to courtship, engagement and wedding; It is the foundation of a happy and lasting marriage. Especially after the wedding, over the years, the couple needs to periodically relive this
first ‘I love you’. That reinforces the mutual love that will enable
them to face the adversities of life. Similarly, initial proclamation
needs to be deepened through the other phases of the process of
evangelisation (conversion, catechumenate, baptism, sacramental
initiation and catechesis). It goes on throughout life. Similarly, a
baptised person who has had an inadequate initial proclamation,
lacks the foundation of a strong faith. Without this initial option
that leads to conversion and initial personal faith, catechesis is
likely to become sterile. In this light, even Catholics who attend
our parishes, courses of catechesis and religious instruction, as
well as Christians in all our centres, are all in need of the first
proclamation of the Gospel in view of deepening their faith and
their personal adherence to Jesus Christ.
A DEFINITION OF INITIAL PROCLAMATION
Initial proclamation may be defined as the witness of every
Christian and the whole Christian community, every activity
or group of activities that foster an overwhelmingly exhilarating experience of Jesus, through the action of the Holy Spirit,
inspires a search for God and stirs up an interest in
his Person, while safeguarding the freedom of conscience
which, ultimately, leads to an initial adhesion to Him,
or to a revitalisation of faith in Him.
Initial proclamation, then, is primarily a way of life that establishes a kind of relationship like those of Jesus in the Gospel.
It allows us to be engaged in a profound and transformative relationship with him, as it was for Bartimaeus, the Samaritan
woman, Nicodemus and Zacchaeus. It is the way that the Church
presents itself as an institution, starting from its public events because these constitute the initial proclamation that the public35
perceives. It is also a pastoral activity with concrete initiatives
aimed at triggering interest in Jesus. It should be noted that initial proclamation is effectively fostered if the faith journey follows
a gradual pedagogy, which is attentive to the cultural, historical
and social context of the recipient. 36
It is initial neither in a strictly chronological sense, nor just
because it leads to conversion, nor only because it starts off the
life long process of evangelisation. It is initial, rather, because it
is the principal or foundational proclamation (the way in which
the term arché was understood by ancient Greeks). It becomes
that spark which first leads to the initial act of personal faith in
Jesus Christ. 37 Its goal is how to lead others to discover and be
fascinated by the person of Jesus. Hence it is clear that initial
proclamation is “not, first of all, an elementary message concentrated in a ‘brief formula’ (the kerygma, the Easter proclamation)
which will then be followed by a series of liturgical, spiritual,
moral and missionary ‘clarifications’ for a Christian life (the didache, the exhortation of the apostles). 38
TO WHOM IS IT ADDRESSED?
Every Christian and every Christian community is the subject
of initial proclamation, although there are members of the ecclesial community to whom the mission to promote it is specifically
entrusted. 39 The Study Days from Prague (2010) to Rome (2015)
36 XAVIER MORLANS, El Primer Anuncio. El Eslabon Perdido (PPC: Madrid, 2009), 2931; SERGE TYVAERT, “De la Première Annonce à la Nouvelle Évangelisation”, Cahiers Internationaux de Théologie Practique, n. 10 (2012): 97-99 ; UBALDO MONTISCI, “La Pastorale
Giovanile e la Città: la Sfida e la Gioia del Primo Annuncio”, Giornate di Studio sul Primo
Annuncio in Città, 153-154; EDMUND ARENS, “Dall’Istruzione all’Interazione. Cambiamento
di Paradigma nella Comunicazione della Fede nella Cultura Moderna” in CORRADO PASTORE, ANTONIO ROMANO (ed), La Catechesi dei Giovani e i New Media (Elledici, Turin, 2015),
22-26. L’autore parla di sette modalità di comunicare la fede oggi: la narrazione, la memoria, la celebrazione, l’annuncio, la testimonianza, la confessione e la condivisione.
37 IBID, 153-160; CARMELO TORCIVIA, Teologia della Catechesi. L’Eco del Kerygma (Turin:
Elledici, 2016), 6-7, 102. In Greek philosophy avrch, is the principle or the fundamental element from which everything has its origin, or that from which all things are formed.
38 BISHOPS OF THE DIOCESES OF LOMBARDY, “La Sfida della Fede: il Primo Annuncio”, 726.
39 UBALDO MONTISCI, LORENZINA COLUSI, “Horizons for Initial Proclamation by the
Salesian Family in Europe Today: Conditions, Strategy, Methodology, Content”, in Salesian Mission in Frontier Situations and Initial Proclamation in Europe Today, 96.36
pointed out that initial proclamation, by its very nature, is primarily aimed at: 40
1) those who do not know Jesus Christ (non-Christians);
2) Christians who have received insufficiently the first proclamation of the Gospel; hence:
a) persons who have known Jesus and then abandoned him;
b) those who call themselves Christians or Catholics, but do
not practise it with the community, or do not receive the
sacraments or do not get involved in the life and activities
of the parish;
c) those who are weak and vulnerable in their Christian identity;
d) those who believe that they already known Jesus enough,
but live their faith as a routine or simply as a part of their
3) those who are looking for someone or something they perceive
but to which they are unable to give a name;
4) those who live a meaningless daily life.
For those who do not know Christ, initial proclamation is that
spark that leads to conversion and begins the process of evangelisation. For those who have already been baptised but have abandoned the practice of their faith or live it as something cultural,
initial proclamation triggers the revitalisation of faith and helps
them to deepen their initial adhesion to the Lord Jesus Christ. 41
THE RELEVANCE OF INITIAL PROCLAMATION
Initial proclamation is most relevant because it emphasises
the importance of a personal encounter with Christ, not the
doctrines, as the source of our faith in him. In the final analysis,
initial proclamation focuses on four elements:
40 ALFRED MARAVILLA, “Dio Vive con il suo Popolo in Questa Città”, in Giornate di
Studio sul Primo Annuncio in Città, 22; PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 52-53.
41 PAMELA VECINA, JOHN CABRIDO, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives during these
Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis” in A. MARAVILLA (ed), Study Days
on the Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of Christ in Oceania (Rome: SDBFMA, 2013), 107.37
– on the person, taking into account his socio-cultural-religious
context and events of ordinary daily life, because initial
proclamation takes place in the heart of the recipient; 42
– on the person of the Christian believer, who practises his
faith and lives a committed Christian life as a disciple-missionary. It focuses on being a Christian believer, not on his
human qualities or the ‘techniques’ to arrive at initial proclamation; 43
– on “a personal encounter with God, which touches me in the
most intimate fabric of my being and puts me in front of the
living God in absolute immediacy so that I can talk to him,
love him and enter into communion with him.” It is this profound contact that gives birth to faith. Thus, “the Church
must introduce him to this encounter with Jesus Christ and
bring him to His presence in the sacrament.” 44
– on the Holy Spirit who is the true protagonist of initial proclamation, and not the Christian nor the ‘preacher’. It is through
the power of the Holy Spirit, who “works as it pleases him,
when he wants and where he wants”, 45 that the way of life of
every Christian and every activity of the Christian community
becomes an initial proclamation. It is the same Spirit who
gives every Christian the strength not to be timid in proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord, when God opens the door to the
heart of a person. 46
With this understanding of initial proclamation it is not
important whether one serves in a school, a parish, a youth centre, or a mission station; whether one is involved in first evangelisation through education, pastoral activities or promotion
of human development. What matters most is to live one’s life as
42 GIULIO ALBANESE, “Evangelizzazione Urbana. Città terra di Missione”, in Giornate
di Studio sul Primo Annuncio in Città, 78-81.
43 FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, no.24, 50; UBALDO MONTISCI, “La Pastorale Giovanile
e la Città: La Sfida e la Gioia del Primo Annuncio”, in Giornate di Studio sul Primo
Annuncio in Città, 179.
44 JACQUES SERVAIS, “Intervista al Papa Emerito Benedetto XVI. La Fede non è
un’Idea ma la Vita”, in L’Osservatore Romano (17 March 2016) 4.
45 FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 279.
46 PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, n.75.38
a Christian and a religious ‘permanently in the state of mission’;
In this way, every person and every community becomes a radiant centre of Christian life which favours initial proclamation. 47
47 FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 25; CONFERENCIA GENERAL DEL EPISCOPADO LATINO
AMERICANO Y DEL CARIBE, V Conferencia General. Documento Conclusivo (Lima: Conferencia
Episcopal Peruana, 2007), n. 551, 362.
48 ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha
sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”, Jornadas de Estudio del Primer Anuncio al Discipulado
en América y Caribe, 173; “Prospettive Emergenti nelle Giornate di Studio: La Città,
Spazio e Opportunità per il Primo Annuncio”, 208.
49 PAMELA VECINA, JOHN CABRIDO, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives during these
Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, 106; ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL
MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”,
50 IBID, 173, 174.
51 IBID, 175.
The Way Forward
Experiencing initial proclamation means crossing over to the other
bank, and this necessarily implies a continuous process of conversion
of the person and community, pastoral work and missionary service. It
drives us to open ourselves to new frontiers of society. So everything
we are and everything we do as witnesses of Jesus becomes initial
proclamation. 48 In this light, a conversion of hearts and minds is essential. It makes us move:
– from a neglect of reflection and experience of initial proclamation
to fostering of opportunities for reflection and sharing of experiences
of initial proclamation; 49
– from an ‘ordinary’ life to a form of personal and community life that
is credible, attractive and fascinating; that will lead others to be
curious about the motivations and the ultimate reasons for such
a lifestyle; 50
– from a vision of the mission of evangelisation and education centred
on pastoral attention to programmes conducive to the pedagogy
of initial proclamation. 51Initial Proclamation
in Christian Contexts
“HE WENT ABOUT ALL THE CITIES AND VILLAGES”
In his Gospel, Matthew makes a summary of the missionary
activity of Jesus in rich and concise words: “Jesus went about
all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease
and every infirmity” (Mt 9: 35). Jesus did not go to the large urban
centres of his time. He went to Jerusalem several times as the
Holy City (Ps 48: 2) and the dwelling place of God (Ps 135: 21),
never as a visit to a big city. Jesus went where people lived, to
find the “lost sheep” wherever they were. So he visited towns
and villages to meet people, each with his own history and in
unpredictable situations. In fact, Jesus did not give priority to
territory as such, but to any context of human life where he could
bring salvation. 52
Paul, instead, chose urban centres. It was a rather strategic
choice because Roman cities had good roads interconnecting
them. City folk spoke a common language – Greek (koine) – which
was the medium of communication for the entire Mediterranean
basin. Paul chose as his mission field and centre of evangelisation
the big cities with large populations and large groups of migrants
from different backgrounds and traditions. These towns were to
be centres from which the Gospel message would radiate to the
surroundings. He would arrive in a city and make the synagogue
his point of reference. He would then reach out more and more
to the pagans and not remain closed in within the ghetto. But
his openness to all was not a vague and scattered one, rather the
fruit of a discernment of the Spirit: “And now, behold, I am going
to Jerusalem, bound in the Spirit...” (Acts 20: 22). Wherever
he stopped he created a network of missionary collaborators,
mobilizing many people around his missionary project. 53
52 MARIA KO HA FONG, “Gesù Percorreva tutte le Città e i Villaggi”, in Giornate di
Studio sul Primo Annuncio di Cristo in Città, 245-246; 250-252.
53 MARIA KO HA FONG, “Paolo, Missionario della Città”, 253-259.42
INITIAL PROCLAMATION OR NEW EVANGELISATION?
Today initial proclamation is needed in all contexts. Hence it
is important to mention it also in contexts that are considered
‘Christian’ or ‘Catholic’ by tradition or culture. Many families live
a cultural faith nourished by the popular practices of piety and
the sacramentalization of children and young people. They are
nominally members of the Church. But it is not surprising that
in contexts that are traditionally or historically considered Christian, but where faith has now been abandoned or is lived as a routine, one wonders if what is really needed is initial proclamation
or rather a new evangelisation. 54
In fact, in these contexts, the initial proclamation that Christians have had at home from parents is poor and often not adequate as the foundation for a strong faith. Without this initial
conversion and initial personal faith, their faith is likely to remain weak. Hence, even after years of catechesis, they easily
abandon the practice of their faith, or live it only as something
cultural. Therefore, the General Directory for Catechesis insists
that Christians who have abandoned the practice of the faith, as
well as those who live the faith out of habit, need the initial
proclamation of the Gospel to promote their personal re-adhesion
to Christ. 55 In this light, initial proclamation is considered as the
necessary first step towards a new evangelisation. 56
NEW EVANGELISATION AS ‘SECOND PROCLAMATION’
This initial proclamation to Christians who had received it inadequately could be called the second initial proclamation or simply
“second proclamation” 57 to distinguish it from the initial proclama54 GLORIA ELENA GARCIA PEREIRA, “Las Oportunidades y los Desafíos del Primer Anuncio para SDB y FMA en América Latina y el Caribe” in Jornadas de Estudio del Primer
Anuncio al Discipulado Misionero en América y el Caribe, 132.
55 CONGREGATION FOR THE CLERGY, General Directory for Catechesis (Vatican City:
Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), n.61.
56 Synod on New Evangelisation, Proposition n. 9 on new evangelisation and initial
proclamation underlines the continuity of catechesis and initial proclamation: systematic
teaching of the kerygma in Scripture and Tradition; teachings and quotes from missionary
saints and martyrs and the formation of Catholic evangelisers today.
57 The expression had been used by Saint John Paul II on 9 June 1979 during his43
tion that targets those who do not know Christ. Speaking of a second proclamation does not negate the theological basis of initial
proclamation. It is a “proposal of faith to those who were Christian
and no longer are so, for whom it is just a civil status or a habit;
for those who think they are Christian, as well as for those who actually are.” 58 Its purpose is to stir up in Christians an interest that
reawakens their initial fascination with the person of Jesus Christ.
Hence, second proclamation takes into consideration the reality that there has already been an initial proclamation that may
have left some Gospel values and habits that may surprise us. As
they are already baptised the starting point is the faith that is
more or less present. It was received, to some extent, as an inheritance; but it has lost its vitality, perhaps through forgetfulness,
neglect, hostility, the influence of a secularised culture or of other
religions. The Gospel has ceased to fascinate them because they
take it for granted, as something already known and obvious. In
some cases their image of the Church, of Catholicism or of Christianity has been blurred by prejudices, negative experiences,
scandals and fears. When this is the case, a testimony of Christian life, an interpersonal relationship, or an experience of ecclesial life becomes a second free invitation to rediscover the person
of Jesus Christ and his Gospel. 59 Obviously, the second announcement has profound consequences in catechesis.
This second proclamation implies four challenges for every
individual Christian and for the entire Christian community.
The first is to undertake a second listening to the Word of God to
promote “an encounter with Christ, the living Word of God”. 60
A second challenge is for us to become a reflection of this Word
for others. A third is to promote the dynamics of accompaniment,
homily at the Shrine of the Holy Cross in Mogila, Poland: “A new evangelisation is started
as if it were a second proclamation, even if in reality it is always the same”. Insegnamenti
di Giovanni Paolo II, vol II/1 (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979) 1505.
58 ENZO BIEMME, “Catechesi e Iniziazione Cristiana”, in GILLES ROUTHIER, LUCA BRESSAN, LUCIANO VACCARO (ed), La Catechesi e le Sfide dell’Evangelizzazione Oggi (Brescia:
Morceliana, 2012), 113.
