Conclusive intervention of Don Juan Edmundo Vecchi
We give below the full text of the address of the Rector Major to the Directors of the Salesian Bulletin gathered in Rome. In it he outlines the figure and task of the director, but also indicates what the Bulletin represents for the Congregation and the Salesian Family, according to the mind of Don Bosco and the times in which we are now living.
Good morning to you one and all, and my best wishes that the
work in which you will be engaged in these days may prove to be substantial and long enduring for the Salesian Bulletin throughout the world. I congratulate Fr Antonio Martinelli and his Department on the preparation of this meeting and on the objectives it has in view.
We are living in a period which is like a junction or interchange with regard to the future. We frequently hear words linked with the scenario of the third millennium: transverseness, globalization, multimedia. The challenge of the third millennium means that we too must rethink many realities, and among them is this humble instrument which for the Congregation is nevertheless very important: the Salesian Bulletin.
I will start the ball rolling by mentioning some points you will certainly have thought about already, but which it is always interesting to recall.
a. The importance of the Bulletin in Don Bosco's project.
First among these points is the importance the Bulletin had in Don Bosco's plan. In his life there are moments of fertile intuition, followed by long periods in which
those intuitions reached patient realization. For instance, the moment when the oratory appeared to him as his "system and his work" was one of intuition and creativity. Then followed the many years it took for the oratory to reach its full form. The same is true of the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians: it was prepared for by devotion to our Lady present in Don Bosco's life from his earliest years. At a particular moment there came the idea of the Title and the Sanctuary; and then the many years of realization of the phenomenon which has since grown up with and around the Sanctuary: the popular Marian dimension of salesian pastoral work. Something similar took place even with the idea of founding the Congregation: the moment of intuition when the idea flashed across his mind, and then the slow process of gathering and forming candidates, the drawing up of the Rule, the giving shape to the community.
We must include the Bulletin in a list of this kind. The idea came to him that it would be good to have a publication at the service of his work and Family, and from this intuition followed the unfolding of the various works, efforts, mini-organizations etc.
Don Bosco saw in advance what did in fact take place: the Bulletin gave a new existence to the Congregation and the salesian movement. Analogously we could say in modern terms that it gave it a virtual existence in a space which is not physical but social, and one in which it created a network of harmony, knowledge and collaboration.
On this passage alone in the life of our Father one could build up a whole conference. It is up to our historians to do so. What is important for us at the present time is to distinguish clearly the different consistency of the initiatives which Don Bosco took up. An occasional work he may have taken up for a while is one thing, but quite another are those initiatives which appear to be determining elements, which have a permanence and continuing development in his thought and in his work: the decision to work for the young, the idea of the oratory, the trade schools, the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, the foundation of the Congregation, the Salesian Bulletin.
The Bulletin, in fact, was linked with his sensitivity for a wholesome press, but at the same time, and within that category, it had an original existence and
configuration and its own particular objective in respect of the Congregation. For this reason not only Don Bosco but after him all his successors without exception have spoken of its importance and identity; and that is why, according to art.41 of the Regulations, its editing is placed under the responsibility of the Rector Major and his Council.
b. Specific purpose of the Bulletin.
The importance given to the Bulletin in all the phases through which the Salesian Family has so far passed, is due to the functions it has fulfilled. We can sum them up as follows, following the words of Don Bosco himself
- to extend, I do not say the glory and renown, but the apostolic possibilities of the Congregation and its image, far beyond what could be done by works and individuals;
- to unite spiritually all those who feel linked in some way with salesian work, creating a sense of belonging and of availability for collaboration;
-both the preceding objectives must be connected through the spreading of the salesian spirit expressed in the works and educative mentality of the Salesian Family.
These effects were already there in Don Bosco's perspective and history has promptly confirmed them.
On these points I do not intend to dwell at greater length. I am sure you have already considered them, or will do so later. I wanted simply to recall them.
