Don Bosco

Missions in America: new departures




My well-deserving Cooperators,

It gives me great pleasure, my dear Cooperators, to send you interesting news that has come to me from Patagonia and the many other missions already opened in South America, and at the same time offer you plans for new efforts which it will be good to put into place as soon as possible because of the urgent needs of those distant peoples. After our missionaries have travelled the length and breadth of Patagonia, from the Atlantic Ocean to the High Andes and after having crossed those famous mountains at least twice to reach as far as Chile; and after having catechised and baptised various wild tribes at considerable cost in terms of effort and incredible dangers, the time has come to seriously think of consolidating and ensuring the permanence of the good that has so far been achieved.

Now that these tribes have been pacified and converted to the Faith, and have begun to enjoy the first delights of a Christian and civilised existence, they can no longer resign themselves to only occasionally seeing the missionaries who have called them into a social existence in the light of the Gospel.

Quite rightly they want them amongst them always so they can be guided, instructed and consoled by them, and more especially have them with them at times of illness and danger of death.

So we should not wonder that Bishop Cagliero, Vicar Apostolic of Patagonia has not the courage to refuse these poor savages who are also his beloved children in Jesus Christ, the right to these religious and comforts. But he has neither personnel nor funds enough to satisfy their burning desire. He has had to set up fixed abode for the missionaries in the Patagonian desert, bring the savages together in colonies or villages, so he needs, as you can well imagine, a much larger number of priests, catechists and sisters, plenty of material means essential for social existence and divine worship.

Despite their good will, these poor new Christians can only offer our missionaries a show of their pitiful poverty. They are in need of everything, clothing, other things to keep alive, mostly because of their conversion. And the lot of the missionaries depends on the Pious Salesian Society and the charity of our Cooperators. Should we be discouraged? Oh no, indeed we should redouble our efforts so these works do not diminish; they have already cost much sweat and so much sacrifice.

As well as this it would be good for you to know that to ensure the success of the complete conversion of Patagonia we have already begun to open up a road from the western part of Chile and already a group of Salesians has gone there to found a House on the other side of the Mountains in Concepcion, which belongs to the Republic of Chile.

From there colonies of missionaries need to depart to evangelise Araucania and western Patagonia, soon spreading little by little down to the Archipelago of Chiloe and Magellan to the so-called Tierra del Fuego, where there are countless numbers of indigenous tribes without any idea of religion and civilisation.

Fr Fagnano at the moment would have already gone down to the Malvinas islands, and from there he will go on to explore all the islands as far as Cape Horn, where he will work out the most strategic and appropriate points to set up tents for the new soldiers of the Cross who will soon be heading down there to reach him.

You could not even imagine, my dear Cooperators, how many situations and how many requests come to me from down there from our tireless missionaries and the people themselves, asking us to send new and considerable reinforcements of both men and money.

To make these needs and circumstances best known, thanks be to God, and to satisfy our Missions in America that our missionary Fr Louis Lasagna has come from those far-away lands. He will not leave a stone unturned until he has convinced me to prepare, this time too, a missionary expedition with many Salesian missionaries and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. He also needs a goodly number for the missions that I entrusted him with in the vast Empire of Brazil, as large as all of Europe put together where there are endless regions populated only by savages living in huge forests, awaiting a friendly hand for centuries to pull them out of the shameful barbaric ways they have been buried in. They will lie there for who knows how many more generations unless the zeal of the missionaries, with support and help from the faithful, can soon bring them help. So with these powerful motivations we have decided to prepare a new group of missionaries for an expedition next November. This group should reach at least thirty, and there could also be more than that if abundant help from our Benefactors reaches us in time.

Having said that, it would not be difficult to understand, my dear Cooperators, that to furnish this new band of conquerors of souls and propagators of God's kingdom on earth, requires huge expenses for sacred vessels, clothing and linen, expenses for Church furnishings, schools, residences, and urgent expenses for journeys by sea and land. Well, then, it only remains for me to offer once again my hope in God and in your generosity, dear Cooperators, that as you have already come to my aid for earlier expeditions you will not delay in helping me with this new expedition, despite the financial difficulties that affect us all. So I am appealing once again to your charity; listen as I do to the voice of our dear missionaries and the cry that so many poor derelicts send up from those distant parts.

So I beg the Cooperators to make this new expedition possible, helping us with fervent prayers and offerings of linen, clothes, furnishings for the churches, sacred vessels, and even more so money that we can use to meet expenses for the journeys and transport on land and sea; and finally with any alms that your mercy suggests and that your possibilities permit.

At the Oratory in Turin where the new missionaries are getting ready, we can gratefully receive by hand, by rail, or by post whatever your keen charity can send along for this noble cause.

Then on the day that will be chosen for the departure of the missionaries, before the farewell function, there will be a conference for Cooperators in the Sanctuary of Mary Help of Christians. You will be informed of this in good time so that those who want to can attend. And while I am inviting you, I would not want to omit asking you to be kind enough to also seek amongst acquaintances and friends, anyone who can make an offering to this work of humanity and faith.

We will put your names and theirs in the registers of our pious Institute so they can be remembered daily in our prayers, and to beg Heaven's abundant blessings on you and all those who help us, certain that God will also enter these names in the Book of Life, the book of the predestined. this is the opinion of the great Saint Augustine, that whoever effectively works for the salvation of souls ensures the salvation of his or her own soul: Animam salvasti, animam tuam praedestinasti.

May Mary Help of Christians, the protectress and mother of our missionaries and those poor savages obtain from God every spiritual and temporal blessing.

Yours affectionately in J.C.

Fr John Bosco

Turin, 15 October 1886.

N.B. Charitable Benefactors of our Missions are asked to send their offerings directly to Don Bosco in Turin, Via Cottolengo N. 32.