59 ENZO BIEMMI, Il Secondo Annuncio (Bologna: EDB, 2011) 37; SALVATORE CURRÒ,
ENZO BIEMMI, “Il Secondo Annuncio e ... Oltre. Dialogo su Questioni Catechetiche Attuali”,
in Catechesi, vol. 81/ 5 (2011-2012): 35-38; 40-41.
60 BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (Vatican City: Libreria
Editrice Vaticana, 2010), n. 87.44
so that the availability and openness of people may lead to a new
act of faith through the Spirit. Finally, the fourth challenge is the
pastoral care of families.
The family is the seedbed where faith is planted and nourished in the hearts of children. But the ideal family does not exist;
so the pastoral ministry of accompaniment of families is important in order to follow them up with steady pastoral mercy
through reflection and discernment. This is particularly needed
by families in situations of fragility and imperfection. In this way,
each family is helped to become the privileged place to support,
accompany and guide the human, social, sexual, ethical and religious education of children. Thus the family becomes the place
for the transmission of faith to all those it comes in contact with
as well as a truly missionary family! 61
To promote the second proclamation it is necessary to encourage a pastoral ministry which reaches out to the peripheries in
order to help rediscover the faith. It focuses attention on the
places where it is possible to experience Christianity and to find
real opportunities to meet Jesus. By place is not meant merely
the concrete, geographic space, rather, the experiential and relational space: the family as a place where the beauty of the faith
is first picked up; the Christian community, as a place where faith
is experienced as a life of commitment; the liturgy, where Christians live and celebrate the beauty of their faith; the practices
of popular religiosity as the expression of an inculturated faith;
sacred art as an expression of the beauty of faith; educational centres as a place of integral formation and the definition of one’s
identity and meaning in life; catechesis as an opportunity to understand Christianity and the Catholic religion. It is important
to have a systematic approach with a strategy which starts from
what already exists, recognises the present situation, and favours
the maturation of the ‘buds’ that have sprouted. These can become places which are real thresholds for an access to faith. 62
61 FRANCIS, Postsynodal Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice
Vaticana, 2016), n. 287, 289, 293-312.
62 UBALDO MONTISCI, “La Pastorale Giovanile e la Città: la Sfida e la Gioia del Primo
Annuncio”, 149, 168-159, 162-163, 166: GIOVANNI CASAROTTO, “Una Pastorale Kerygmatica
per il Rinnovamento Ecclesiale”, in Catechesi vol 85, no. 1 (2015-2016): 64-72.45
INITIAL PROCLAMATION IN URBAN CONTEXTS
The Church was born and grew in urban centres since its beginnings. It developed in such contexts from the beginning. Today
it has to confront again the urban phenomenon, because most of
the faithful live in cities. Even most of our SDB and FMA presences are in urban contexts. The starting point of our urban ministry is to look at urban reality with a sympathetic eye following
the invitation of Gaudium et Spes. We need to learn to discern
the ‘signs of the times’, and avoid generalizations and attitudes
of preconceived judgments. 63
In urban centres the social networks are the context inhabited
by young people of the app generation. Our technological culture
has developed applications for tablets and smartphones that are
easy to use. They offer us numerous new ways of connecting and
sharing. This app world has become an environment that creates
culture. In the urban context the Church speaks and addresses
its message to the inhabitants of this ‘world’. The message of the
Church is in itself complex. Often it is perceived as a judgmental,
an incomprehensible and moralising voice. Instead, in the app
world communication is simple and immediate. The challenge,
then, is how to foster initial proclamation. 64 One strategy is
to enter the vibrant world of cyberspace and understand its
language. This will enable us to create a space where the Gospel
can be discovered, experienced and lived by the digital natives.
This is better than just carrying on a mere repetition of the
traditional forms of Christian life. 65
In the city, one must also confront the growing phenomenon
of migration which brings about a melting pot of numerous cultures. This makes every urban society increasingly multireligious
and multicultural. On the one hand, globalisation has multiplied
the possibilities of relationships and exchange between cultures,
63 IBID, 32-34
64 HOWARD GARDNER, KATIE DAVIS, The App Generation. How Today’s Youth Navigate
Identity, Intimacy and Imagination in a Digital World (New Haven: Yale University Press,
2013), 121- 154, 169, 441-443; GIOVANNI CASAROTTO, “Una Pastorale Kerygmatica per il
Rinnovamento Ecclesiale”, 66.
65 NORBERT METTE, “Comunicazione del Vangelo nell’Era Digitale, in Particolare con
la Generazione che Cresce, in La Catechesi dei Giovani e i New Media, 39-40.46
people and individuals. A new global culture is emerging that is
increasingly homogeneous. On the other hand, this new culture
is imbued with principles of materialism and secularism, with
no space for religious principles and ethical values. As a reaction
to globalisation, we also see a reassertion of cultural origins and
ethnic identity that could result in nationalist extremism. 66
The process of secularisation is a positive feature of our time.
It has paved the way for an appropriate separation between the
Church and the state, bringing about a civil society where there
is a plurality of perspectives and worldview. 67 On the other hand,
secularism is rooted in the Enlightenment and in the French Revolution that forged laicity as a political doctrine. This has now become an agnostic and atheistic ideology, often expressed in
opposition to what is religious and especially to the Church as an
institution. And “when secularisation becomes secularism, there
is a serious cultural and spiritual crisis” 68 which is deeply felt in
It is in the urban context that the consequences of aggressive
secularism are most strongly felt. It creates a soft secular culture
that favours religious indifference and avoids being deeply passionate of one’s own faith or of the beliefs of others. It brings believers
to an obvious “faith fatigue “ and “the feeling of having enough of
Christianity.” It is in the city that one feels very much a new atheism that presents beliefs that makes allowances for human frailty.
It is the bearer of a way of life which is less burdened by norms
and principles. In urban centres we see, especially among young
people, a rediscovery of religious beliefs and practices as well
as the phenomenon of fluid religiosity expressing itself in ‘being
spiritual’, but not religious, or in ‘believing without belonging’. 69
66 ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha
sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”, 165-166.
67 Gaudium et Spes, n. 36; DAVID WILLIS, “Initial Proclamation in Societies in the
Process of Secularisation”, in Study Days on the Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of Christ in Oceania, 81-87.
68 PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR CULTURE, Towards a Pastoral Approach to Culture (Vatican
City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1999), n.23.
69 ALFRED MARAVILLA, “Dio Abita col Suo Popolo in Questa Città!” in Giornate di Studio
sul Primo Annuncio in Città, 27-30, 32-34; CARMELO DOTOLO, “La Città e il Secolarismo
Oggi: Sfide e Opportunità per il Primo Annuncio”, in Ibid, 123-126.47
There is increasing human mobility, whether international
(from one country to another) or domestic (from villages to cities).
The reasons are varied and numerous – economic, cultural, political or religious; or for employment, to escape terrorism, violence or drug trafficking. The consequences are strongly felt in
urban areas, especially in deprived neighborhoods or in urban
slums of the mega cities. This often provokes manifestations of
intolerance, xenophobia and racism which are born out of the fear
and panic of many who see immigrants as a burden, a danger and
a threat. Violence has resulted in a significant flow of migrants
in several continents. Most of these are followers of other religions, and many of them are Muslims. The migrant is often in
need of gestures of openness, acceptance, and solidarity, so that
he may feel welcomed, acknowledged and valued as a human person, a protagonist of his own future. The witness of life and the
expressions of concrete charity among migrants trigger their interest and curiosity, and become a respectful but powerful initial
proclamation. There is also a large number of Christians among
the immigrants, particularly from Catholic villages and from
Eastern Catholic rites. 70 They turn to Church institutions to receive emotional and social support as well as to affirm their own
cultural identity or liturgical tradition. The pastoral care of
Catholic migrants offers the opportunity to foster initial proclamation, the first step necessary for a new evangelisation. 71
In the urban context, we also see popular religiosity, both
among immigrants and among the locals. These are different expressions of positive values (semina verbi) brought in from different traditional cultures and their encounter with the Gospel. 72
Although they are cultural expressions of a people, genuine forms
of popular religiosity are fruits of the Holy Spirit and are expressions of the piety of the Church. Through a fruitful interaction
among the revealed Word, tradition and liturgy, popular religios70 PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR PASTORAL CARE OF MIGRANTS AND ITINERANT PEOPLE, Instruction Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2004),
n. 6, 7, 10, 49-59, 65, 69, 96, 100; MILVA CARO, “Pastorale Interculturale a Favore dei
Giovani e dei Migranti”, in Giornate di Studio sul Primo Annuncio in Città, 106-109.
71 CONGREGATION FOR THE CLERGY, General Directory for Catechesis, 62.
72 Lumen Gentium, n. 16.48
ity not only helps many faithful to persevere in prayer, praise God
and bear witness to Christ, but may become an opportunity for
the initial or the second proclamation of Christ. It is a fact that
popular religiosity is most interested in extraordinary phenomena and events, often associated with private revelations. In these
cases, it is the task of the Pastors of the Church to discern and
authenticate whatever is appropriate. 73
73 ENRIQUE ALÍ GONZÁLEZ ORDOSGOITTI, “La Complejidad Religiosa de América Latina.
La Grande Como Texto y Contexto para una Nueva Evangelización” in Jornadas de Estudio del Primer Anuncio al Discipulado Misionero en América y el Caribe, 70; ANA MARIA
FERNANDEZ, ISABEL MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha sin Miedo el
Espacio de tu Tienda”, 166, 171; CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP AND DISCIPLINE OF
THE SACRAMENTS, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy. Principles and Guidelines
(Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2002), 84, 86, 90.
74 “Prospettive Emergenti nelle Giornate di Studio: La Città, Spazio e Opportunità
per il Primo Annuncio”, 207-208.
75 GIULIO ALBANESE, “Evangelizzazione Urbana. Città Terra di Missione”, in Giornate
The Way Forward
Every city is truly multicultural, multireligious, globalized and digital!
More than ever “we are called to understand in depth the style of Don
Bosco in his relationship with the city and with the young people who
let themselves be drawn to it. Each encounter of Don Bosco with his
youth was an opportunity to present them ‘the things of God’”. 74 His
experience teaches us that, in order to foster initial proclamation in the
city, we need to place the person at the centre. A personal relationship,
and an attitude that welcomes, listens and promotes an encounter with
Christ create an opportunity to be challenged by Him. It is important
that there be a Christian presence in all places where people encounter
one another, places of exchange and culture: where public opinion is
created, in study seminars, in the editorial offices of newspapers and
publications, in conferences where social issues are discussed, in circles that cultivate the civil right to dialogue with diverse social, economic and political situations, and to promote the human being and let
the common good flourish. It is here that a humanizing relationship, animated by the faith of a disciple, becomes epiphany, a memory, and a
prophecy of the Kingdom. It may, then, trigger an interest in Jesus or
may become a starting point for re-launching a faith journey. 7549
We need to see, understand and judge urban realities. We cannot be
naïve and accept indiscriminately all of these realities. We must learn
to discern the spirit that animates everything that happens in urban societies. To promote this pastoral discernment, we need a change of
mentality and modify structures by moving:
– from a traditional ministry to an attitude that welcomes all that is good
and beautiful in the new expressions of faith among young people
who are seeking a deeper meaning in their life; 76
– from an attitude of mistrust and fear of what is different, from looking at
cultural diversity and the migrant as a danger and a threat, to an attitude
of openness to accommodate the other, the migrant, looking at cultural expressions as an opportunity to foster the initial proclamation; 77
– from a lack of contact with families to a pastoral care of families; 78
– from indifference to social communications and technology to promoting the initial proclamation; to a deepening of our knowledge
of new technologies, “new courtyards”, the language of the young;
solidarity to transform the “internet’s non-space” into a place of
encounter, friendship and solidarity with young people and by young
– from a confused understanding of secularisation and secularism, as
well as from our pastoral and conceptual judgements that consider
the city as a “non-place”, to a right understanding of the lights and
shadows of the process of secularisation with its consequent return
to the sacred, to the religious dimension and a search for God. All
this through a pastoral work that seeks to transform urban reality and
its existential peripheries into a more humane place, a place that
highlights the presence of God. 80
di Studio sul Primo Annuncio in Città, 80-81; CARMELO DOTOLO, “La Città e il Secolarismo
Oggi: Sfide e Opportunità per il Primo Annuncio”, 129-131; UBALDO MONTISCI, “La Pastorale Giovanile e la Città: la Sfida e la Gioia del Primo Annuncio”, 165.
76 “Prospettive Emergenti nelle Giornate di Studio: La Città, Spazio e Opportunità
per il Primo Annuncio”, 207.
77 IBID; ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”, 165.
78 PAMELA VECINA, JOHN CABRIDO, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives during these
Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, 106.
79 “Prospettive Emergenti nelle Giornate di Studio: La Città, Spazio e Opportunità
per il Primo Annuncio”, 206-207.
80 IBID; ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”, 173; PAMELA VECINA, JOHN CABRIDO, “Emerging
Insights and Perspectives during these Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary
– from an attitude of tolerance towards popular cultural religiosity to
a pastoral ministry that renews it so that it may encourage its
followers to live a life deeply inspired by the Gospel. 81
81 IBID, 105; ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES,
“Ensancha sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”, 166-169, 177.Kerygma
and Initial Proclamation
“HURRY, CATCH UP WITH THAT CHARIOT!”
Luke recounts in the Acts (8: 26-40) an example of initial
proclamation in the early Church. It is the Spirit that pushes
Philip to seize this opportunity, because he may not get another:
“Hurry, catch up with that chariot!” A eunuch from Ethiopia, who
had just made his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, was reading the book
of prophet Isaiah. This eunuch, considered a foreigner by orthodox Judaism and excluded from salvation (Dt 23: 2), was a sincere
man and had an open heart. The Spirit was well ahead of Philip.
He had fueled the eunuch’s passion in his search for truth and
for the fullness of life. Philip joined him and offered him the
prospect of faith, passionately sharing with him his own faith
In the Acts we see that there was a strong apostolic passion
in the Primitive Church. The Christian community felt the urge
to seek constantly for ways and means to offer their faith through
their kindness. They had the art of a passionate heart, always in
search of those who did not yet know Jesus. In this specific case
it is a matter of presenting the fascination of Jesus to someone
who is already engrossed in his search for understanding. The
passage ends with the eunuch no longer seeing Philip but continuing on his way filled with joy. In fact, the fire of faith triggered
by the initial proclamation continues to burn within and sustains
the path of every believer. 82
As we saw in Philip’s encounter with the eunuch, kerygma was
a response to the memory of Jesus. Its core consisted of his life,
his preaching, and his resurrection. This has been pondered upon,
accurately formulated, proclaimed, celebrated, and lived, as evidenced by various Christological formulas found in the New Testament (Mt 28:6; Mk 16:6; Lk 24: 6,34; Acts 2:24; 1 Tim 4:14). The
82 MARIA KO, “Go Up and Join that Chariot!” in Study Days and the Salesian Mission
and the Initial Proclamation of Christ in East Asia, 178-182.54
Gospel is the word of truth (Eph 1, 13) and the truth of the Gospel
is the essence of kerygma (Gal 2: 5,14; 4,16; 5,7). In other words,
there can be no kerygma without a narration of the memory of
the person, life, and preaching of Jesus Christ. Indeed, as we have
seen in Chapter I, in the New Testament the proclamation of
John the Baptist (Behold the lamb of God) and Paul (Jesus Christ
and Him crucified) is presented not only as the narration of an
event. It is above all a proclamation of the story of Jesus Christ,
of which the four Gospels are the extended versions. This kerygmatic
narrative is, in fact, the confluence of Jesus’ story, the sharing of
the narrator’s experience of faith with the hopes and expectations
of a listener in search of a meaning in his life. When these converge, a relationship develops between the announcer and the listener. This promotes the experience of the presence of the Lord
that may give rise to an interest in knowing more about the
person of Jesus. Ultimately it may give birth to faith (Rm 10:17),
resulting in radical conversion, metanoia, (Acts 5, 31, 11, 18) and
the commitment to follow and imitate Him (Phil 2: 1-11). 83
As the faith spread, the early Church gradually made a
clear distinction between kerygma as preaching to nonbelievers
to lead them to the faith, and didach as teaching to strengthen
the faith of believers. Kerygma, by its very nature, is linked to the
essential and central data of Christian faith – the incarnation,
death, resurrection, and message of Jesus – and all that is to
be believed in to be Christians. It is the kerygma that gives birth
to the Church. 84 On the other hand, the boundaries between initial proclamation and kerygma are not clearly defined. It is inconceivable to create barriers between them, or to put them in
separate water-tight compartments. It is necessary, however, not
to lose the identity of the initial proclamation because it is the attention given to it that puts every individual Christian, every
83 JEAN AUDUSSEAN, XAVIER LÉON-DUFOUR, “Prêcher”, in Xavier Léon-Dufour (ed), Vocabulaire de Théologie Biblique, Second edition., (Cerf: Paris, 1970), 1106-1011; CESARE
BISSOLI, “Il Primo Annuncio nella Comunità Cristiana delle Origini”, CETTINA CACCIATO
(ed), Il Primo Annuncio tra “Kerygma” e Catechesi (LDC: Turin, 2010), 13-22; COLIN
BROWN, “Proclamation”, in COLLIN BROWN (ed), New Testament Theology, III (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan Corporation, 1978), 44-68.