When we start thinking about how to realize the same objectives at the present day, the first things that come to mind are not means or instruments, but the context in which we are living. The means, in fact, would serve little purpose if we were unaware of our coordinates in culture, in the Church and in the Congregation. They would be an investment with very little to show for it. It is not a matter for having an organ for saying something, even something good. What is necessary and urgent is to enter into dialogue with today's society and the Church. And so the first and indispensable requirement is to know in what context we are speaking today when we say something about salesian facts.
I want to tell you how I myself see the present context, so as to justify the directives which, as Rector Major, I shall be giving to you. Even this aspect I cannot develop at any great depth. Each point I mention would really require a lengthy commentary, and our time is limited. It is a matter of the signs of the times through which we are living and which must inspire the orientation of the Bulletin in the coming years.
For how many years? We cannot fix in any precise way how long the signs will last, and hence how long the directives will be valid; they may be valid for three, six or ten years; it all depends on the speed of change. But it is important to keep our gaze fixed on reality and be determined not to remain or work on its margins.
What then are these signs or coordinates, i.e. the salesian, ecclesial and cultural climate in which we are living, and which we must take as a point of reference?
a) The "era" of the Congregation: Salesians and laity.
From the salesian point of view the overall setting in which we find ourselves placed today is the reflection of the GC24, and to be still more concrete the aspiration
and goals contained in the sixyearly program of the Rector Major and his Council (cf. Supplement to AGC 358).
On this point we must be clear about what precisely we mean. It is not a matter of fulfilling literally the various points of the program, but of placing ourselves mentally in the setting they create and foresee.
Both the programming and the General Chapter emphasize the value of lay realities.
And what are these lay realities? All the events, themes and topics which concern the human person and foster the dignity of social life among men and which the Church takes on herself, to clarify them, study them more deeply and bring out the sense of salvation they carry with them.
The lay reality is also the new participation of the laity in the Church's mission, indicated by authoritative ecclesial documents, and taken by the Congregation as the main objective of the present six-year period.
What consequences does this imply for the Salesian Bulletin? An immediate one is that the Bulletin must not become a clerical review, and this is the least of the consequences. It must reflect the reality in which people are
living. Do not therefore make every issue a collection of words and photographs of the Pope, the Bishop, the Rector Major, the Superior General, the provincial and local Superiors in turn. This is a first consequence: the setting is the world, with the general events which the Church herself deals with because they represent man's pilgrimage.
Speaking of the laity we Salesians, together with the GC24, have in mind a whole network of persons, Christians and of other religions, who through collaboration, similarity of view, friendship, or because they are attracted by generous projects, have Don Bosco as a point of reference and aggregation. One of our first intentions, but not the only one, is to reach these persons to increase their number and communication with them. But we do not stop there. We want to speak also to others, not only to gain new sympathizers, but to say a word they are perhaps waiting to hear on questions which concern their lives.
Among these persons the word "lay" reminds us of those circles particularly close to us, constituted by groups of the Salesian Family. And so the indication to look
to the lay reality must be linked with keeping in mind the Salesian Family, the salesian movement, and the numerous friends of Don Bosco.
To get a message across to these persons we must choose events for presentation with an eye to effectiveness, i.e. we must keep in mind that there are many fine things worthy to be recounted, but we must choose those which more clearly and immediately present the salesian reality. I will not go into the consequences of this because you, who are directors of publications, are well able to do that for yourselves, but you can easily understand that in the choosing of material you must not be influenced by friendship or the desire of someone hell bent on getting his name and work in the Bulletin. Provincial Newsletters and the like can provide for such people, but not the Salesian Bulletin which is addressed, so to speak, to public opinion.
b. Ecclesial climates.
I use this expression to indicate the atmosphere, the macro-tendencies, the milieu or phase, through which the Church is living. As well as perceiving the salesian climate, it is important
to be attentive to the events of the Church.
Let me recall just one of them. The Church is living under a great pressure, which is also a great challenge: the new evangelization. It is important that the director of a Catholic review have a sound understanding of what the new evangelization implies. On all sides you will hear expressions recommending devotions, propagating all kinds of initiatives and analyzing complex questions of the present day.
