1. The Salesian brother's situation in the Region
The East Asia - Oceania Region, created by GC 25 in 2002, now involves 10 Circumscriptions (8 Provinces, 1 Vice Province, 1 Delegation) with about 1300 confreres living and working in 20 countries. There are about 200 Salesian Brothers, of whom 50 are in temporary vows. There are provinces with many young Brothers (FIN, ITM, KOR, VIE) and also provinces which struggle to present the role and person of the Brother to our young people (CIN, GIA, THA, AUL), to the point where in some of these places the youngest Brother is almost 60 years of age. Being a missionary Region, the role of the Salesian Brother is much needed as an educator - present 24/24 amongst the young, as a community-builder, as one who can build many bridges between the different religions, as a precious evangeliser.
2. Some strong points in the Region
Recently three Provinces have been able to foster the vocation of the Salesian Brother in a very significant way (ITM, KOR,VIE) with some precise strategies. Vocation promotion becomes more explicit, the visibility of the Brother grows: Provincial Councillor, school principal, Formation Delegate or part of a formation community, Youth Ministry Delegate, Delegate for vocational ministry. There is growth in the quality of specific formation, with the future project of a Regional Centre in Manila.
3. The EAO Regional COngresses (1986-1999)
Up till now four Brothers’ Congresses have been held (1986 - Batulao: FIN; 1991 - Hua Hin: THA; 1995 - Cebu: FIS; 1999 - Melbourne: AUL). Each time an average of 70 people between Brothers, Provincials, formators. The congresses created enthusiasm, encouraged participants, however did not succeed in fostering the vocation of the Salesian Brother, and plumbing the depths of his vocational identity in the Asian-Oceanian cultural context. The most important thing now is the deeper awareness of vocational identity. The basic challenge is to believe in the vocation of the Salesian Brother in the context of the great external cultural, ecclesial, religious, social challenges of EAO nations.
4. Preparing the regional Seminar 2006
After the Team Visit (Hua Hin, March 2005) and the Provincials’ meeting to follow, a process was begun leading to an ‘EAO regional seminar in 2006’ with a broad questionnaire addressed to Provincial Councillors, Formators, Salesian Brothers. To facilitate participation, the new regional website ‘BOSCONET’ has been fruitfully employed. Anyone can enter the virtual library with hundreds of different documents on the vocation of the Salesian Brother, many of them responses to the Seminar for 2006 www.bosconet.aust.com/bnet06beaobro.htm. The 5 day seminar is foreseen for 20-25 August 2006 in Phom Penh (Cambodia) with the participation of formators, Salesian Brothers and Provincials from the Region. It is significant that the Salesian presence in Cambodia was begun by a Brother, Bro. Roberto Panetto (THA) with the help of some Thai Past Pupils towards the end of the 80s.
Amongst the aims of the Seminar is an appreciation of the Guidelines for vocation promotion of the Salesian Brother (AGC 382, F.Cereda), an exchange of specific formation experiences, to help some Provinces rediscover the Brother. Each Province will bring along audiovisual materials on the Brother, a model both from the past and for the present.