84 CARMELO TORCIVIA, Teologia della Catechesi. L’Eco del Kerygma, 104- 105.55
Christian community, and the whole Church in a ‘permanent
state of mission’. 85
It’s not enough to strike a match to light a fire. If the spark
created is not used to light a candle or a lamp, it will be put out
and become useless. Just as the “I love you” expressed by two
lovers must lead to engagement and marriage, so too the initial
proclamation must lead to kerygma; and kerygma is intimately
linked to initial proclamation.
As Philip shows in the Acts, kerygma is presented at that propitious moment in which the Spirit opens the door of the heart
through an initial proclamation. At this point, it consists only of
a brief, joyful, intelligent and respectful invitation such as “Jesus
is the Lord” (Rm 10: 9; Phil 2: 11), or “God has made Lord and
Christ the Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2: 36). Only a brief
proclamation is enough because, at this stage, primacy is given
not to words, but to an experience that provokes interest; not to
a dogmatic formula, but to God who communicates Himself in
Jesus Christ. Once interest is stirred up in knowing the person
of Jesus Christ, the proclamation of commitment follows at the
This proclamation becomes a verbal introduction to the life of
Jesus, his miracles and his preaching, but flowing from his own
experience of Christ. The narration becomes an initial proclamation when it is woven into the listener’s search for meaning in
life; it raises hope and gives strength to face the struggles of
everyday life. The Holy Spirit is a Master Weaver. He works in
the depths of every conscience. Through Him this narrative could
trigger existential questions that lead to a revelation of the truth
and the values profoundly desired by the human heart. He is the
one that stirs up the listener to the message of Jesus Christ and
to faith in Him. 86
Certainly, it is through the strength and fervour of a person’s
faith that he feels the urgency and the need to repeatedly tell oth85 FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, 25
86 RICARDO TONELLI, La Narrazione nella Catechesi e nella Pastorale Giovanile (LDC:
Turin, 2002), 54-64; JOHANN BAPTIST METZ, “Breve Apologia del Narrare” in Concilium 5
ers of his own personal experience of Jesus, without wanting
to impose anything on his listeners. This, in turn, promotes “an
encounter with an event, a person who gives a new horizon to life
and thus a decisive direction”. 87 Eventually it could start off and
lay the foundation for a process of evangelisation that lasts
an entire lifetime.
ORIENTED TO CATECHUMENATE AND MISSIONARY CATECHESIS
Expressing your love to a loved one is not enough. Falling in
love is just the beginning. That needs to be followed up by an engagement, a marriage proposal and a lifelong commitment.
Therefore, once you decide to know the person of Jesus Christ,
faith is “explicitly proposed in all its amplitude and wealth”, 88
using a pedagogy that introduces the person step by step to the
mystery of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 89 Catechesis
promotes and matures the initial conversion, the fruit of initial
proclamation. However, initial proclamation should not be considered in isolation. It is necessarily linked to the next stage in
the process of evangelisation. There is progression from an option
to begin a Christian initiation or catechumenate – or a renewal
of initiation for tepid and neglected Christians – to the rites of
Christian initiation, sacramental life, and permanent integral
formation to live the faith and to share it with others. 90
Indeed, the initial grace which, through initial proclamation
has sowed the seed of faith, must be developed into an explicit
faith in Jesus Christ through catechesis. 91 “There is no true evangelisation if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the
Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God,
87 BENEDICT XVI, Deus Caritas Est, n.1.
88 JOHN PAUL II, Ecclesia in America, n. 69.
89 ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”, 178.
90 SERGE TYVAERT, “De la Première Annonce à la Nouvelle Évangelisation”, 104 ; Antonio L. Arocha, “Del Primer Annuncio y la Educacion a la Fe”, in Jornadas de Estudio
del Primer Anuncio al Discipulado Misionero en América y el Caribe, 113-114.
91 ENZO BIEMME, “L’Annonce de l’Évangile dans l’Espace de la Gratuité” in JEAN-PAUL
LAURENT (ed), L’Évangélisation: Une Annonce Gracieuse, Cahiers Internationaux de Théologie Practique, Série “Actes” n. 9 (2016): 14-16.57
are not proclaimed!” 92 Similarly, catechesis without an initial
proclamation, conversion and initial personal belief, risks becoming sterile. The initial proclamation is indispensable for effective
catechesis throughout life.
A missionary catechesis changes the paradigm of faith transmission from education (social patrimony) to initiation (personal
proposal). First, some provisions are promoted to help a better
acceptance of kerygma: closeness, openness to dialogue, patience,
and a cordial welcome that does not condemn. There follows a logical proposal of a faith that depends more on affirmation and personal ownership. It is no longer seen as something merely
cultural or only as a tradition to be maintained. This, in turn, has
practical consequences on catechesis.
Missionary catechesis always comes back to a listening to the
initial proclamation in various ways, in one form or another, in
all its stages and moments. Starting from the infinite yearning
that exists in every human heart, faith is centered on God’s
salvific love without limiting it to a few doctrines, or moral and
religious bonds. “Proclamation in the missionary-style is focused
on the essentials, on elements that are absolutely necessary: this
is also what makes it more fascinating and attractive, what sets
the heart on fire, as it did for the disciples of Emmaus.” 93 Missionary catechesis, rather than impose the truth, calls for truth
to generate joy, vitality, and a harmonious completeness.
This personalization of faith is like learning: the disciple
learns to live the way of Jesus Christ and orientates his life as
an effective and long-lasting journey towards the Kingdom of
God, which at the same time requires exercise, endurance, perseverance and asceticism.
Therefore, catechesis is not seen solely or primarily as doctrinal instruction. Knowledge of doctrine does have its importance,
but the teaching of this doctrine is linked to places and celebrations of faith, so that it can actually be seen, touched and visited.
It begins with an understanding of the Word of God, explains
92 PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 22.
93 ANTONIO SPADARO, “Intervista a Papa Francesco” in La Civiltà Cattolica n. 3918 (19
Seeptember 2013): 464.58
the sacramental gestures of faith, incorporating them into one’s
life, and thus it walks in hope towards the Kingdom. 94
94 STIJN VANDENBOSSCHE, “Grandir dans la Foi toute la Vie: les Défis d’une Catéchèse
Permanente”, in L’Évangélisation: Une Annonce Gracieuse : 25-39.
95 ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”, 171.
96 RUTH DEL PILAR MORA, ALEXIUS MULONGO, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives
during the Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis in Africa and Madagascar”
129; ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha
sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”, 167-169.
97 PAMELA VECINA, JOHN CABRIDO, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives during these
Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, 108; RUTH DEL PILAR MORA, ALEXIUS
MULONGO, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives during the Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis in Africa and Madagascar” 130; ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL
MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”,
176; UBALDO MONTISCI, LORENZINA COLUSI, “Horizons for Initial Proclamation by the Salesian Family in Europe Today: Conditions, Strategy, Methodology, Content”, 97.
The Way Forward
Our missionary zeal invites us to enter with respect into the culture of
those with whom we want to share the Gospel; to recognise the value
of their vision of the world and the expressions of their own identity (language, art, architecture, folklore, rites of life ...); to discover in them the
presence of the seeds of the Word (semina verbi). 95 To address the
needs of an experiential, educational and pastoral presence among
young people, it is necessary to convert our mentality and change our
structures by moving:
– from a perception of kerygma as identical to initial proclamation to
an understanding of the distinct identity of Initial Proclamation which,
at the same time, leads to and is intimately linked to kerygma. 96
– from an improvised preparation for the Sacraments of Christian initiation to a community awareness that realises an Initial Proclamation
before catechesis starts, and to providing a more systematic accompaniment in the preparation for the Sacraments of initiation. 97Witness
of Life and Charity
as Initial Proclamation
“GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT YOURSELVES!”
Mark tells us in his Gospel (Mk 6: 30-44) that Jesus had compassion on the multitude that followed him because they were
like sheep without a shepherd. The disciples certainly did not
think it was their responsibility to feed such a crowd. They asked
Jesus to send them away. Instead He tells them: “Give them
something to eat yourselves!” He thus wants to make them understand that instead of distancing themselves from the needs of
people, they have to try and ask, “What can we do to help them?”
By ordering His disciples, “Give them something to eat yourselves!” Jesus urges his disciples to pass from a passive attitude
to active involvement, from a cold distance from the world’s problems to a deeper dive into history. Here Jesus clearly showed his
wish that all those who follow him will also share His compassion
for people, that they will have His heart, and His strong and caring love. Jesus goes on to ask his disciples, “How many loaves
have you? Go, see!” Five loaves and two fish are far too little for
a crowd. But these few things will become material for a miracle.
In the hands of Jesus, these few gifts were transformed into sufficiency to satiate a crowd. Even the disciples were transformed
from being spectators uninvolved in people into men immersed
in the compassion of Jesus, into active collaborators who are
instruments for a miracle. 98
Evangelisation is achieved not only through the public proclamation of the Gospel or trough activities. It should not happen
that the haste to proclaim the Gospel to many people makes
us forget personal witnessing. It is an alternative manner of
transmitting the Gospel from person to person. This form of
proclamation is always a highly effective way of evangelising,
because it reaches and touches the conscience in a totally extraor98 MARIA KO HA FONG, ¿”Cuantos Panes Tienen? Vayan a Ver”, in Jornadas de Estudio
del Primer Anuncio al Discipulado Misionero en América y el Caribe, 205-208.62
dinary way. 99 This primacy of testimony and lifestyle does not
rule out an explicit proclamation when the right moment for it
arrives at the next stage of evangelisation.
Initial proclamation “cannot be dissociated from the positive,
existential testimony of the person making the proclamation”. 100
In fact, witnessing is an important element in the transmission
of the faith because “faith comes from listening (fides ex auditu).
Listening in turn always involves a partner. Faith is not a product of reflection and not even of an effort to penetrate into the
depths of my being. Both of these may be present, but they remain insufficient ... In order for me to believe I need witnesses
who have met God and make Him accessible to me.” 101
This testimony is also rooted in the initial attitude of respect
and appreciation of the human and religious values of one’s own
friends and neighbours who do not know Christ. “True witnessing
demands the recognition and respect of the other and a true openness to dialogue. There is need for patience as a dimension of love,
the simplicity and humility of one who recognises himself as a
sinner before God and neighbour. There has to be the capacity for
forgiveness, reconciliation and purification of memory, at personal and community level.” 102
The witness of an authentic Christian life and the practice of
charity are initial proclamation because they dare the other to
examine his own lifestyle, values, and priorities. They are a constant invitation and a challenge for the other person to go deeper
into himself in a more conscious, personalized, and profound way
that could trigger existential questions. The testimony of life and
the practice of charity are primary means of initial proclamation.
These require, first of all, to live in total availability to the Spirit
so that we are better conformed to Christ within ourselves.
In fact, “one cannot bear witness to Christ without reflecting
his image, which is made alive in us by grace and through the
99 CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF FAITH, Doctinal Notes on Some Aspects of Evangelisation (Libreria Editrice Vaticana: Vatican City, 2007), n. 11.
100 UBALDO MONTISCI, LORENZINA COLUSI, “Horizons for Initial Proclamation by the
Salesian Family in Europe Today: Conditions, Strategy, Methodology, Content”, 93.
101 JACQUES SERVAIS, “Intervista al Papa Emerito Benedetto XVI”, 4.
102 BENEDICT XVI, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, n. 12.63
work of the Spirit”. 103 Hence, personal contact, interpersonal relationship and dialogue that are preceded, accompanied and followed by charity, and under the inspiration of the Spirit, are of
great importance because the testimony of charity inspires, questions and challenges. 104 These questions are presented without
any shades of proselytism but, rather, with respect for human
dignity and freedom of conscience.
Celebrations of the faith and popular religious expressions are
also occasions that promote initial proclamation. Therefore, particular care and attention should be given to “traditional” pastoral
activities (celebration of sacraments, especially baptism and marriage, pilgrimages, popular devotions) because they are a reflection of ecclesial life. When these celebrations are carefully
prepared, on the one hand, they may inspire a deepening of evangelical life. They nurture and enhance hope among the participants. On the other hand, these realities could stir up within
those who do not know Christ a fascination of faith that could
trigger an interest in His person. 105
It is equally necessary to address the opportunities and challenges offered by the new frontiers (e.g., the digital continent, migration, multicultural and multi-religious settings), as well as the
new situations resulting from cultural evolution (e.g., individualism, fluidity, secularism). These do affect the lifestyle of Christians. It is also important to find and create occasions or places
of encounter where one can feel free to talk about existential and
religious questions and feel understood and listened to. 106
We need to be women and men of God, of strong faith and
courage. We need to strive to live the Beatitudes, forgiveness, welcome, and love for all, to the point of offering our lives for others
“so that they may have life and have it in abundance “(Jn 10: 10).
Such a life would always be truly prophetic. 107 The testimony of
103 JOHN PAUL II, Redemptoris Missio, 87.
104 “Prospettive Emergenti nelle Giornate di Studio: La Città, Spazio e Opportunità
per il Primo Annuncio”, in Giornate di Studio sul Primo Annuncio in Città, 206.
105 ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”, 176-177.
106 UBALDO MONTISCI, LORENZINA COLUSI, “Horizons for Initial Proclamation by the
Salesian Family in Europe Today: Conditions, Strategy, Methodology, Content”, 97-100.
107 RUNITA BORJA, PIERGIORGIO GIANAZZA, “Emerging Perspectives in the Study Days64
apostles, burning with love for Jesus in ordinary everyday life,
becomes an interesting invitation to understand the motivations
and deeper reasons for such a lifestyle. A credible witness triggers
existential questions of the kind: “Why do you live this way?”
