To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Don Bosco's birth on 16th August 1815, the Rector Major of the Salesians, Fr Pascual Chávez, announced the Bicentennial celebrations, which will take place from 16 August 2014 to 16 August 2015.
Preparation for the Bicentennial began in 2008 with the celebration of the XXVI General Chapter of the Salesians. Taking as its theme Don Bosco's motto “Da mihi animas, cetera tolle” and putting the commitment of “starting from Don Bosco” as the foundation for the years 2008-2014, the Congregation and the Salesian Family entered the Bicentennial horizon . In this way, in fact, they can find the origin of Don Bosco's charism, the purpose of their mission, their future.
The Rector Major also proposed Don Bosco's Urn Pilgrimage to the Salesian Family, which has covered most of the countries of the world where it is present. This pilgrimage will end in February this year 2014. It has seen the rush of numerous crowds of young people and families, united by the admiration and gratitude for Don Bosco and his work, by the invocation of his intercession, by desire to commit to the education of young people.
Finally, a three-year preparation period followedfor the Salesian Family, which was marked by a journey in three stages; they started respectively on August 16th 2011, August 16th 2012 and August 16th 2013 and will end on August 15th of 2014. Each stage intends to develop an aspect of Don Bosco's charism: the knowledge of his figure and his history, its pedagogy, its spirituality.
The theme of the Bicentennial, consistent with the three-year preparation, will refer to the Mission of Don Bosco with young people and for young people . The communication of this message will take into account the acquisitions gained during the three years of preparation. This should contribute not only to deepening in what the mission of Don Bosco consists today, but also to arouse numerous forces that are willing to engage in Don Bosco's style for the "salvation of youth", especially the poorest, excluded and abandoned.
This year it will focus on the path of spiritual and pastoral renewal that the Congregation, the Salesian Family and the Salesian Youth Movement intend to follow. For this reason, the essential nature of the initiatives must be encouraged and the timeliness of the proposal must be highlighted, avoiding dispersion, rhetoric and repetitiveness, focusing instead on the incisiveness and effectiveness of communication. Don Bosco and his mission must call on everyone to respond to the needs of today's youth in different parts of the world.
Interesting in this perspective will be the two International Congresses of Salesian history and pedagogy, but above all the World Youth Meeting of the Salesian Youth Movement, which will have the theme "Youth for young people". According to Don Bosco's vision, young people are the first protagonists of the mission of education and evangelization of their peers. The involvement of young people in Don Bosco's mission will help them to commit themselves to "do good to their companions".
The Bicentenary intends first of all to help to know and better understand the figure of Don Bosco : its relevance in the history of education and spirituality. The knowledge and historical understanding of Don Bosco are the starting point for identifying its relevance as well. Going to the sources of Don Bosco's charism will help bring freshness and renewal to today's Salesian work.
This celebration also aims to help the Salesian Family to understand and assume its charismatic identity. Identity research and awareness favors the discovery of the specificity and effectiveness of the charism. Today we cannot operate in a generic way, repeating what everyone does; the plurality of initiatives requires the characterization of the Salesian proposal, both from a spiritual and educational pastoral point of view. The relevance of Don Bosco's charism lies in its identity. The charismatic identity also favors its visibility, its credibility and its vocational fruitfulness.
With the Bicentenary, the Salesian Family also intends to take on Don Bosco's spiritual and apostolic program with greater commitment: “ Da mihi animas, cetera tolle"; it is the reason for his tireless work for "the glory of God and the salvation of souls". Thus the Salesian Family will be able to push forward courageously on the frontiers of today's youth mission, which calls for a strong apostolic passion and generous availability.
Finally, the Bicentenary is an opportunity to restore Don Bosco's charism to the Church and to the Society, which is not the property of the Salesian Family, but which was aroused by the Spirit for all. The task of the Salesian Family is to make it known to involve numerous forces in its spirituality and in its mission. Don Bosco also today attracts numerous young people, laity and families and thus urges them to become saints, committing themselves to the educative and pastoral mission precisely through the concreteness of this commitment.
Another initiative that is already arousing interest is the booking of pilgrimage to the places of Don Bosco: Turin, the place of Don Bosco's activity; Castelnuovo Don Bosco and surroundings, place of birth, family life and childhood; Chieri, a place of humanistic and seminar formation, but also of youth friendships and learning of trades; ...
In collaboration with the civil authorities, numerous historical, spiritual and cultural itineraries are being prepared. It is not only a question of initiatives addressed to the Salesian Family; numerous local Churches are making reservations, to make young people aware of Don Bosco's spirituality; so too are groups of families and cultural associations. The geography of places helps to better understand history.
When the visits to places are also charged with spiritual meanings they become pilgrimages and therefore occasions for experiences of faith and a stimulus to holiness. Pilgrimage is an effective and today very appreciated form of communication of the spiritual experience. Salesian places exert an attraction and a call to return to the sources of the charism.
Numerous publications are planned in different parts of the world: essays, studies, dissemination works, research ... For example, Salesian publishers in Italy - LDC, SEI, LAS - are coordinating for these initiatives. All this will contribute to deepening the actuality of Don Bosco. Of all the publishing initiatives, the publication in view of the Bicentennial Year of the " Salesian Sources " deserves attention , a work curated by the Salesian Historical Institute.
This volume of sources is divided into three parts: writings and documents for the history of Don Bosco and of the Salesian work; writings and testimony of Don Bosco on education and school; writings and testimonies of Don Bosco on the spiritual life. These three parts were coordinated respectively by Fr Francesco Motto, Fr José Manuel Prellezo and Fr Aldo Giraudo, Professors of the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome
This volume of Salesian sources on Don Bosco and his work is entrusted to the Salesian Family, to the Friends of Don Bosco, to the admirers of Salesian work, to young people, to lay people involved in the spirit and mission of Don Bosco, to families; all will be able to draw from the fresh sources of the Salesian charism, a gift of the Spirit for the whole Church. Everyone will be inspired by the pedagogy and spirituality of Don Bosco. With this collection it will be easier for scholars to cite and refer to a single text of sources.
The celebration of the Bicentennial is also an opportunity to pray with Don Bosco, "Father and Teacher of Youth" with the young, the laity, the Salesian Family and the Salesian Movement.
Father and Teacher of Youth ,
Saint John Bosco,
docile to the gifts of the Spirit
and open to the realities of your time,
you have been for the young, especially for the little ones and the poor, a
sign of God's love and predilection.
Be our guide
on the path of friendship with the Lord Jesus,
so that we discover in him and in his Gospel
the meaning of our life
and the source of true happiness.
Help us to respond generously
to the vocation we have received from God,
builders of communion in daily life ,
and to collaborate with enthusiasm,
in communion with the whole Church, in
building the civilization of love.
Obtain for us the grace of perseverance
in living a high standard of Christian life,
according to the spirit of the beatitudes;
and grant that, guided by Mary Help of Christians,
we may one day be with you
in the great family of heaven. Amen