The new evangelization means the ecclesial presence and the proclamation of Christ in geographical settings opened up by the events of recent times. It means interventions in the modern areopagi, as they are often called, and dialogue with man's questions and problems. They are all words which sound somewhat difficult, but in reality they regard the things of every day. The problems of man are life and death, work and pay, culture and ethical questions, education and peace.
If the director of a review has a sound understanding of the present trend of the Church and follows it effectively, it will improve the messages and comments he offers in his review.
Sometimes I imagine that the director of the Salesian Bulletin will be one of the persons who comes readily to mind when you are looking for someone to give an interesting conference on the new evangelization. That should not cause him any difficulty. People think, in fact,: "If he directs a publication which carries Christian messages, he must have a good idea of the line being followed today by the Church".
The ecclesial climate is also marked by the present dimensions of communion., and here at least two aspects need to be considered: the communion between priestly, lay and consecrated vocations - clarified and set out in the three Apostolic Exhortations which concern these states: Pastores dabo vobis, Christfideles laici, Vita Consecrata - and then the wider communion which is nowadays possible to various extents.
The Pope has been called the "world's parish priest" because, just as we have the global village in the civil environment, we have the global parish in the ecclesial setting.
From this we can draw an immediate consequence: no longer is it true to say that we must carry only local news, because matters taking place far away are of no interest.. Nothing is any longer distant in the life of the Church. Things can happen in Rome, in India or China, and be very important for Tierra del Fuego because they are great signs of ecclesial vitality. Geographical distance is no longer a criterion of the importance of a piece of information for the people of a locality. Small local matters are material for news bulletins which are updated frequently during the day; they are the proper places for them.
For a monthly publication like the Bulletin, the communication dimension is the same as that of the ecclesial climate: dialogue with the world. That means giving consideration to the salient points which are making history, because they regard man. Yesterday the Pope spoke of immigration, of those who speculate in this field and put at risk the lives of poor people. There are events which take place frequently here and there and which are signs of great phenomena on which the Church has a word to say, to provide a Christian standpoint in their respect.. And maybe the Congregation too has an experience to communicate or an initiative to present.
Evangelization and communion have acquired a particular intensity in the Jubilee period which began yesterday, the first Sunday of Advent (29 November), with the proclamation of the Bull for the Holy Year. And as regards the Jubilee, it is not just a matter of making frequent reference to it, but of taking up the great motives it brings to individuals and humanity in general, i.e. of getting into it spiritually and acting from within it.
c. The emergence of social communication.
A third sign to take note of regards specifically this world of ours: it is the emergence of social communication, able to reach simultaneously with the same message a large number of subjects and modify the manner of communication between individuals and groups.
We need to note that this is a pervasive phenomenon; there is concurrence, overlapping and confusion among the messages, and specifically it is multimedia in nature, making use simultaneously of widely differing kinds of means and languages.
It is difficult, for example, for a review to be a review and nothing else. It has other instruments
and channels which function in league with one another: like the Internet, diskettes and gadgets you are offered. Some of them are linked with the radio, television and cultural centres.
Briefly, a leaflet by itself in so pervasive a reality as this does not succeed in doing a great deal, even if it is sent to selected subjects. And this should make it clear to us that the Bulletin must not be isolated from other forms of communication which can exist in the Provinces or in the Church. They must be linked in a network.
Another aspect to be kept in mind is that social communication is a setting for dialogue. One cannot be satisfied only with sending messages, with a conversation which is one-sided only. Today interactivity is the norm for almost the whole of the multimedia world; you send messages and you receive reactions; you ask questions and you get replies. Interaction is becoming possible even with TV which is becoming digital.
Communication is meant to be the means used by dialogue to create images, but also to animate and give life to initiatives. Some reviews and radio transmitters have become centres with
which people can collaborate in favour of causes of concern to the environment locally or far away: there are frequent flash messages, appeals, offers of help for initiatives launched by the centre or particular groups: the communication leads to action, and not only to written or spoken words.