“Why do you do this?” 108 So these questions really become a “gateway that leads to faith.” This focus on the importance of the
Christian lifestyle in initial proclamation helps to overcome the
danger of reducing Catholicism or Christianity simply to a set
Our witness of Salesian and apostolate life ought to trigger
the desire to pose existential questions in the minds of those we
encounter and those who observe us. That would start off a search
for truth. It is then that our presence actually becomes true salt
and true light (Mt 5: 13-16). This is precisely the opposite of
a presence “without taste” (Mt 5:13). Indeed, the testimony of
individual Christians or of the Christian family, the lifestyle
of SDBs and FMAs, of religious communities and the entire
Christian community, or the institutional and collective image
of the Congregation and of the Church in all their public manifestations are all forms of initial proclamation or, unfortunately,
an obstacle to it. 109 This implies that every Christian and every
Christian community lives in a state of constant conversion while
walking toward holiness. It starts first of all in the family, which
is a domestic church. The testimony of parents’ lives and the educational environment in the family give children the opportunity
to know better about Jesus Christ. They foster the growth and
development of their faith so that they actually live the doctrine
and become credible witnesses.
in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, in Study Days on the Salesian Presence Among
Muslims, 153-154, 158.
108 JOHN PAUL II, Fides et Ratio, n.67.
109 ANDRÉ FOSSION, “Proposta della Fede e Primo Annuncio”, Catechesi 78, no.4 (20082009): 29-34; 30; LUCA BRESSAN, “Quali Esperienze di Annuncio Proporre?”, Notiziario
dell’Ufficio Catechistico Nazionale 36, no.1 (2007), 61-68.65
The witness of life is necessary; however, it is not enough. It
needs to be preceded, accompanied, and followed by charity. The
testimony of charity inspires questions and challenges the intellect and the will to ask existential or religious questions. On the
other hand, the practice of charity goes hand in hand with the
credible lifestyle of individual Christians, the Christian family,
and the entire Christian community. This testimony of life and
charity takes shape in specific cultural expressions at important
moments of human existence, in relationships and in socio-political expressions of everyday life.
“Give them something to eat yourselves!” A true Christian
recognises Jesus in the hungry, in prisoners, the sick, the naked
or those who have no work but must sustain a family. He sees
Jesus in those who are alone, sad, in those who have made mistakes and need advice, in those who need someone to walk beside
them in silence so that they experience being accompanied. 110 This
Christian witness finds expression also through the service of reconciliation, justice and peace, through a concern for the oppressed,
the uninitiated, the marginalised, through a struggle for peace
and justice, and the commitment to integral human development,
reconciliation and the construction of a more humane society. 111
Indeed, these works of mercy are the characteristics of the face
of Jesus Christ, who takes care of “my little brothers” (Mt 25: 40)
to bring God’s tenderness and closeness to each one of them. 112
That is why the testimony of charity and the sincere service
of every Christian living with faith, hope and love and immersed
in prayer become communicators of their own experience of the
Divine. The power of the witness of charity and sincere service
sound loud and clear in the words of Saint Francis of Assisi:
“Preach always and, whenever necessary, use words!”
In addition, proclaiming Christ is first and foremost an act
of charity because it makes known God’s love for each of us. 113
110 FRANCIS, General Audience, 30 June 2016.
111 JOHN PAUL II, Ecclesia in Africa, n. 44-45, 68, 77; BENEDICT XVI, Africae Munus, n.15
112 FRANCIS, General Audience, 12 October 2016.
113 FRANCIS, Message for the World Mission Sunday (2016).66
Therefore, the places where the Church is committed to helping
the sick and the suffering, the poor, the migrants and the marginalised, where the Church struggles for justice, peace and the
integrity of creation, are open to initial proclamation. There are
two dangers to avoid: first of all, that of losing sight of initial
proclamation as the fundamental goal of our social commitment.
Without this primary concern to foster initial proclamation, our
social works are reduced to mere philanthropy and we become
only social workers. Yet, neither the Church nor the Congregation
is an NGO. 114 The other danger is that of allowing the testimony
of charity to degenerate into proselytism. This happens when,
through social services, we offer social or material benefits to people
for an apparent interest and adherence to the person of Jesus. 115
We are aware that in multi-religious contexts, in most cases,
our presence may be limited to a silent witness of life and action
through an authentic Christian life. 116 This is the reality confronting those who work among Muslims, Hindus, or even Buddhists. That is the reason why Christianity as a “style” of life is of
great importance. It is a form of initial proclamation. In that light,
our friendship or the way of dealing with people of different cultures, religions and social status, which is open and welcoming,
becomes initial proclamation. 117 Thus, ordinary daily life among
people is an arena of dialogue, of intercultural and interreligious
dialogue, and the foundation on which to build theological and
spiritual dialogues. The Christian witness in ordinary everyday
life then becomes a manifestation of a living Christianity for those
who do not know Christ. The ‘style’ of life in ordinary daily life
becomes initial proclamation and a gradual path to faith. 118
114 FRANCIS, Homily at Casa Santa Martha, 24 April 2013.
115 PAOLO RICCA, “Il Primo Annuncio tra Afonia e Proselitismo”, AA. Primo Annuncio.
Tra Afonia e Proselitismo. Le Religioni si Interrogano (Livorno: Pharus, 2015) 62-66.
116 PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 41.
117 TC GEORGE, THERESA JOSEPH, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives during these
Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, Study Days on the Salesian Mission
and the Initial Proclamation of Christ in South Asia (Rome: SDB-FMA, 2013), 94.
118 JOHN PAUL II, Fides at Ratio, n. 67; CHRISTOPH THEOBALD, Le Christianisme
Comme Style, vol. 1 (Cerf: Paris, 2007), 125-131, 188-189, 385-387; ANGELO FERNANDES,
“Dialogue in the Context of Asian Realities”, Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection
55 (1991): 548.67
CONVERSION IN MULTI-RELIGIOUS CONTEXTS
God wants all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of
the truth. His Son, Jesus, is the only Saviour and “there is no salvation in any other” (Acts 4:12). However, by the invisible action
of the Spirit, through ways that He alone knows, God can bring
to salvation those who, through no fault of theirs, do not know
the Gospel. It is, however, necessary for all to convert to Christ
and, through Baptism, to be incorporated in Him and in His body,
the Church. 119
The theme of conversion in the context of the initial proclamation is certainly a thorny problem in multicultural and multireligious contexts. In fact, initial proclamation respects people’s
freedom of conscience. It is never violent to a person’s conscience
nor could it be confused with proselytism. Proselytism is not respectful of the people we meet. It does not conform to our Salesian
charism, which uses reason and loving-kindness as our approach.
We are aware that the truth is not the private property of anyone
nor can it be imposed on others. It is, instead, a gift that unfolds
only in a loving encounter and by journeying together towards an
increasingly intensified assimilation of truth. 120 In this journey,
“the Holy Spirit is already at work, opening up and disposing
hearts to the reception of evangelical truth”. 121 However, “we will
not be timid when God opens the door to an explicit proclamation
of the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and as the response to fundamental questions of human existence.” 122
True conversion leads to true knowledge of God, which, in
turn, is geared towards mutual openness with others. This is conversion to God, which is of fundamental importance and which is
the indispensable condition for initial proclamation. However, it
119 Ad Gentes, n.7; CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Doctinal Notes on
Some Aspects of Evangelisation, n.10; PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE,
Dialogue and Proclamation (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1991), n. 29.
120 BENEDICT XVI, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, n. 27; PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE, Dialogue and Proclamation, n. 41, 79.
121 CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Doctinal Notes on Some Aspects of
122 FEDERATION OF ASIAN BISHOPS CONFERENCES, “V Plenary Assembly”, 4.3 in Gaudencio Rosales, Cayetano G. Arevalo (ed), For All Peoples of Asia, vol. I (Quezon City:
Claretian Publications, 1997), 282.68
is also important to emphasise here that true conversion depends
exclusively on God’s internal calling and the free decision of the
person. Thus, the bishops of Asia insist that “a dialogue aimed at
converting the other to one’s faith and religious tradition is dishonest and immoral”. 123 Indeed, sincere and authentic interreligious dialogue cannot have conversion of others as its goal, even
if it is not entirely excluded. And if a sincere conversion happens,
this is God’s gift and not the fruit of human effort.
Instead, in an interreligious relationship, everyone is called
to a deeper conversion to God and a deeper conversion to his own
religious tradition and its potential. It promotes mutual enrichment and communion in spirit with the followers of other religions. Thus, through initial proclamation, we share our “religious
experience of faith and the love of Jesus, not to proselytise,
but merely to share what we are, in transparent friendship and
unity”. We do not deny, however, that Christians “may bring the
Good News of Salvation to people who want to listen and receive
it freely.” 124
123 BISHOPS’ INSTITUTE FOR INTERRELIGIOUS AFFAIRS V/3, “Working for Harmony in the
Contemporary World”, 6 in Franz-Josef Eilers (ed), For All Peoples of Asia, vol. II (Quezon
City: Claretian Publications, 1997), 158.
124 FEDERATION OF ASIAN BISHOPS CONFERENCES, “VIII Plenary Assembly”, 97 in FranzJosef Eilers (ed), For All Peoples of Asia, vol. IV (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 2007),
36; PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 53: “neither respect and esteem for these religions nor
the complexity of the questions raised is an invitation to the Church to withhold from these
non-Christians the proclamation of Jesus Christ. On the contrary the Church holds that these
multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ - riches in which we
believe that the whole of humanity can find, in unsuspected fullness, everything that it is
gropingly searching for concerning God, man and his destiny, life and death, and truth”.69
125 JOSEPH PHUOC, ALMA CASTAGNA, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives during these
Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, 115; 118.
126 “Prospettive Emergenti nelle Giornate di Studio: La Città, Spazio e Opportunità
per il Primo Annuncio”, 206.
127 JOSEPH PHUOC, ALMA CASTAGNA, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives during these
Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, 115; TC GEORGE, THERESA JOSEPH,
“Emerging Insights and Perspectives during these Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, 94.
128 RUNITA BORJA, PIERGIORGIO GIANAZZA, “Emerging Perspectives in the Study Days
in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, 154.
The Way Forward
From experience we know that people suffering from material poverty
are often richer in religious and cultural expressions through their symbols and rites. At the same time we are aware that we cannot proclaim
Jesus to them without relieving their miseries so that they can live with
dignity as God’s children. We are also aware that many people appreciate our services for their human development but are not Interested
in knowing more about Jesus. Unfortunately, often enough, we ourselves do not make efforts to stir up in them any profound questions
about the meaning of human life. 125 In many places where we work,
it is not possible to explicitly proclaim the Gospel. Many times we
are compelled into silence and restricted to a mere presence. In these
contexts, our witnessing is an incisive proclamation. 126 To make our
witness of life and charity a true initial proclamation it is necessary to
convert our mentality and modify our structures by moving:
– from an attitude that considers poverty as an obstacle to evangelisation, and the poor as only recipients of our social work, to an
attitude that sees the poor we are serving as an opportunity for a
better understanding of the Gospel, and our social services (projects
of rural development, people’s housing, health care, education,
vocational training) as a space and opportunity to foster initial
– from frantic social activities and initiatives to a contemplative spirit
that gives greater importance to being than to doing and succeeding,
becoming the living Gospel to our brothers and sisters of other
– from a relativistic and simplistically naïve attitude towards followers
of other religions who come to our centres (young and adult), to an
integral education (of educators as well as of the young), starting from70
129 IBID, 158, 159.
130 ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha
sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”, 177: TC GEORGE, THERESA JOSEPH, “Emerging Insights
and Perspectives during these Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, 94.
131 RUNITA BORJA, PIERGIORGIO GIANAZZA, “Prospettive Emergenti nelle Giornate di
Studio in Vista di una Rinnovata Prassi Missionaria”, 159, 160.
positive elements, bearing in mind the recommendation and the
example of Jesus, “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”
(Mt 10:16); 129
– from an attitude that considers followers of other religions as targets
of our proclamation of the Gospel to an appreciation of their religious
traditions and of what God has done for them (in particular, their
propensity to contemplation, which leads to silence, self-detachment,
care and compassion for others) and consider them as resources
for initial proclamation; 130
– from a mentality that Salesians and Daughters of Mary Help of
Christians will learn “in the field” how to work with followers of other
religions, to a preparation in all stages of initial formation and vocational training so that appropriate pastoral educational programmes
may be carried out. 131Initial Proclamation
and Salesian Charism
“WIDEN THE SPACE IN YOUR TENT!”
Chapter 54 of Isaiah returns to a symbol dear to Hosea, Ezekiel
and Jeremiah: Israel is going to be married to God. Because of her
infidelity Israel was alone, childless and disgraced. Now, through
the covenant, she is the Lord’s bride and a fruitful mother. It is
God who makes her fruitful. So she needs to enlarge her tent to accommodate her many children: “Widen the space in your tent, and
let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back,
lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will
spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your descendants
will possess the nations and will populate the desolate cities.” (Is
54: 2-3). In the Bible, the tent is the meeting place of God with
His people and a space that is alive with encounters and exchange.
The tent gives shelter from the weather. It is used to rest in and
then to go on with the journey. Hence it is important that the tent
be wide enough to welcome and accommodate everyone.
Our faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who pitched His
tent among us (Jn 1:14), invites us, as Salesians and Daughters
of Mary Help of Christians, to widen our missionary horizons so
that initial proclamation becomes the main concern of our lives
as consecrated educators and evangelisers. Attention to initial
proclamation will certainly make our pastoral work more fruitful
among young people.
A GLANCE AT OUR ORIGINS
Don Bosco’s pedagogical style was all oriented towards the creation of the family spirit as an indispensable educational environment to accomplish initial proclamation among the poor and
abandoned boys of Turin. Don Bosco made people feel that they
were not entering a school. They were being welcomed into a family
under the guidance of a father whose only desire was their spiritual
and material good. In fact, he always meant the oratory to be a
‘home’ rather than an institution. In this educational setting, he
stirred up in the young a thirst for God. They were made to per-74
ceive that He is lovingly close to them and that he manifests Himself in their desire to embark on a journey of faith. Don Bosco did
not differentiate between initial proclamation and catechesis, but,
whenever he met a boy, he immediately invited him to a Christian
life. He thus integrated catechesis into the lives of his boys. 132
In his letter from Rome, 1884, he wrote about the necessity of
“breaking the fatal barrier of mistrust and replacing it with the
warmest confidence. ... How many conversions were brought
about by a few words of his, whispered unexpectedly into a young
man’s ear while he was having fun. He who feels loved, loves, and
he who is loved gets everything, especially from the young. This
confidence releases a flow as of an electric current between the
young and the superiors. Hearts open up and make known their
needs, and they recognise their faults.” 133
Likewise, in Mornese, Maria Domenica Mazzarello spent her
life with the young girls of the village to draw them to the practice
of the faith. Fr. Pestarino asked every Daughter of the Immaculate to teach mothers how to educate their children in the Christian way. Young Maria Mazzarello prepared her catechism
lessons and her counsels with great care. She was convinced that
the Christian life of girls and of the entire family depended on
the mother. In fact, the religious education of girls, especially
those who were neglected and abandoned, was deeply imprinted
on her heart even before she became a Daughter of Mary Help
The catechetical style of Mother Mazzarello was colloquial.
