Saturday 15 February: arrival at Valdocco where there is a large logistical and computerised system set up for reception and accommodation.
Sunday 16: afternoon, beginning of the General Chapter with words of welcome from the Rector Major, some items of information and technical procedures, the Chapter’s opening Eucharistic concelebration at which the Rector Major presided and preached a homily based on three key words: docility – fidelity – hope.
First week: 17-22 February
Monday 17 February: presentation of reports by Sector and Regional Councillors (first part), with a goodnight by Card. Cristobal López S.D.B., Archbishop of Rabat (Morocco).
Tuesday 18: presentation of reports continues, concluding with the Rector Major’s report. Other than summing up the six years and examining the Congregation’s state of health, he recalls the challenges that the Congregation has had to face, at the same time offering a hopeful perspective for the future to overcome any temptation to discouragement.
Wednesday 19: first spirituality day with a reflection by Fr Rossano Sala on the theme of the first nucleus “Centrality of the mission among the young”. The morning concludes with the Eucharist at which Fr Sala is main celebrant. Study of the Rector Major’s report begins in the afternoon with reference to Sectors. After supper there is a concert in the Basilica for the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth.
Thursday 20: second spirituality day with a reflection by Fr Eunan Mc Donell on the theme of the second nucleus “Profile of the Salesian for today’s youth”. This is followed by the Eucharist at the end of the morning, at which Fr Eunan is main celebrant. As with the previous day, the report is studied in the afternoon, this time by Regions.
Friday 21: third spirituality day with a reflection by Koldo Gutiérrez on the theme of the third nucleus “Together with lay people in the mission and in formation¨, with the Eucharist at the end of the morning at which Card. Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga is main celebrant. In the afternoon the conclusion of study by Regions of the Rector Major’s report on the state of the Congregation.
Saturday 22, official opening day of GC28, beginning with the Eucharist in the Basilica, at which Card. Joao Braz de Aviz is main celebrant, then after breakfast, the ceremony in the aula magna (henceforth ‘the hall’) with greetings, Card. Braz de Aviz’s message as Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Rector Major’s opening address.
The morning ends with lunch, followed by a meeting-free period until Monday 24 February.
Second week: 24-29 February
Monday 24: the first part of the day in assembly for the choice of place in the hall, election of secretaries and moderators, then to see how translations, voting, presentation of Chapter Regulations and choice of commissions are to work. In the afternoon, comments on changes to the Regulations and then the first meeting of commissions to elect the president, spokesperson and secretary. In the evening before Vespers and the goodnight, the Rector Major lets us know that due to the coronavirus emergency we are asked to be very responsible in avoiding exposure of ourselves or others, and in obeying orders from the State prohibiting, amongst other things, any group movements by bus. Hence we will be skipping the day trip to Colle Don Bosco and Chieri for the day of retreat scheduled for Ash Wednesday.
Tuesday 25, Feast of the Salesian Protomartyrs in China, Saint Aloysius Versiglia and Saint Callistus Caravario. In the first part of the day, presentation of the working document on the Chapter theme by Fr Andrea Bozzolo, followed by the second summary of challenges identified by the Regions after studying the report on the state of the Congregation, then the working document on juridical matters, followed by a vote on the Regulations. In the second part, replies from the Rector Major and General Council to questions from the Regions, and from confreres, as a result of the study of the report on the state of the Congregation.
Wednesday 26: Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. In the morning a celebration of the Word led by Fr Pascual Chávez, offering a meditation on the Letter from Rome, 1884 – Don Bosco’s gospel, followed by time for personal prayer, Eucharistic adoration and confessions. In the afternoon, commissions meet to choose their representative on the editorial commission, and to organise working groups. The day concludes with a Eucharistic celebration at which Fr Pascual Chávez is main celebrant.
Thursday 27: first a meeting in assembly to approve the minutes of the preceding days and information on procedure for work in commissions, then commission meetings for the rest of the day to study the first part (‘recognising’) of the first nucleus “The priority of the Salesian mission among today’s youth”.