One of the signs of the times in which we are living is globalization. This indicates in general that phenomena are manifested simultaneously in parts of the world widely distant from one another. A variation in the Stockmarket is felt in Manila at the same time as in London; Coca Cola sells in Samoa as in Edinburgh and for the same reasons. Everyone can think of numerous daily examples. There are even macrotendencies of thought and culture which cross all continents.
Globalization also indicates the possibility that something which is local and particular, takes on or gives rise to a worldwide interest.
What is said of the globalization of secular events in general, can be said of the Congregation in particular. For us Salesians too the facts have worldwide dimensions, and not only because of the fact that we now have foundations in 120 countries, Things which happen in places far from where we ourselves live, e.g. in China or Vietnam, are of interest to us. If the situation changes dramatically in that part of the world, we all want to know about it. As the Rector Major passes from one place to another, confreres and members of the Salesian Family always ask how things are in Eastern Europe and in China. For your consolation I can tell you that they also ask how things are doing in northern and central Europe, because they all have a rough idea of the vocational movement and the condition of the faith in this area.
We too, therefore, are living globalization in the sense that many phenomena are common. and that something happening in one part of the world is of interest to those living in another part.
It must be remembered also that globalization represents the possibility of a wide-ranged linkage for combined action on specific matters. Examples are not hard to find.
In the light of this frame of reference and of these coordinates,
what guidelines can I give you for the Salesian Bulletin? I put some forward for discussion, in fulfilment of art.41 of the Regulations which says: "The Salesian Bulletin is edited in accordance with the directives of the Rector Major and his Council in various editions and languages".
a. Salesian perspectives.
In the first place I recommend that you take up and maintain its salesian character. In the title "Salesian Bulletin", the term salesian from a grammatical point of view is an adjective; but in reality it is more like a noun, because the Bulletin is characterized by the fact that it looks at and assesses things in a salesian light, and represents the sensitivity of all those persons who recognize themselves in the salesian charism and mission.
We could use another word instead of Bulletin. We are attached to the latter because it comes to us from Don Bosco, but it is no more than a material definition expressing the kind of publication: it is a bulletin, not a newspaper. The substance is indicated on the other hand by the adjective salesian, which implies that we read human events from a salesian standpoint and con
tribute to discussions which are of interest to us according to a salesian criterion.
Now if salesian is the substance, it means that if the Salesian aspect fails, so does the review. If the salesian aspect is not evident or even disappears altogether, the review loses its identity. We must therefore be not only materially faithful, but deep and substantial in our salesian vision.
The salesian view should be expressed in various forms and in a creative manner, i.e. not by endless repetition of the same hackneyed phrases, but by changed and enriching expressions. It can be expressed from a pedagogical perspective, from that of spirituality, and sometimes from a simple expression of human sensitivity towards certain problems; everything depends on the theme concerned and the public you are addressing.
And I would add that a salesian view and perspective of this kind should characterize every article. It should influence not only the editorial but the choice of every fact and message, and even the jokes and cartoons. It produces a strange feeling in fact when the whole Bulletin seems to be flowing in a certain direction and then one suddenly comes across a comic-strip or a photograph which seems to have nothing to do with all the rest but of which the sole purpose is to raise a laugh at all costs.. The salesian ethos should characterize the perspective of all the articles, and of each issue as a whole; and it should characterize the series of issues which justifies the masthead.
For greater clarity and to remove any lingering doubts, when we speak of salesianity or salesian ethos we are not talking about the quantity of salesian matter that is included. It is not necessary to include every commemoration that takes place in the province or in the world. We are not even referring to the transcription of texts of the Salesians and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, nor even to the presentation of salesian works. What we have in mind is above all is the criterion used in selecting themes or subjects from widely different settings.
Church events or topics can be chosen, but we should know why particular ones are selected. Some fact or widespread opinion from the secular context can be taken, even one with political aspects. In Italy at present there is a lot of discussion going on about the school: I remember recently writing an editorial for the Salesian Bulletin about freedom and scholastic equality. Space can be given over to a discussion of this kind, but even then you must consider what the theme is and why it is chosen. Facts of the Congregation and the Salesian Family can be selected, as in fact is always done, but even here you must have a salesian criterion for rationing the space allowed them.