She used a simple and practical pedagogy as regards prayer and
relationship with God. Her catechesis was based on the Word of
God and focused primarily on the interests of young people and
their experience of Jesus. For her, catechesis depended on the entire educative environment. It was not merely a matter of style
132 SALESIAN YOUTH MINISTRY DEPARTMENT, Salesian Youth Ministry. Frame of Reference (Rome: SDB, 2014), 143.
133 JOHN BOSCO, “Lettera da Roma alla Comunità Salesiana dell’Oratorio di TorinoValdocco”, in ISTITUTO STORICO SALESIANO, Fonti Salesiane. 1. Don Bosco e la Sua Opera
(Rome: LAS, 2014), 444-451.75
Her biographers recall that Maria Domenica introduced dance
into the oratory to counteract the effects of the carnivals in
the villages. Teaching girls to dance was something unheard of
among the inhabitants of Mornese of that time. She encouraged
dancing because she saw it as a way of being happy without offending God. Later, at Don Costamagna’s suggestion, she organised theatrical performances to which she invited also the
inhabitants of Mornese. The educational style inaugurated in
Mornese by Mother Mazzarello and the early FMA was a true
mystagogy, the art of leading the young to Christ.
For Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello, everything could
be an appropriate opportunity to proclaim the Good News of
salvation. They gave the maximum importance to the creation
of an educational environment. In it, people, activities, and
words could stir up in everyone the awareness of the presence of
God; and this could take place in the oratory, in schools, in homes,
in workshops, and even in recreation, in playgrounds, or on
THE PREVENTIVE SYSTEM
Don Bosco gave great importance to young people’s experiences. He used their life experiences as the foundation on which
to build his educational system, and that has been very fruitful.
Pope John Paul II summarised it well:
“One may say that the peculiar trait of his brilliance is linked with
the educational method which he himself called the “Preventive System”. In a certain sense this represents the quintessence of his pedagogical wisdom and constitutes the prophetic message which he has
left to his followers and to the Church, and which has received attention and recognition from numerous educators and students of pedagogy. The term “preventive” which he uses is to be understood not so
much in its strict linguistic sense as in the richness of the character134 GLORIA ELENA GARCIA PEREIRA, “Las Oportunidades y los Desafíos del Primer
Anuncio para SDB y FMA en América Latina y Caribe”, 134-135, 139-140; 146; ISTITUTO
FIGLIE DI MARIA AUSILIATRICE, Perché Abbiano Vita, Vita in Abbondanza. Linee Orientative
della Missione Educativa delle FMA (LDC: Turin, 2005) 30.76
istics typical of the Saint’s educative skill. It implies in the first place
the intention of foreseeing and preventing anything that might give
rise to negative experiences which could compromise youthful energies
or commit young people to long and distressing efforts at recovery.
But the term also includes deep intuitions, precise options and
methodological criteria, all lived with particular intensity: examples
are: the art of positive education by putting forward what is good
through appropriate experiences which call for the involvement of the
pupil and are attractive because of their splendour and lofty nature;
the art of producing growth in the young persons “from within” by
appealing to their inner freedom to oppose external conditioning and
formalism; the art of winning the heart of young people so as to inculcate in them a joyful and satisfied attraction to what is good, correcting deviations and preparing them for the future by means of a solid
character formation.” 135
PREVENTIVE SYSTEM AS INITIAL PROCLAMATION
The heart of Don Bosco’s educational system is the religious
dimension. In fact, Don Bosco’s love for young people cannot be
understood unless it is seen as rooted in his fiery zeal for their
integral salvation. In his dream at the age of nine, it was revealed
to him for the first time that his vocation was to bring young people to God through persuasion and loving-kindness, showing
them “the beauty of virtue and the ugliness of sin.” However, it
was in the Oratory at Valdocco that he himself was able to verify
the effects of this educational method.
Presence is critical to the Preventive System. The educator is
present as a sign and witness of God’s radical love for mankind.
Through this presence an I-You dialogue is developed. This relationship is at the centre of this educative pastoral practice. 136
Education and evangelisation of young people take place through
relationship and exchange, through friendship and dialogue,
through proposal and proclamation. This, in turn, creates an
135 JOHN PAUL II, Letter Iuvenum Patris (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana,
136 MARIA AROKIAM KANAGA, “Meaning, Opportunities and Challenges of the Salesian
Presence among Muslims”, in Salesian Presence among Muslims, 131-132.77
educative environment in which the young person lives the
beauty and charm of Christian life expressed in the joy of loving
and serving God: Servite Domino in laetitia! 137
Don Bosco knew every boy well, not only by name and by
character, but also interiorly. For his boys, he was a ‘faithful
friend of the soul’ who knew what to tell them without ambiguity
for the good of their soul. In such a context, permeated by trust
and confidence, the short, precise, but intense words – refered
to in salesian pedagogy as the word in the ear – became like
a dart that penetrated the young man’s mind and illuminated
his heart. They were words that Don Bosco said confidentially
to the young man at totally unexpected moments (such as while
he was at play in the courtyard). For this reason, the word in
the ear remained imprinted in the mind and heart of the young
man and it could no longer be erased. The word in the ear
was therefore a way of whispering the Gospel into the young
man’s heart such that it would trigger in him an interest in knowing Jesus and his Gospel. This is, indeed, a method of realizing
initial proclamation provided that whoever uses it is committed
to being consistent with the message it proclaims. 138
A YOUTH MINISTRY PERMEATED BY INITIAL PROCLAMATION
The pastoral care of the young is an organic action of an
Educative-Pastoral Community that wants to enable young
people to grow to their personal maturity and to communion in the
Church with Jesus Christ. 139 Fr. Pascual Chávez, the then Rector
Major, had pointed out to Salesians that “our pastoral work is still
too weakly missionary, i.e., it pays little attention to initial proclamation, or to a renewed proclamation of the Gospel”. He went on
to urge a rethinking of youth ministry to give our educative-pastoral project a greater educational and evangelising quality and
137 PIERA RUFFINATTO, “Il Sistema Preventivo Spazio del Primo Annuncio in Stile
Salesiano” in Giornate di Studio sul Primo Annuncio in Città, 184-186, 196-199.
138 IBID, 193-195.
139 ISTITUTO FIGLIE DI MARIA AUSILIATRICE, Perché Abbiano Vita, Vita in Abbondanza,
thus lead the young to an encounter with Jesus. 140 The result of
this rethinking is the Framework of Reference which is an excellent organic synthesis, an overview of Salesian pastoral heritage
that responds to today’s challenges. 141 Unfortunately, as Ubaldo
Montisci points out, “there are only five references to initial proclamation.” 142 In the same line, the Guidelines for the Educative Mission of the FMA 143 that has as its core “the explicit message of
Jesus” makes only one reference to initial proclamation!
Let us enlarge the space in our tent! This implies a real missionary conversion of the entire service of youth ministry to place
it at the service of initial proclamation or of a renewed proclamation of the Gospel. In this light, a change of mentality is required
in order to rethink, elaborate and experiment with different and
perhaps unpublicized strategies that meet the expectations and
hopes of teenagers and young people in our centres. The stage of
defining one’s identity by teenagers and the initiation of young
people to intimacy are opportunities to face up to questions of
the truth and meaning in life: there we propose the most stable
foundations for a faith, which can then be lived out as adults.
It is therefore crucial to build an environment with minimal
structures in which personal relationships are taken care of;
where the young man can do what he enjoys most (sports, music,
groups, trips ...), or study and qualify himself; where Gospel values are breathed; where they meet people with convictions and
who bear witness to them. Consequently, the formation of evangelising educators is indispensable. Their spiritual qualification
is more important than all else. They need to become people with
a strong missionary conscience and an intense experience of the
faith, capable of narrating their experiences of faith, hope and
charity in the first person singular. 144
140 PASCUAL CHAVEZ VILLANUEVA, “Salesian Youth Ministry” in ACG 107 (2010), 23.
141 FABIO ATTARD, “Presentation”, Salesian Youth Ministry. Frame of Reference, 17.
142 UBALDO MONTISCI, “La Pastorale Giovanile e la Città: la Sfida e la Gioia del Primo
Annuncio”, footnote 68, p.160.
143 ANTONIA COLOMBO, “Presentation”, Perché Abbiano Vita, Vita in Abbondanza, 5.
144 ISTITUTO FIGLIE DI MARIA AUSILIATRICE, Perché Abbiano Vita, Vita in Abbondanza,
161, 171, 173-174, 175-179.79
The Way Forward
If our pastoral care of the young is to be permeated by initial proclamation and if the practice of the Preventive System is to become a
way to carry out initial proclamation, a threefold conversion is needed:
anthropological, spiritual and pedagogical. Anthropological conversion
requires that Salesians and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians deeply
feel anguished at the fact that many young people have not yet heard
the Gospel, or live their faith as something merely cultural. SDBs and
FMAs seek out young people in the peripheries. They are convinced
that, in the midst of their struggles, these young people have a heart
open to the Gospel and that, as consecrated educators, they also have
Someone to Offer: Jesus Christ. True spiritual conversion leads to a renewal and strengthening of our vocation as a faithful friend of the soul
and educator to the faith. Every encounter with them becomes educative and evangelising. Finally, pastoral conversion means committing
our missionary ardour and apostolic courage so that our educativepastoral work is innervated by initial proclamation and truly becomes a
way to bring the Gospel to the young. 145 To accomplish this, we need
to convert our mentality and modify our structures, moving:
– from a routine presence among young people to a presence that is
always attentive to various opportunities that come up to foster initial
– from a concern for the management of our works through our managerial roles to the attention and promotion of positive cultural values,
together with the local Church, so that they enrich the practice of the
Preventive System; 147
– from a routine service among young people to Salesian assistance
as a way of accompanying young people in their choices of life, leading them to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to stir up their interest in
Jesus and His Gospel; 148
145 Piera Ruffinatto, “Il Sistema Preventivo Spazio del Primo Annuncio in Stile Salesiano” in Giornate di Studio sul Primo Annuncio in Città, 199-202.
146 JOSEPH PHUOC, ALMA CASTAGNA, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives during these
Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, 114, 119; “Prospettive Emergenti
nelle Giornate di Studio: La Città, Spazio e Opportunità per il Primo Annuncio”, 208.
147 RUTH DEL PILAR MORA, ALEXIUS MULONGO, “Emerging Insights and Perspectives
during the Study Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis in Africa and Madagascar”, 128-129; RUNITA BORJA, PIERGIORGIO GIANAZZA, “Emerging Perspectives in the Study
Days in View of a Renewed Missionary Praxis”, 158.
148 ANA MARIA FERNANDEZ, ISABEL MADRID CISNEROS, RAFAEL ANDRÉS BORGES, “Ensancha sin Miedo el Espacio de tu Tienda”, 175,176, 178.80
149 FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 33.
150 “Prospettive Emergenti nelle Giornate di Studio: La Città, Spazio e Opportunità
per il Primo Annuncio”, 209-210.
– from a “comfortable pastoral criterion of “we have always done it this
way’ 149 to being women and men of great faith and courage, inflamed
by the fire of the Da mihi animas, who live their lives in a permanent
state of mission, able to rethink, elaborate and experiment with
original strategies that serves as Initial Proclamation among young
Mary’s conception of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk
1: 35; Mt 1, 18:20) was “a culminating moment of His action in
the history of salvation.” 151 She not only became a temple of the
Holy Spirit but also “let herself be led by the Spirit, through a
journey of faith, towards a destiny of service and fruitfulness.” 152
Her fiat was truly a total openness to the will of God and “to the
person of Christ, to all of his work, to all of his mission”. 153
In the Gospel of Luke the announcement by the angel Gabriel
to Mary is immediately followed by her visit to her cousin Elizabeth (Lk 1: 26-57). The angel gave Mary a sign to confirm what
had just been announced to her: “And behold, your kinswoman
Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the
sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible “(Lk 1: 36). At Ain Karim Maria was able
to verify for herself that “nothing is impossible to God” (Lk 1:37).
At the conclusion of our reflection on initial proclamation,
let us look at Mary and draw strength from her who hurried to
Elisabeth to proclaim the Good News - Jesus Christ, the Saviour.
Hers was a real missionary journey. Her going “in a hurry to the
mountainous region” became the image of the Church, which, immediately after Pentecost, went out to spread the Gospel to the
extreme ends of the earth. On that morning of Pentecost she saw
in her prayer the beginning of the evangelisation brought about
by the Holy Spirit. 154
On her journey to the home of Elizabeth at Ain Karim, Mary
gave no thought to the distance, the time, the discomfort or the
risks associated with it. Mary, “the handmaid of the Lord,” be151 PAUL VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice
Vaticana, 1974), n. 26.
152 FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 287.
153 JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Redemptoris Mater (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vati cana, 1987), n. 39.
154 PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 82.84
come the one who revealed God through her love and service.
Throughout her journey, bearing Jesus within herself, she remained united with Him. She “kept all these things, pondering
them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). She went “in haste”; she went
quickly, but remained with the Lord. Her exterior journey as she
moved quickly along winding paths reflects her inner journey of
faith. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit she moved from the
docile acceptance of her fiat at the visit from the messenger of
God to the joyous explosion of her magnificat as a messenger of
God for others. It was Mary’s interior journey of faith to God in
her heart that directed and gave meaning to her external actions.
In her we have a model of someone who carries out Initial Proclamation. She merges her inner life with her external activity.
She harmoniously intertwines her beliefs and her deeds. Her
journey is also a symbol of the journey of faith of every Christian
who moves from an initial adherence to God’s plan to being a
The journey of Mary culminates in her encounter with Elizabeth: the two women bear within themselves the ineffable mystery. This encounter placed them at the threshold between the
Old and the New Testament, between the time when God spoke
through signs and wonders and the time when He manifests Himself through His Son incarnate. Their mutual support became the
space within which God revealed Himself and did great things.
Elizabeth had John in her womb, the one who is to bring a message from almighty God, while the child in the womb of Mary is
the almighty God Himself. Indeed, we have attained the “fullness
of time” (Gal 4: 4). 155
Luke concludes his story from the Annunciation until the
early infancy of Jesus (Lk 2: 8-20, 51), pointing out that “His
mother kept all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51). From the moment when she starts to meditate on all the events that have
taken place up to her understanding of the extraordinary works
155 MARIA KO HA FONG, “Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country”, Study
Days on the Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of Christ, 179-186; IDEM, “Mary
the ‘First Evangelised’ and the ‘First Evangeliser’”, in The Salesian Mission and the Initial
Proclamation of Christ in the Three-fold Context of South Asia, 146-147.85
of God in her life, “she can recognise the footsteps of the Spirit of
God in the great events and even in those that seem imperceptible. She is a contemplative of the mystery of God in the world, in
history and in the everyday life of one and all.” 156
In his Gospel, John has given us the last recorded words of
Mary, those at Cana, the only ones addressed directly to people.
It is like her “spiritual will and testament.” She asks the servants
at Cana’s to do “whatever He tells you”. In those words Mary expressed the idea that is essential for every human person, that
is, to open their own heart to Jesus, who alone has “words of eternal life” (Jn 6: 68). Yet, this short injunction was real Initial
Proclamation. In fact, when we read these last words of Mary in
conjunction with the last words of the Risen Lord, we see clearly
that Mary leads us to Jesus: “Go and make disciples of all nations,
baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28: 19). At Cana the deep faith she had expressed in her fiat became a convincing facite addressed to others.
In Mary we see that it is only a profound personal attachment to
God that can make us bring others to God. 157
On the Cross Jesus gave us his mother (Jn 19: 26-27) to be
our mother on our journey. Mary, in fact, is the mother and the
help of the Church. She is close to us, walks by our side, shares
our struggles and constantly surrounds us with the love of God.