In addition to the criteria for choosing themes, subjects and events, the salesian perspective indicates the key for their interpretation. We have interests, culture and specific sensitivities: the sensitivity of educators, interests in youth affairs, humanistic openness. It is not necessary to repeat the words, but it is important to keep the reference points in mind. Repetition of words merely tires the reader. What counts is the standpoint, which must never be closed but always original.
No one ever provides information which is cold and detached; that kind of information does not exist; there are always some elements it emphasizes and puts in order with a certain succession which puts the important items at the centre of attention; some of the elements are commented on and others not.. The same kind of thing happens with us when we draw up news items. There is a key for putting the items in a certain order, for commenting on some and passing over others, and for adding the titles.
I can tell you of two impressions I have acquired from reading the Bulletins. I must confess that I do not have time to read all of them from cover to cover. Every now and then I pick up one or other of them in turn. Sometimes I note a certain lack of elaboration, that some event has been reported only materially, just as it took place. Certainly an intelligent reader will fill out the picture, but the writer does not seem to have put in much of his own thought and reflections; he has just put down the facts, and in some haste.
Other Bulletins are variable in their elaboration: in some articles one notes an educative sensitivity and attention to salesian history; others are rather generic, without anything specific and almost without personality. And one wonders with what criteria were the contents chosen, in what key were they written, how were they put together.
A teacher who once taught us something about journalism told us that in an article, even a short one, only 30% of the material comes from observed facts, another 35% stems from personal inspiration, and a further 35% from the ability to make comparisons with other sources which should be addressed.
The first point then in the realization of Salesian Bulletins is to preserve the specific salesian nature, the salesian outlook and perspective, the salesian standpoint.
b. Universal openness
The second thing I recommend to you is this: give to the Bulletin a universal openness. We have already referred to globalization, to a worldwide approach, to the interest attaching to items taking place on the opposite side of the world from our own, to interculturality. We are not in a parish; we are rather in a global village.
Attention and openness to the universal can be understood in three senses.
In a geographic sense: the gaze covers all the contexts where Salesians are working. Naturally not everything can be packed into a single number, but the director must be careful about two points: sensitivity, which means he must be a man of the world and not of the local village or parish, and availability for the acceptance of a wide range of material. If sensitivity is lacking because the director thinks the Bulletin should respond only to the interests of his own country, big or small as it may be, or if he does not have material (i.e. information) readily available, he cannot produce a Bulletin open to the universal.
I have already referred to the interest people show (and in particular our Cooperators and friends) in obtaining news of the salesian world. Nowadays the including of world news is motivated also by another need: that of educating to globalization. We assert it for pupils, bit it is true for everyone.
In addition to casting our eyes around the world to gather significant news items from every part, in line with the era in which the Congregation, the Church and the world are living, universal openness means setting the reported facts in their proper context. I can best express this by being a bit provocative: salesianity yes, salesianism and parochialism no. Salesianity means that in dialogue in the Church we offer our charismatic vision to others.
Parochialism means giving the impression that for us the only things of importance are ourselves and the matters we are concerned with.
The requirement must be applied also to the ecclesial environment: setting the facts in context in the life of the Church. Once again it is not a matter of writing explicit articles on the ecclesial dimension, but rather of seeing the kind of set-up we give to our news items, what connection and references we link with them. You could call it "educating to catholicity": knowing how to insert the Salesian Family into the great communion of the Church. The strongest impression of the Synods, which are being celebrated in the context of the new evangelization, is this: the Church is becoming more and more convinced that its communion, if it can find new and efficacious forms of becoming more practical, can have an unparalleled influence on the world. Think of the significance of the fact that all the Episcopal Conferences of America unite together to give a certain direction to evangelization, or to influence certain themes or orientations of society. We too must enter this "catholic" line of communion.
Finally the third sense of universal is being attentive to variation in human environments. There are social problems that cannot be overlooked, and their inclusion does not make the Salesian Bulletin a "social" review; there are pastoral concerns, e.g. concerning marriage and the family, which should appear occasionally in the Bulletin; there are political questions closely linked with evangelization. We do not approach legislation concerning life and the family as a Parliament would, but if we do not want to be out of the world altogether we must be able to express our point of view. There are also moral problems. The Salesian Bulletin is interested in all these things, even though it is not a youth review, nor a catechetical review, nor yet a pastoral review: it presents salesian experience and expresses a reflection and sensitivity on human problems and the life of the Church.
c. Sense of unity.
After the salesian perspective and universal openness, I would put as a point for particular attention the sense of unity.
Here it is pertinent to ask: Should there be one Bulletin or many? You have already answered the question: a Bulletin with different editions. The latter have their appropriate degree of autonomy and no one wants to put limits to it. We have always been generous in encouraging creativity. But at the same time the different editions have a linkage between them; they have a charismatic unity, a common identity as the organ of the Family and the salesian movement.
At the present day charismatic unity could have further institutional and operational expressions to make it evident that the different Bulletins are national editions of a worldwide review. The reader should be able to see this for himself. And there is no need to be surprised at the fact as though excessive centralization were involved. Anyone reading the Readers' Digest in (say) Mato Grosso knows that he is reading an edition which takes up, adjusts or adds items for the local market, but he knows that there is an editorial group which is responsible for the parent English, French or other edition. The editorial group decides the line and style to be used, and those reading the review in whatever language are aware that the same tendencies and criteria are followed.
I have something analogous in mind for the Bulletin: autonomy, the choice of material, the manner of elaboration are different, but the characteristics and orientation are the same, in Italian, in English, in French, in Spanish: a worldwide review able to respond to regional interests, but linked in an international network following a certain line and policy.
This unity of the Bulletins, which is one of content and identity, could have further manifestations, e.g. a common logo, a common basic program, the word of the Rector Major included regularly or when fitting.
These are all things that you yourselves will agree on as you look to the future.
d. Editorial line and policy.
The fourth guideline I recommend to you concerns editorial line and policy.
The three preceding points tell us that we cannot go ahead with a risk of discontinuity or individualism caused by the director of the time giving his own orientation to the Bulletin: youth, theology, following modern trends like feminism or the theology of liberation, or by another kind of director concentrating on a devotional, defensive or apologetic line. These are exaggerations, but I use them to emphasize that it is not possible for an institution to have a review of this importance without an ensured editorial line and policy.
The editorial line can vary, because the times have their own variations; but it must be known, i.e. well founded; explicit, i.e. expressed in black and white so that it can be public and well known, at least by those involved or likely to be involved in the editing process; coherent, so that statements made at different times are seen to be consistent; and maintained, both by writers of articles and as one director follows another.
Our success in different fields as a Congregation has so far been due to the fact that we have combined two things very well: creativity and a certain individualism linked with it. Our missionaries are outstandingly capable of conceiving a work, finding funds, and putting up buildings. They are creative, but at the same time there is an individual slant to their work, so that often you may hear them say: "I wonder whether my successor will have so many friends, receive so many donations, and be able to manage this structure?" No one knows. Individualism is a risk associated with creativity, but it can be controlled or neutralized without killing off creativity itself.
Something similar would happen with the Bulletin if each one followed his own inclinations and possibilities, sought for collaborators of the same mentality, associated with journalists, and dreamed up a new cover without any reference to rules or norms.
One person said to me: "I want to make the Bulleting a youth review", and I replied: "Fine, if you are talking about the tone and presentation, or about having a central point for the contents; but there it stops. The Bulletin is not the Salesian Congregation's review of youth pastoral work or of education". The Salesian Bulletin is more wide-rang-ing. in its interests: it is addressed to a more general public.
It is important therefore to have an editorial line and policy which is known, explicit, coherent and maintained from one editorial team to another, one which leaves space for creativity but at the same time controls and shapes it.
Let me say here in the first place that nowadays hardly any review or organ of communication sends out messages without being exposed to reaction and dialogue. Radio transmitters base many programs on dialogue itself: talk-shows; reviews have a section for letters to the editor; some of them have a site in the Internet.