She is the inspiration and model of that motherly love that all
missionary disciples must nourish. 158
The Church, missionary by its very nature, constantly looks
at the example of Mary to reveal the hidden God more effectively,
not only through a proclamation but also by stirring up an interest in her Son through a testimony of love and service, especially
to those who are in the existential peripheries of our society.
For Don Bosco, the Virgin Mary was the guide and support of
his work for young people. For Mother Mazzarello, young people
were entrusted to her by the Virgin. This has deeply marked the
156 FRANCESCO, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 288.
157 MARIA KO HA FONG, “Mary the ‘First Evangelised’ and the ‘First Evangeliser’”,
158 FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, 285-286; JOHN PAUL II, Redemptoris Missio, n.92.86
charismatic and spiritual identity of the groups that make up the
Salesian Family. As we continue our journey in faith, through the
deserts of our time, we entrust ourselves to her so that we may
respond generously to our mission of being instruments of initial
With a prayer on our lips and hope in our hearts, along with
all the young people entrusted to us, we ask Mary to be with us
as she was with the first community of disciples waiting for the
coming of the Spirit (Acts 1, 14). She is our help and our guide.
We implore her to help us so that our prayers and our lives can
be one and so that, through us, the Spirit may arouse in the
hearts of many young people the desire to know and follow the
blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus Christ!
159 Identity Card of the Salesian Family (2012), art 11, 37.Appendices89
Practical Proposals during the Study Days
Salesian Mission in Frontier Situations
and Initial Proclamation in Europe Today
Prague, 4 - 10 November 2010
1. To open new presences in the European countries where there is no
Salesian presence yet, so as to stir up missionary sensitivity and apostolic enthusiasm among the Salesians of Europe.
2. Intensify and promote pastoral care for families, especially through
3. Follow up more closely the new missionaries arriving in Europe and
help them integrate better.
4. Promote reflection among the Provincials of Europe to arrive at a common policy for European confreres who have made a discernment and
recognised a vocation to be missionaries within Europe.
5. Strengthen processes so that our ministry becomes more evangelising,
for an integral Salesian youthful ministry.
6. Each Province will undertake a study in view of launching a concrete
project whose priority will be the initial proclamation of Christ.
Salesian Mission and Initial Proclamation of Christ
in the Three-fold Context of South Asia
Kolkata, 7-11 August 2011
To foster a new mentality in the minds and hearts of our Sisters in the light
of initial proclamation:
1. Let every ministry be a proclamation of Jesus.
2. Formation of the Proclaimer (also those still under formation, initial and
ongoing), with a deeper experience of God, of the Word of God and
open to the reality of our locality
3. Prepare our lay collaborators in the proclamation of Jesus.
4. During village/family visits to focus systematically on initial proclamation90
5. Revive the Marian dimension in the work of initial proclamation.
6. Respect for and tolerance of people of other faiths; courage to proclaim Christ with prudence
7. Transmit the content, experience and conclusions of these Study Days
at local and provincial levels with a focus on mission ad gentes. Present
the conclusions in one’s own Province. The forthcoming PCI Meet will
be a privileged moment for this presentation.
8. To study the teachings of the Church regarding initial proclamation (especially the documents under preparation for the forthcoming synod
of bishops, which has initial proclamation as its theme)
9. To make initial proclamation a point of evaluation
10. To make a commitment to evaluate our existing ministries in the
Provinces to see whether of they are in line with initial proclamation.
In order to foster concrete ways of giving primacy to initial proclamation in
the Salesian Provinces of South Asia:
1. A Provincial level meeting is needed as part of the follow up of this programme. This should be done through the SPCSA. The PDMA can
organise it as well as introduce it at the meeting of the leaders of
2. The primacy of initial proclamation should be evident in the EPP of
each community. This should be followed up by the Provincial during
his annual visitation.
3. We need to start and follow up missionary groups in our various
4. Networking with the other members of the Salesian Family and other
missionary religious communities will help in the sharing of experiences
and successful methods of initial proclamation.
5. Undertake a national level research regarding the impact of initial
proclamation in our various settings.
6. Christian families should be sensitised not to restrict the number of
their children on the pretext of responsible parenthood.
7. We need better collaboration and coordination among the four Provincial Commissions (Youth Ministry, Social communication, Formation
8. The PDMAs will create in the Provinces like-minded groups on the
primacy of initial proclamation.
9. Provincials should regularly send confreres to study Missiology at
Sacred Heart Theological College at Shillong, Meghalaya.91
10. A short-term course can be regularly organised at the national level on
initial proclamation (regional level at Bangalore or Shillong).
11. Initial proclamation should be given appropriate attention during the
12. Greater emphasis could be given to initial proclamation in the curriculum for initial formation.
13. Personal exposure to the missions should be a part of the annual
Deacons’ course in our theologates.
Salesian Mission and Initial Proclamation of Christ
in the Three-fold Context of East Asia
Sampran, 14-18 August 2011
1. To Create in all the sectors of our mission a climate that is immersed
in the love for Christ
2. To transmit the fruits of these Study Days to the sisters of the Province,
involving the provincial council and the mission animation team
3. To continue our reflection on initial proclamation, above all committing
ourselves to a deeper understanding of the documents of the local
Churches and to know the initiatives of other institutes working in this
field in order to create a network
4. To accompany and empower the Christian youth, so that they may become missionaries for other youth
1. We make conscious efforts to stir up a desire to know the person of
Jesus. We need to develop personal skills (linguistic, information technology, good knowledge of cultures, religions and socio-political reality,
etc...) and prepare ourselves through immersion.
2. To promote a proper understanding of the life and nature of the mission, missiological formation should be included in the programme of
3. To re-enforce the role of the mission animator of the provinces. Missionary animation in the provinces is done in 2 dimensions: “ad gentes”
and “inter gentes”; give special importance to “inter gentes”.
4. Awareness is to be given to individuals as well as to communities on
the need to live a life of Christian witness as a way to proclaim Christ
5. To empower lay members of the Salesian family (co-operators, volunteers, SYM members, etc...) so that they, too, become agents of initial
6. To make a better use of our traditional settings (schools, oratories,
youth-centres, etc.) as auspicious places for initial proclamation; to go
out to the new frontiers of ministry and apostolate.
Salesian Mission and Initial Proclamation of Christ in Oceania
in the Context of Traditional Religions and Cultures,
and Cultures in the Process of Secularisation
Port Moresby, 21-25 November 2011
1. Deepen the personal experience of Jesus to proclaim His message,
that is, to make a witness of our life a “primary and authentic” proclamation of Jesus.
2. Study and reflect personally and as a community the documents of the
Church (universal and local) and of the Institute, in a missionary perspective.
3. Reflect on one’s own life experience from the point of view of mission.
4. Reread personally and as a community our pastoral activity in the light
In order to face up to the requirements of the call and the challenges of
initial proclamation in Oceania in the context of traditional religions and cultures, as well as cultures in the process of secularisation, we need to
change our mentality and our way of evangelisation, moving:
1. from doing mission only within our educational institutions and
parishes, to reaching out to the young where they are (through the
festive oratory, youth centres, etc.);
2. from sharing the faith in formal venues (parish, religious education, retreats, etc.) to greater awareness that all activities are occasions for
initial proclamation (Basic Ecclesial Communities, youth groups, etc.);
3. from ignoring culture (traditional, postmodern, secularised, etc.) to
committing ourselves to understand and comprehend our people’s cultures and religious beliefs through patient and trusting listening, taking them from where they are;93
4. from a lack of contact with the family to reaching out to families and
involving them more, because Initial Proclamation takes place first of
all in the family;
5. from doing mission ourselves (mission ad gentes, initial proclamation,
ordinary pastoral activity, renewed evangelisation) to forming and
engaging lay people as our mission partners, co-responsible with us
in Initial Proclamation and evangelisation, especially in families, through
living the Preventive System as our way of witnessing the Gospel way
Salesian Presence among Muslims
Rome, 30 July - 4 August 2012
The FMA participants in the “Study Days on Salesian Presence among
Muslims” have underlined a few points to be kept in mind for a continuity
and deepening of the Study Days:
1. To bring their voice to the Provincial Councils, Provincial Assemblies,
2. To raise the awareness of Provincial Superiors, so that they get involved in giving a picture of the reality on the said theme;
3. To grow in the knowledge of the reality of Islam at the European level;
4. To enhance the presence of the Coordinator for the Mission ad/inter
gentes as a significant “voice” within the Council and Provincial Team;
5. To take into account the reality and richness of the dioceses that work
with Muslim immigrants, and to find ways to integrate themselves into
this work and collaborate therein;
6. To incorporate the contents of the Study Days in the initial formation
(next year there will be young people from the Middle East arriving in
Turin for their postulancy);
7. To encourage the Sisters to become sensitive to the mission and the
Islamic context through reading and personal encounters (cf. Louis
8. To enhance local literature that helps in the dialogue with Muslims;
9. To make known the phenomenon of migration and Islam as an emerging “pastoral ministry”;
10. To organise other similar meetings;
11. To plan meetings of FMA and SDB working in Europe to reflect on ways
to face the reality of Islamic migration;94
12. To include the topic of Islam in the preparation for the 23rd FMA
These suggestions take into account the reality of each participant of the
1. What can we bring into our provinces at the operational level?
• Educative Pastoral Project (PEPSI) and Directory of the Province:
let the Provinces take into account the conclusions of the reflection
of these days; let them draw up projects, and give directives in the
directory during the Provincial Chapter 2012-2013.
• Dedicate time in the Provinces to contextualise the conclusions of the
• Take advantage of the next Provincial Chapter to talk about the issue
of new frontiers.
• Seek ways to participate in the commission for Interreligious Dialogue
of the Bishops’ Conferences (sub-Saharan Africa ...); get into direct
contact with the experiences and resources of the local Church; share
our own experiences.
• Organise similar meetings among the Provinces (as was already done
by the ‘AFO-AFW in 2010).
• Collect everything that has been shared in the various groups, especially the good practices, facts and concrete inspirations.
• Give opportunities to the participants to share in their Provinces (council, rectors, Youth Ministry Team, local communities, annual or quarterly
• Have some young SDBs specialise in dialogue with Muslims, who can
guide the path of dialogue in the Provinces.
• Share the conclusions of these Study Days during the course for new
• At the local level invite local leaders and Muslim scholars to share with us.
• Integrate the ministry among Muslims into the youth ministry of the 30
Provinces. It is important to work with the Provincial Delegates for
youth ministry and other commissions.
• What importance do we give to the formation of missionary confreres?
Emergencies reveal our situation of unpreparedness. We should be
more informed about the possibilities of formation centres in the regions and countries - not only PISAI in Rome (e.g. Hyderabad - India...)
• Add “an introduction to Islam” in the initial formation of confreres.
• Aim at making a collection of positive experiences that encourage,95
inspire or motivate confreres towards a Salesian presence among
• The bulletin of missionary animation “Cagliero 11” is important. Take
advantage of it, especially for the topic of our presence among
Muslims. Make a special invitation to document our experiences of
missionary life and concrete good practices.
• We must be careful not to be just ‘politically correct’ as per the expectations of the media, but to be ‘prophetically correct’ as Jesus wants
us to be.
2. How can we strengthen our work through networking (among the
participants, among the Provinces, in the Congregation)?
• We need a reference point to ensure the continuity of this reflection on
our presence among Muslims.
• Attach to the documents of the Study Days also a personal record
of the Salesians who work among Muslims (personal profile, specific
experiences) to facilitate a further journey, which may bear fruits.
• Here is a more specific request: an exchange of people and experiences, besides digital spaces. (For example, in Project Europe our mission to/with migrants is in the pipeline. In this light, we need to have
a platform for sharing of information (see www.sdb.org / AGORA, a
reserved area; or the Salesian Digital Library SDL, an open space).
• Exchanges and, possibly, regular meetings among the Provinces,
especially between adjacent ones and more homogeneous zones.
3. Concrete suggestions for some provinces
• AFW – Nigeria: Involve the confreres and communities in trying out
some experiments in the North where we are not yet present (only
some summer camps).
• MOR – Not to expect immediately great results from our presence
among the Muslims. At times we are limited to just a few opportunities
for a large number of baptisms, which may be the only satisfaction
from the mission.
• INK – Promote devotion to Mary and other saints (popular devotions)
as a method of initial proclamation; e.g., the shrine at Bangalore, India.
• SLK – Azerbaijan: We need to send here non-Slovak missionaries for
the inculturation of the Gospel and our charism so that we become
more effective in our pastoral work.
• ITM – Indonesia: It is important to help the Indonesian confreres to be
• FIS – Mindanao: These study days may help the confreres to open up96
to the mission among Muslims (to go beyond the two communities
with nine confreres, which is only 10% of the province).
• AFE – Delegation of South Sudan: Sensitize the confreres of the South
towards a presence among the Muslims of Sudan (in the North).
Study Days on the Initial Proclamation of Christ
in Africa and Madagascar
Addis Abeba, 5-9 November 2012
For the FMA the conclusions of the Study Days could be summarised
1. To transmit with enthusiasm the contents of these Study Days to the
whole Province, in agreement with the Provincial
2. To focus all our efforts on Initial Proclamation, during this year of faith
3. To review the aspect of evangelisation in the Provincial plan
4. To organise community moments on initial proclamation in order to
carry out missionary animation in every reality
5. To insist on the quality of our personal and community witnessing,
which is fundamental to initial proclamation
To give continuity to the Study Days, the FMA propose:
a. To plan formative encounters together with the SDB and FMA participants in these Study Days in their respective Provinces
b. To maintain contact among the participants for the sharing of reflections, contents and experiences on Initial Proclamation, through all
available means of communication
c. In the long term, to develop a basic plan for the SDB and FMA
Provinces to have an event similar to these Study Days, that is, of a
missionary nature, as well as an evaluation of work jointly undertaken
1. What can we take back to our respective Provinces at the practical
a. In the area of ‘Awareness of initial proclamation’ for the formation
and animation of SDBs:
• we will use the tools already available in our Provinces (Newsletter,
Salesian Bulletin, Missionary animation bulletins) especially for the
formation and animation of SDBs.97
• we shall break down the topic of the dynamics of Initial Proclamation
for each month.
• the upcoming Provincial Chapter in our Provinces is a good opportunity to raise awareness about Initial Proclamation with some
concrete suggestions on how to foster it in the different sectors of
b. The Year of Faith and Salesian Mission Day 2013 are opportunities
to promote awareness of the importance and relevance of Initial
• we shall share our experiences of initial proclamation with the youth
and adults in our educative and pastoral presences (parishes, oratories, social works, schools - animators, catechists, parents, teachers,
educators, volunteers, missionary groups) or, prepare a celebration
with Initial Proclamation as its theme.
• the push for Initial Proclamation could be a good starting point
for the missionary animation in all Provinces in the region since it
attracts and stirs up a lot of missionary enthusiasm.
c. Produce some simple materials on initial proclamation (for the use
of our lay collaborators or youth):
• possible content: What is Initial Proclamation? Presentation on how
initial proclamation is done. Some simple formation materials in promoting initial proclamation both as a lifestyle and as praxis (break
down the concepts to daily life in a very simple and practical way).
• since we are working in many different contexts (parish, formation,
social communication, rural or urban mission stations) an exchange
of materials might be very helpful and inspiring.
2. How do we reinforce our networking on this matter among the
participants, within our Provinces and in the Congregation?
a. Ongoing Missionary Formation: We endorse the idea that was developed during these Study Days on the need to launch the concept of a
‘Regional Centre’ for Ongoing Formation or, at least, to start the formation of a Reflection Group of 3 African SDBs from each language
zone, who would promote a critical reflection on our African cultures
and study the inculturation of the Gospel and our charism.
– We, as a group of Province Delegates for Missionary Animation, need
to network with the already existing two working commissions
of CIVAM (Formation - Youth Ministry) and also with the CONFORM
(Ongoing Formation Commission).
b. Networking among the Study Days’ participants could be facilitated
• keeping in touch with one another by e-mail (as a minimum); this
would encourage us to keep going.
• as we have the internet, the best way would be to save all materials
in some Province’s server and facilitate access to it (upload or download through links).
• create a BLOG of missionary animation or, possibly, create a Facebook
c. The Radio is an important means for Initial Proclamation. It might
be enriching to network among the already existing Salesian Radio
Stations, Internet Radio Broadcasting, Radio Don Bosco (MDG),
Sudan Tonj (AFE), etc.
Initial Proclamation and Missionary Discipleship
in America and Caribbean
Los Teques, 20-25 November 2013
The practical conclusions of the FMA could be summarised as :
1. An initial proclamation requires, first of all, a personal encounter with
Jesus and a consistent commitment to growth in one’s faith. To live
the initial proclamation, we need to enter into the cultural context. God
is present in every culture! We need to go out to meet people, not wait
for them to come to us. We need to overcome fear and other blocks;
to strengthen our missionary resolve and revive the fire of missionary
passion in the Province.
2. We are called to live in a permanent state of mission: may our presence, starting from our personal encounter with Jesus and with our
sisters, speak to people and provoke questions.
3. Let us ask ourselves: How can we carry forward, through missionary
animation, what we have learnt during these Study days? How can we
be witnesses before young people? We need formation that is specifically missionary, formation that results in a growth of true convictions
in the whole Institute.
4. Strengthen our work with the Salesian Family; renew our enthusiasm
which, so often, due to circumstances of age or other difficulties, has
become enfeebled. Renew our desire to announce the Gospel with joy,
to listen to the young, to the community, to those who share the mission with us. Perhaps this is our greatest challenge!99
5. Our charism is alive! Sharing our experience and giving the witness of
our life are silent pre-proclamation, but are meaningful.
6. Strengthen the missionary spirit of the young during initial formation,
as well as that of all the rest of us. Restudy our formation programme
for initial formation, taking into consideration not only the missionary
dimension of our vocation, but promoting initial proclamation also
among us, the FMA. We need to welcome this experience of a personal
and liberating encounter with Jesus. Live the experience of initial
proclamation with young people who are in the process of vocational
For the continuity of the Study Days the FMA propose:
1. To integrate the reflections of these Study Days into initial formation,
in the formative processes of our Provinces and in the experiences we
offer to young people who are in the process of vocational discernment, in the programmes that the Province organises (monthly recollection, spiritual retreats, community projects ...); in the formation of
animators and coordinators of local ministries
2. To see to the witness of our community life; to see to missionary prayer,
whether of the FMA or of lay people. Benefit from the limited possibilities within our reality to accompany the young and propose new programmes as alternative responses, giving primacy above all to
moments of personal encounter with Jesus.
3. To encourage a change of mentality towards initial proclamation and
the universal mission of the Church and of the Institute. We need to
see every single presence of ours as a “missionary house”. To educate
ourselves personally and as a community to the use of the means of
communication for evangelisation and not merely for our personal satisfaction. We need to evangelise ourselves and our context. To propose
experiences and formation that will make us unlearn old paradigms
and open our hearts to new horizons, changing a mentality that does
not let us march ahead in the mission or do not promote a personal
encounter with Jesus.
4. To offer profoundly missionary experiences to the young people in our
Province. To run an open house, allowing young people to come in and
share our life. This is a very meaningful way of proclaiming Jesus.
5. To get the provincial councilors of the FMA and SDB to provide space
for formation and reflection on initial proclamation, which support concrete activities. To do pastoral work together with the SDB.
6. To promote Study Days and intercultural formation (by regions,
Provinces ...) to accompany the process of inculturation in the100
Province, in the areas that are home to ethnic minorities, for mutual
education and help. To promote inter-sectoral formation in our
Provinces. To arrive at greater synergy and to network among the
Provinces. To remain in contact among ourselves to ensure continuity
to what we have learnt about integrating initial proclamation into our
7. To integrate the missionary dimension and ethnic identities into our
curricula. To promote the inculturation of our liturgy using our knowledge of cultures and their spirituality.
8. To verify at the provincial level where we are at on the missionary front
and in initial proclamation in all our institutions. We truly are in need
of conversion and re-dimensioning. To make concrete proposals of
formation and missionary experience (groups, volunteering, ...) for the
sisters, the young, etc.
9. To strengthen the movement of Missionary Childhood in our Provinces.
1. To benefit from the processes of on-going formation to help Salesians
to understand and deepen the importance of initial proclamation and
to live their Salesian vocation in a permanent state of mission
2. To rediscover Salesian presence in the playground as an opportunity
for initial proclamation
3. To rediscover the volunteer movement as an opportunity for initial
proclamation for the young and, through them, also for their families
4. To arrive at synergy among youth ministry, social communication and
missionary animation in order to promote better focus on initial proclamation, above all within our youth groups
5. To invite some young people to have an experience of community life
together with Salesians, as an opportunity for initial proclamation
6. To celebrate the Missionary Week or the Salesian Mission Day as an
opportunity for initial proclamation
7. To promote the new experience of missionary families101
Initial Proclamation of Christ in the City
Rome, 15-21 November 2015
The FMAs have synthesized all the Study Days of the previous six years
in this way.
1. Deepen the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus to proclaim
his message, through our personal and community witnessing in a permanent missionary state.
2. Strengthen our formation in the missionary spirit together with the
young people at all levels (initial formation, continuing formation and
3. Introduce into the provincial plan the missionary dimension of our vocation and evaluate all pastoral activity in this perspective.
4. Improve the quality of our missionary activity through networking with
the Salesian Family and other civil and religious institutions.
At the congregational level:
1. Let the whole Congregation know the relevance of initial proclamation,
using existing spaces, such as: websites (sdb.org); Salesian News
Agency (ANS); materials for initial proclamation (working modules);
‘worksheets’ found in the Acts of the Study Days.
2. Take advantage of the Salesian Family Spirituality Days to talk about
initial proclamation using media tools (video clips) featuring the experience of the Study Days on Initial Proclamation in the City.
At the regional level:
1. Take advantage of the regional meetings of the Provincial Delegates
for Missionary Animation (PDMA) to help them re-echo the Study Days
in the Provinces of the Region.
At the Provincial level:
1. PDMAs will involve other Provincial delegates (Formation, Youth Ministry, Communication) for a synergy in the work of helping our confreres
understand well initial proclamation, using the Salesian Bulletin, video
clips and other initiatives in their contexts, eg., re-echo to the Provincial
and his Council, good nights, Provincial Study Days with the Salesian
Family and with all local communities using a suitable language.102
The Letter from Rome (1884)
In this letter, so well-known in Salesian circles, Don Bosco narrates in two
parts, a dream he had on two consecutive nights. The theme of the dream
was the boys of the Oratory in Valdocco and its educative climate: above
all the happy environment of the early years of the Oratory, and then the
different atmosphere in 1884. Given the pedagogical importance of the
dream, which underlines the value of the indispensable educative environment which fosters Initial Proclamation, we publish here the full text. The
subtitles are ours.
Rome, 10 May 1884
My dear sons in Jesus Christ,
Whether I am at home or away I am always thinking of you. I have
only one wish, to see you happy both in this world and in the next. It was
this idea, this wish of mine, that made me write this letter. Being away
from you, and not being able to see or hear you, upsets me more than you
can imagine. For that reason I would have liked to write these few lines
to you a week ago, but constant work prevented me. And so, although I
shall be back very soon, I want to send you this letter in advance, since I
cannot yet be with you in person. These words come from someone who
loves you very dearly in Christ Jesus, someone who has the duty of speaking to you with the freedom of a father. You’ll let me do that, won’t you?
And you will pay attention to what I am going to say to you, and put it
The early Oratory in 1870
I have said that you are always and exclusively in my thoughts.
Well, a couple of evenings ago I had gone to my room, and while I was
preparing for bed I began to say the prayers my good mother taught me,
and whether I simply fell asleep or became distracted I don’t know, but
it seemed that two of the former pupils of the Oratory in its early days
were standing there before me. One of them came up to me, greeted me
warmly, and said: “Do you recognise me, Don Bosco?”
– “Of course I do,” I answered.
– “And do you still remember me?”, the man went on.
– “I remember you and all the others. You’re Valfre, and you were at
the Oratory before 1870.”103
– “Tell me,” went on Valfre, “would you like to see the youngsters
who were at the Oratory in my time?”
– “Yes, let me see them,” I answered. “I would like that very much.”
Valfre then showed me the boys just as they had been at that time,
with the same age, build and looks. I seemed to be in the old Oratory at
recreation time. It was a scene full of life, full of movement, full of fun.
Some were running, some were jumping, some were skipping. In one
place they were playing leap-frog, in another tag, and in another a ballgame was in progress. In one corner a group of youngsters were gathered
around a priest, hanging on his every word as he told them a story. In
another a cleric was playing with a number of lads at “chase the donkey”
and “trades”. There was singing and laughing on all sides, there were
priests and clerics everywhere and the boys were yelling and shouting
all around them. You could see that the greatest cordiality and confidence
reigned between youngsters and superiors. I was overjoyed at the sight,
and Valfre said to me: “You see, closeness leads to love and love brings
confidence. It is this that opens hearts, and the young people express
everything without fear to the teachers, to the assistants and to the superiors. They become frank both in the confessional and out of it, and they
will do everything they are asked by one who, they know, loves them.”
The Oratory in 1884
At that moment the other past pupil, who had a white beard, came
up to me and said: “Don Bosco, would you like to see and know the boys
who are at the Oratory at the present time?” This man was Joseph
– “Yes,” I replied, “it is a month since I last saw them.” And he
showed them to me.
I saw the Oratory and all of you in recreation. But no more could I
hear the joyful shouts and singing, no longer was there the lively activity
of the previous scene. In the faces and actions of many boys there was evident a weary boredom, a surliness, a suspicion, that pained my heart. I
saw many, it is true, who ran about and played in light-hearted joy. But
I saw quite a number of others on their own, leaning against the pillars,
a prey to depressing thoughts. Others were on the steps or in the corridors, or up on the terraces near the garden so as to be away from the common recreation. Others were strolling about in groups, talking to each
other in low tones and casting furtive and suspicious glances in every
direction. Sometimes they would laugh, but with looks and smirks that
would make you not only suspect but feel quite certain that St Aloysius104
would have blushed to find himself in their company. Even among those
who were playing, there were some so listless that it was clear they were
not enjoying their games.
– “Do you see your boys?”, asked my former pupil.
– “I can see them,” I replied with a sigh.
– “How different they are from what we used to be,” went on the past
– “Too true! What an apathetic recreation!”
– “This is what gives rise to the coldness of so many in approaching
the sacraments, to neglect of the prayers in church and elsewhere; to their
reluctance to be in a place where Divine Providence heaps every possible
blessing on their bodies, their souls and their minds. This is why so
many do not follow their vocation, why they are ungrateful to their superiors, why they are secretive and grumble, with all the other regrettable
We miss the best
– “I see, I understand,” I said. “But how can we bring these youngsters to life again, so that we can get back to the liveliness, the happiness,
the warmth of the old days?”
– “With charity!”
– “With love? But don’t my boys get enough love? You know how I
love them. You know how much I have suffered and put up with for them
these forty years, and how much I endure and suffer even now. How
many hardships, how many humiliations, how much opposition, how
many persecutions to give them bread, a home, teachers, and especially
to provide for the salvation of their souls. I have done everything I possibly could for them; they are the object of all my affections.”
– “I’m not referring to you.”
– “Then to whom are you referring? To those who take my place? To
the rectors, the prefects, the teachers, the assistants? Don’t you see that
they are martyrs to study and work, and how they burn out their young
lives for those Divine Providence has entrusted to them?”
– “I can see all that and I am well aware of it, but it is not enough;
the best thing is missing.
“That the youngsters should not only be loved, but that they themselves should know that they are loved.”
– “But have they not got eyes in their heads? Have they no intelligence? Don’t they see how much is done for them, and all of it out of
– “No, I repeat: it is not enough.”
– “Well, what else is needed?”
– “By being loved in the things they like, through taking part in their
youthful interests, they are led to see love in those things which they find
less attractive, such as discipline, study and self-denial, and so learn to
do these things too with love.”
The Salesian: soul of recreation
– “I’m afraid you’ll have to explain that more clearly.”
– “Look at the youngsters in recreation.”
I looked, and then asked: “Well, what is special about it?”
– “You’ve been educating young people for so many years and you
don’t understand! Look harder! Where are our Salesians?”
I looked, and I saw that very few priests and clerics mixed with the
boys, and fewer still were joining in their games. The superiors were no
longer the heart and soul of the recreation. Most of them were walking
up and down, chatting among themselves without taking any notice of
what the pupils were doing. Others looked on at the recreation but paid
little heed to the boys. Others supervised from afar, not noticing whether
anyone was doing something wrong. Some did take notice but only
rarely, and then in a threatening manner. Here and there a Salesian did
try to mix with a group of boys, but I saw that the latter were bent on
keeping their distance from teachers and superiors.
Then my friend continued: “In the old days at the Oratory, were you
not always among the boys, especially during recreation? Do you remember those wonderful years? They were a foretaste of heaven, a period of
which we have fond memories, because then love was the rule and we
had no secrets from you.”
– “Yes, indeed! Everything was a joy for me then, and the boys used
to rush to get near me and talk to me; they were anxious to hear my
advice and put it into practice. But don’t you see that now with these
never-ending interviews, business matters, and my poor health I cannot
do it any more.”
– “Well and good; but if you cannot do it, why don’t your Salesians
follow the example you gave? Why don’t you insist, why don’t you
demand, that they treat the boys as you used to do?”
– “I do. I talk till I’m blue in the face, but unfortunately not everyone
nowadays feels like working as hard as we used to.”
– “And so, by neglecting the lesser part they waste the greater, meaning all the work they put in. Let them like what pleases the youngsters106
and the youngsters will come to like what pleases the superiors. In this
way, their work will be made easy. The reason for the present change in
the Oratory is that many of the boys no longer have confidence in their
superiors. There was a time when all hearts were wide open to their superiors, when the boys loved them and gave them prompt obedience. But
now the superiors are thought of precisely as superiors and no longer as
fathers, brothers and friends; they are feared and little loved. And so, if
you want everyone to be of one heart and soul again for the love of Jesus
you must break down this fatal barrier of mistrust, and replace it with a
happy spirit of confidence. Then obedience will guide the pupil as a
mother guides her baby; and the old peace and happiness will reign once
again in the Oratory.”
– “How then are we to set about breaking down this barrier?”
– “By a friendly, informal relationship with the boys, especially in
recreation. You cannot have love without this familiarity, and where this
is not evident there can be no confidence. If you want to be loved, you
must make it clear that you love. Jesus Christ made himself little with
the little ones and bore our weaknesses. He is our master in the matter
of the friendly approach.
“The teacher who is seen only in the classroom is a teacher and nothing more; but if he joins in the pupils’ recreation he becomes their brother.
If someone is only seen preaching from the pulpit it will be said that he
is doing no more and no less than his duty, whereas if he says a good
word in recreation it is heard as the word of one who loves. How many
conversions have been brought about by a few words whispered in the
ear of a youngster while he is playing.