The Salesian Bulletin too should not be a product sealed and sent out from a laboratory, but an apostolic and pastoral work prompting interlocutors in various forms. Dialogue is not always verbal. The attention of the director to the mood and spirit of readers, occasional communication with all of them and regular communication with some, are complementary forms of a wellconstructed dialogue.
The participation of the Salesian Family is desirable in this interactivity; we need to get over a purely individual kind of management. But on participation of this kind I would like to make two comments. The first is to emphasize that it is necessary. Rather than say: "I'll do the whole lot myself", it is better to say: "Let's get together on the matter". And the second comment is to clarify that this participation is not connected with defence or representation but with competence. We are working with all the Salesian Family: let those who are competent step forward: competent in direction, in editing, in distribution.
Occasionally there can be a revision session, to which representatives can be invited. But in the normal run of editing it is useless to have present incompetent representatives who are there only to defend their own group and win the right to a certain space or number of articles. We must be open, leave space for collaboration and accept it when it is offered, but at the same time maintain a proper criterion, which is that of competence. An editorial team is a professional organism, not a political one.
And finally let us insert in the interactivity what we talked about earlier: communication between Salesian Bulletins. I will say no more about this because I am sure this worldwide meeting will aim at a greater interchange in this matter.
We have insisted on salesian originality, openness, universal approach, and unity of the Bulletin. In the light of all this, what dispositions are needed in the director of the Bulletin if he is tc accomplish what is asked of him,
I shall be careful not to give you too long a list, which might lead you to think: "If that is how it is. count me out!" I will point only to some requirements of the role you are called upon to fill. In my opinion they are dispositions we all have, from the very fact we are Salesians; but they have to be rediscovered and developed according to our particular situation.
a. Reproduce Don Bosco in yourself.
In the first place I put an interior disposition, a desire which is also an attitude: reproduce Don Bosco in yourself, in what concerns your choices, the interpretation and communication of messages, and in general in the handling of the Bulletin. We tell Provincials: "You are Don Bosco in the province and in the area; you must think as he would think, consider what he would be worried about, and what image he would give of the Congregation". Similarly we tell directors: "You are taking Don Bosco's place as director of a school or a professional training centre; think what Don Bosco would have done with the pupils".
I do not know whether Don Bosco ever took the title of director of the Bulletin: maybe he did. In any case you have to continue Don Bosco in the inspiration and realization of the Salesian Bulletin. And in the light of all we know about Don Bosco, it is interesting to think how he would have managed this review at the present day, what dimensions and content he would give to it, what choices he would make as regards readers and style.
There is the historical Don Bosco, i.e. the person who lived from 1816 to 1888. We understand him through his biography and through historical studies. And there is also the living charismatic Don Bosco, which is the reality of the Congregation and the Salesian Family with the organic communion in which mediations and moments of discernment have their importance. These are all things that you will be able to take up with a journalistic style and approach.
b. Salesian culture and formation.
To impersonate Don Bosco well, the director of the Bulletin must have a good salesian culture and formation. From this standpoint too, I often think that if in a certain environment or a certain group you wanted to know how the Congregation stands, how salesian pastoral work is progressing, or what our spirituality is like, you would think almost automatically of the director of the Bulletin as one who would have a deep and updated knowledge of such points.
If I wanted information about the Bank of Italy I could call the Governor. Who should one approach to know how the salesian world is progressing? The thought should come automatically that the one who will know will be the director of a salesian review who cannot possibly be ignorant of the history and of the present trends and intentions, in the light of the expansions and criteria guiding the society of whose publication he is the director. People take for granted, in fact, that the director of a review has a sound knowledge of whatever matters the review is concerned with.
Salesian culture and formation are therefore specific items in which the director of the Bulletin must be competent. This requires both sensitivity and study; sensitivity means interest and attention; study means careful and persevering reading, an interiorized and accumulated knowledge of salesian matters. I cannot imagine a journalist without a personal archive in which he stores, notes and keeps handy observations and data. How otherwise could he write his articles?