Loving-kindness and Supervision
“One who knows he is loved loves in return, and one who loves can
obtain anything, especially from the young. This confidence creates an
electric current between youngsters and their superiors. Hearts are
opened, needs and weaknesses made known. This love enables superiors
to put up with the weariness, the annoyance, the ingratitude, the troubles
that youngsters cause. Jesus Christ did not crush the bruised reed nor
quench the smouldering flax. He is your model. Then you will no longer
see anyone working for his own glory; you will no longer see anyone punishing out of wounded self-love; you will not see anyone neglecting the
work of supervision through jealousy of another’s popularity; you won’t
hear people running others down so as to be looked up to by the boys:
those who exclude all other superiors earn for themselves nothing but107
contempt and hypocritical flattery; people who let their hearts be stolen
by one individual and neglect all the other boys to cultivate that particular one. No one will neglect his strict duty of supervision for the sake of
his own ease and comfort; no one will fail through human respect to reprimand those who need reprimanding.
“If we have this true love, we shall not seek anything other than the
glory of God and the good of souls. When this love languishes, things no
longer go well.
“Why do people want to replace love with cold rules? Why do the superiors move away from the observance of the rules Don Bosco has given
“Why the replacement little by little of loving and watchful prevention
by a system which consists in framing laws? Such laws either have to be
sustained through punishment and so create hatred and cause unhappiness or, if they are not enforced, cause the superiors to be despised and
bring about serious disorders.
Let the educator be everything
“This is sure to happen if there is no friendly relationship. So, if you
want the Oratory to return to the happiness of old, then bring back the
old system: let the superior be all things to all, always ready to listen to
any boy’s complaints or doubts, always alert to keep a paternal eye on
their conduct, all heart to seek the spiritual and temporal good of those
Divine Providence has entrusted to him. Then hearts will no longer be
closed and deadly subterfuge will no longer hold sway. The superiors
should be unbending only in the case of immoral conduct. It is better to
run the risk of expelling someone who is innocent than to keep someone
who causes others to sin. Assistants should make it a strict duty in conscience to refer to the superiors whatever they know to be an offence
Then I asked a question: “And what is the best way of achieving this
friendly relationship, this kind of love and confidence?”
– “The exact observance of the rules of the house.”
– “Nothing else?”
– “At a dinner the best dish is a hearty welcome.”
With that my past pupil finished speaking, and I went on looking at
that recreation with great displeasure. Little by little I felt oppressed by
a great weariness that became worse at every moment. Eventually it got
so bad that I could resist no longer, and I shook myself and woke up. I
found myself standing beside my bed. My legs were so swollen and hurt108
so much that I could not stand up any longer. It was very late and I went
to bed, resolved to write these lines to my sons.
I wish I did not have these dreams, they tire me so much. The following day I was dead tired, and I could hardly wait for the hour to come
to go to bed that evening. But I was hardly in bed when the dream began
again. Before me once again was the playground, with the boys at present
at the Oratory and the same past pupil as before. I began to question him.
“I’ll let my Salesians know what you have told me, but what should
I say to the boys of the Oratory?”
“Tell them,” he said, “to realise how much the superiors, the teachers, the assistants, plan and wear themselves out for love of them, since
they would not sacrifice themselves so much if they didn’t love them. Let
them never forget that humility is the source of all peace of mind; let
them be able to put up with each other’s shortcomings, because there is
no perfection in this world, only in heaven. Tell them not to grumble because it freezes the heart. But especially, tell them to live in the holy grace
of God. If you are not at peace with God, you cannot be at peace with
yourself, nor with others.”
– “Are you telling me, then, that among my boys there are some who
are not at peace with God?”
– “Among other reasons you already know, this is the principal cause
of bad spirit. There is no need for me to tell you that you must do something about it. The one without trust is the one with secrets to guard, the
one who is afraid the secrets will become known and bring him shame
and trouble. At the same time, if his heart is not at peace with God he
will be a prey to restless anxiety, intolerant of obedience, and get upset
over nothing. Everything seems to go wrong for him and, because he has
no love himself, he thinks the superiors do not love him.”
– “But see here, my friend; look how many go to confession and communion here at the Oratory.”
– “It is true that many go to confession, but what is radically lacking
in the confessions of so many youngsters is a firm resolution. They tell
their sins but they are always the same, always the same occasions, the
same bad habits, the same acts of disobedience, the same neglect of duty.
This goes on, month in, month out, even for years and some even continue in this way till they leave school. These confessions are worth little
or nothing, and so they do not restore peace, and if a youngster in that
state were to be called before God’s judgement seat, it would be a serious
matter indeed. But in comparison with the whole group in the house they
are only a few. Look.” And he pointed them out to me.109
I looked, and I saw those boys one by one. There were not many, but
in them I saw things that brought profound bitterness to my soul. I do
not want to put such things in writing, but when I come back I want to
have a word with each one about what I saw. For the moment I limit myself to saying that it is time to pray and make firm resolutions, with facts
and not just words, so as to show that the Comollos, the Dominic Savios,
the Besuccos and the Saccardis are still among us.
I put a final question to my friend: “Have you anything else to tell
– “Preach to all, young and old alike, that they must remember they
are children of Mary Help of Christians. Tell them she has gathered them
here to take them way from the dangers of the world, so that they may
love one another as brothers and give glory to God and to her by their
good behaviour. Tell them that it is Our Lady who provides them with
bread and the means to study, by endless graces and wonders. Remind
them that they are at the vigil of the feast of their holy Mother, so that
with her help that barrier of mistrust will fall which has been raised between boys and superiors by the devil, who knows how to use it to ruin
– “And will we be successful in breaking down this barrier?”
– “Certainly you will, as long as young and old are ready to put
up with some small mortifications for love of Mary and do what I have
Meanwhile I continued to watch my youngsters, but at the sight of
those I had seen heading for eternal damnation I experienced such
heartache that I awoke. I still have to tell you many important things
that I saw, but I have neither time nor opportunity at present.
Let the days of affection and confidence return
And now I must finish. Do you know what this poor old man who
has spent his whole life for his dear boys wants from you? Nothing else
than, due allowances being made, we should go back to the happy days
of the Oratory of old: the days of affection and Christian confidence between boys and superiors; the days when we accepted and put up with
difficulties for the love of Jesus Christ; the days when hearts were open
with a simple candour; days of love and real joy for everyone. I want the
consolation and hope that you will promise to do everything I desire for
the good of your souls.
You do not realise how lucky you are in having come to the Oratory.
I declare before God: it is enough for a young person to enter a Salesian110
house for Our Lady to take him under her special care. Let us all agree
on this then: may the charity of those who command and the charity of
those who must obey cause the spirit of St. Francis de Sales to reign
among us. My dear children, the time is coming when I will have to tear
myself away from you and leave for eternity.” (Secretary’s note: at this
point Don Bosco broke off the dictation; his eyes filled with tears, not of
sorrow but because of the inexpressible tenderness that was evident from
his face and voice; after a few moments he went on.) “And so, I want to
leave you, my dear priests and brothers and my dearest boys, on the road
the Lord himself wants you to follow. For this purpose the Holy Father,
whom I saw on Friday 9 May, sends you his blessing from the bottom
of his heart.
I will be with you on the feast of Mary Help of Christians, before the
statue of our loving Mother. I want this feast to be celebrated with full
solemnity, and that Fr. Lazzero and Fr. Marchisio see to it that you have
a good time in the dining-room as well. The feast of Mary Help of Christians should be a prelude to the eternal feast that we will all celebrate
one day together in heaven.
With much love, your friend in Christ Jesus,111
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Publications of the Missions Sector
(by title and year of publication)
1. Il Missionario (1980)
2. Salesian Africa (1986)
3. Pastoral Amazónica. Semana de Estudos Missionários - Campo Grande
4. Evangelization in India. Study Sessions for the Salesian Family on Evangelization in Tribal Areas of India - Shillong (1987)
5. Africa Salesiana. Visita d’Insieme - Lusaka (1988)
6. Spiritualità Missionaria Salesiana I. La Concezione Missionaria di
Don Bosco (1988)
7. Spiritualità Missionaria Salesiana II. L’Educazione Cristiana e Missionaria
di Don Bosco (1988)
8. Salesian Missionary Spirituality III. Prayer and the Salesian Missionary
9. Espiritualidad Misionera Salesiana IV. The Ideal of Mission (1988)
10. Spiritualité Missionnaire Salésienne V. The Missionary Project of the
Salesians of Don Bosco (1988)
11. Pastorale Salesiana in Contesto Islamico (1989)
12. Animazione Missionaria Salesiana II. Secondo Incontro di Studi per
DIAM - Madrid (1989)
13. Pastoral Mapuche. Encuentro DIAM Salesiano - Junin de los Andes
14. The Far East. Cultures, Religions, and Evangelization- Hua Hin (1989)
15. Lettura Missionaria di “Educare i Giovani alla Fede” CG XXIII. Incontro di Procuratori e DIAM dell’ Europa - Roma (1991)
16. Animación Misionera Salesiana. Primer Encuentro de DIAM de America
Latina - Lima (1991)
17. Missionary Animation. First Meeting of the PDMA for Asia and
Australia - Bangalore (1992)
18. Spiritualité Missionnaire Salésienne, Les Jeunes Africains en Quête de
Leur Identité. Séminaire d’Animation - Yaounde (1992)
19. Evangelización y Cultura en el Contexto de Pastoral Amazonica. Seminario de Animación - Cumbayá (1993)
20. Evangelización y Cultura en el Contexto de Pastoral Andina. Seminario
de Animación - Cumbayá (1994)
21. Evangelización y Cultura en el Contexto de Pastoral Mapuche. Seminario
de Animación - Ruca Choroi (1993)
22. Evangelization and Interreligious Dialogue. Missionary Animation
Seminar - Batulao (1994)120
23. Evangelization and Interreligious Dialogue. Missionary Animation Seminar
- Hyderabad (1994)
24. Evangelización y Cultura en el Contexto de Pastoral Mesoamericana.
Seminario de Animación - Mexico (1994)
25. The Volunteer Movement and Salesian Mission (1995) – ENG, ESP, ITA,
26. Educating to the Missionary Dimension (1995) – ENG, ESP, ITA, FRA,
27. Presenze dei Salesiani in Africa (directory published annually from
1986 to 1996)
28. Church - Communion and Mutual Missionary Relationship. Missionary
Animation Seminar - Addis Abeba (1997)
29. Incontro Europeo Delegati Ispettoriale per l’Animazione Missionaria
[DIAM] - Rome (1997)
30. National Missionary Animation Meeting for PDMA - Mumbai (1997)
31. Manual of the Provincial Delegate for Missionary Animation (1998)
32. Uniqueness of Salvation in Jesus Christ and Need of Primary Evangelization. Animation and Missionary Formation Seminar SDB-FMA East
Asia Oceania - Hua Hin (1998)
33. Missionary Praxis and Primary Evangelization. Animation and Missionary Formation Seminar SDB-FMA - Calcutta (1999)
34. Seminário de Pastoral em Contexto Afro-Americano. Seminario de Animação e Formação Missionária-Belo Horizonte (1999)
35. G. Ballin, I Fioretti d’un Missionario. Paraguay Cuore d’America (1999)
36. Le Projet-Afrique face au Defi de la Première Evangelisation et de
la Phase de Consolidation. Seminaire d’Animation et de Formation
37. La Primera Evangelización en Diálogo Intercultural. Experiencias y Formación de Catecquistas. Seminario de Animación y Formación Misionera
en el Contexto Pastoral Andino y Mesoamericana - Cumbayá (2000)
38. Seminário Sobre a Práxis Missionaria na Região Amazônica. Seminario
de Animação e Formação Missionária - Manaus (2000)
39. Missionari nel Paese del Sol Levante Discepoli di Don Cimatti. Figure
che Parlano ancora (2000)
40. P. Baldisserotto, Rio de Agua Viva. Cartas de Pe. Antonio Scolaro Para
a Missão e Testemunho (2000)
41. Sprazzi di Vita. Figure che Parlano Ancora (2000)
42. Project Africa Between the Challenges of First Evangelization and the
Phase of Consolidation. Animation and Missionary Formation Seminar
SDB-FMA - Nairobi (2001)
43. Seminario di Animazione e Formazione Missionaria. SDB-FMA in Contesto Islamico - Rome (2001)121
44. Presenza Salesiana SDB-FMA in Contesto Ortodosso. Seminario di
Animazione e Formazione Missionaria - Rome (2002)
45. Salesian Family Missionary Seminar. Mission Animation Notes 1 - Port
46. East Asia and the Challenges of Mission Ad Gentes. Salesian Family
Missionary Seminar. Mission Animation Notes 2 - Hua Hin (2005)
47. Planning and Development Office. Proceedings of the Seminar - Rome
48. Les Défis de la Mission Ad Gentes en Afrique. Seminaire de Missiologie
de la Famille Salesienne. Animation Notes 3 - Kinshasa (2006)
49. Mission Ad Gentes Today in Africa. Challenges to Mission Ad Gentes in
the English Speaking Provinces of Africa in the Light of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa. Mission Animation Notes 4 - Nairobi (2006)
50. Pueblos Indígenas y Evangelización. V Encuentro de Misioneras y
Misioneros Salesianos en Contextos Pluriculturales - Cumbayá (2006)
51. Project Africa [1980-2005] (2006)
52. Impegno Salesiano nel Mondo Islamico. Dossier (2008)
53. The Volunteer Movement and the Salesian Mission (2008) – ENG, ESP,
ITA, FRA, POR
54. Mantén Viva tu Llama Misionera. II Seminario Americano de Animación
Misionera SDB-FMA - Cumbayá (2012)
55. Planning and Development Office at the Service of the Salesian Charism
in the Province - Hyderabad (2012) – ENG, ESP, FRA, POR
56. Provincial Mission Office at the Service of the Salesian Charism - Bonn
(2012) – ENG, ESP
57. Study Days on the Salesian Mission in Frontier Situations and Initial
Proclamation in Europe Today - Prague (2013) – ENG, ITA
58. Study Days on the Salesian Presence Among Muslims (2013) – ENG,
59. Study Days on the Salesian Mission and the Initial Proclamation of
Christ in Oceania in the Context of Traditional Religions and Cultures
and Cultures in the Process of Secularisation – Port Moresby (2013)
60. Study Days Study Days on The Salesian Mission and the Initial Pro clamation of Christ in the Three-fold Context of East Asia – Sampran
61. Study Days Study Days on The Salesian Mission and the Initial
Pro clamation of Christ in the Three-fold Context of South Asia - Kolkata
62. The Missionary Formation of the Salesians of Don Bosco (2014) – ENG,
ESP, ITA, FRA, POL, POR
63. Study Days on the Initial Proclamation of Christ in Africa and Madagascar - Addis Abeba (2014) – ENG, FRA, POR122
64. Jornadas de Estudio del Primer Anuncio al Discipulado Misionero en
América y el Caribe (2014) – ESP
65. Salesian Missionaries in Europe. Acts of the Meeting of Missionaries for
Project Europe (2016) – ITA, ENG
66. Acts of the Study Days on Initial Proclamtion of Christ in the City (2015)
– ITA, ING, POR, SPA, FRA
67. Initial Proclamation Today (2017) – ITA, ING, POR, SPA, FRATipolitografia Istituto Salesiano Pio XI Via Umbertide, 11 - 00181 Roma - email@example.com
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