I remember once visiting the office of a newspaper, something we have all wanted to do at some point in our lives. I was shown their archives, and I was told: "Look, if the Pope were to die tomorrow, which God forbid, we would bring out this file and in a couple of hours we could write the full story of his life, where he lived and was educated, all his journeys, and all the rest". In a few hours a group of journalists are able to produce a complete edition, because they have all the material ready at hand. And they do not write just anything; they reason as they write.
I have not forgotten the differences between a newspaper and a Bulletin; but it is unthinkable that a Bulletin after twenty, thirty, fifty years of existence has left nothing behind it in the archives. If today one has available the better technical means that are available, this problem can be faced in a more complete and efficacious manner.
Newspaper offices have a specialized library. It is possible to think of a specialized library foi the Bulletin where relevant ma. terial can be rapidly found. Ii could indeed be a neighbouring salesian library, but it should ex. ist and it should meet the specific requirements of the Bulletin.
Briefly, we must be convinced that nowadays it is difficult tc work without the necessary instruments for consultation. Salesianity, for example, has developed a great deal from a historical point of view. And it is immediately clear whether a writer has a grasp of history or not. Some articles are very poor in references; they are linked to Don Bosco and his spirit only through generic references that anyone can quote. In others it is immediately evident that the writer has gone to the sources and has made comparisons. We do not publish in the review all we have learned in consultations of this kind, because space is limited, but the background shines through the article itself, and remains also as salesian culture for other articles.
There is also, in addition to what I said earlier, dialogue possible with those locally responsible for the salesian mission, though here too it is not just a question of reproducing the words of a Provincial or council.
But speaking regularly with them puts you on the right wavelength and helps you to understand where the sensitivity of the Congregation is heading at the present time.
c. Pastoral sense.
The final disposition of the director to which I want to refer is his pastoral sense. Here we must refer to the spirituality of the communicator, which implies living and feeling internally what he wants to communicate, meditating on it and even praying about it; seeking the best way to get to the heart of people, i.e. touching the point where convictions, sentiments and resolutions are born.
You have to accept therefore the effort, the assiduous work, patience in studying, thinking, writing and improving. And all of that is flatly opposed to improvization. It is clear that newspapers must carry articles at times which have been written in great haste, because an event took place shortly before the deadline for going to press. But, as an editor once told me, there is enough time for writing brief articles; and so they should be prepared without haste, seeking references or linkages; they should be read and read again to correct them and give them an incisive form. This is not difficult to verify: some editorials are masterpieces. As far as elaboration is concerned, therefore, there is a rapid form and another which allows for days of reflection. To find the right form and use it is to be considered as participating in the communication of the Word of God.
Together with this, the pastoral sense includes journalistic professionalism, in the pastoral subcategory. Even in journalism there are compartments that have a common basis, but when this basis relates to specific settings it is no longer generic in character. If one presents oneself for an examination in sporting journalism, the tests turn on that area; if the examination is for a political commentator, in addition to matters in general one is tested on knowledge and flair for political aspects. You need therefore to see what pastoral journalism can signify within the phenomenon of the social communication of the Church.
And then there is vocational capacity, by which I mean the ability to form collaborators and successors. And this from two standpoints: the first of which is Salesian. You will say at once that this depends on the Provincials, who must give you adequate helpers. This is true enough, but I would add that in some cases even having a helper alongside you does not lead to the formation of a successor, because of incompatibility or individual work.
Secondly, in addition to the salesian helpers you are given or should ask for in view of preparing a successor, there is all the formation of lay collaborators to be taken care of. They must not only be asked for material collaboration, but gradually immersed in the mentality of the review, by communication of the salesian viewpoint and spirit.
Finally, as a trait of the pastoral sense, I emphasize communion with the province: communion of mission, personal communion, communion of sensitivity.
And there you have the points I thought it well to make to you with regard to the expression of art.41 of the Regulations: "The Salesian Bulletin is edited in accordance with the directives of the Rector Major and his Council in various editions and languages".
Thank you for listening to me.
Rome, Sacro Cuore, 30 November 1998