Friday 28. all day in commissions to study the second part (‘interpreting’) of the first nucleus “The priority of the Salesian mission among today’s youth”, concluding with the Stations of the Cross organised by the East Asia-Oceania Region.
Saturday 29: first of all in assembly for Lauds and lectio divina led by Fr Andrea Bozzolo on the Beloved Disciple at the Last Supper, and later, commission work on the third part (‘choosing’) of the first nucleus, concluding at midday with the Eucharist at which the main celebrant is the Archbishop of Turin, Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia. Free time until Monday 2 March.
Third week: 2-7 March
Monday 2: commission work in the morning to conclude work on the first nucleus, also involving the young people who have come for this week. In the afternoon, assembly to read and approve minutes, present an aid prepared by the Formation Department: “Young Salesians and Accompaniment. Orientations and Guidelines”, and to present proposals from the juridical commission, followed by a return to commissions.
Tuesday 3: morning in assembly to approve the minutes, present the summary drawn up by each of the 4 commissions on the first nucleus of the theme, followed by time for discussion. In the afternoon, commission work on the first part of the second theme: “What kind of formation of the Salesian for today’s youth?”
Wednesday 4: the morning in assembly to approve the minutes, a technical trial of the electronic voting system but given the many interventions and some discomfort it is decided to postpone this, then the first discussion on juridical topics which sees many Chapter members intervening on a range of issues. In the afternoon, commission work still on the first part of the second theme.
Thursday 5: a morning of commission work, again on the second part of the second nucleus. In the afternoon, first of all a meeting in assembly to pass on important information from the Rector Major concerning the emergency situation in Italy due to the coronavirus epidemic (take seriously the measures prepared by the Italian state, offer a low profile as a group of Chapter members, give no information to anyone about what is happening in the Chapter, cancel all visits and meetings, and cancel the presence of the laity who were invited to the Chapter), he then lets us hear a greeting from Pope Francis who wanted to come and meet us, but since he can’t do this he has sent us a message; and finally he offers the possibility of anticipating the elections for the Rector Major and General Council, given the uncertainty of how the epidemic will evolve which could possibly lead to a premature closure of the General Chapter without having elected the governing body of the Congregation. After this information, we move on to two straw votes on proposals of the juridical commission. In the final work session the third part (‘choosing’) of the second nucleus begins.
Friday 6: first work session in the hall for the reading and approval of the minutes, a vote on anticipating the elections, with a positive result, then a second session to vote on juridical matters. In the afternoon, commission work on the third part of the second nucleus.
Saturday 7: in assembly in the morning for Lauds and a lectio offered by Andrea Bozzolo on the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the cross. In the first work session, reading and approval of the minutes, followed by the final vote on juridical matters presented the day before. In the second work session, the young people are listened to. They are asking for our presence among them, to listen to them, accompany them, to trust and share with them by journeying alongside them and above all, love. At the end of their intervention the Rector Major blesses the statue of Mamma Margaret located in front of the Palazzo Pinardi; we then move into the Basilica for the Eucharistic celebration at which Fr Fabio Attard is the main celebrant.
Fourth week: 9-14 March
Monday 9: first part in assembly for reading and approval of the minutes, followed by presentation of the first draft of the first nucleus: “Priority of the Salesian mission among today’s youth”. In the second session, study in commissions for a first reaction and some suggestions. In the afternoon, in assembly, Fr Pierluigi Nava, SMM, Undersecretary of the CIVCSVA, is invited to guide the discernment for the elections, and introduces this stage of the GC with a reflection on “Discernment from an ecclesial perspective”, followed by a time for prayer and personal reflection, with Vespers in the Basilica and time for Eucharistic adoration after supper.
Tuesday 10: Eucharist in the Basilica in the morning, at which Fr Nava is the main celebrant, and then in the first work session in the hall he presents a second reflection: “Election, discernment and forming consensus”, followed by a time of prayer and personal reflection. In the second session, in commissions, discernment in view of the election of the Rector Major. In the afternoon, in the first session, continuation of this process concluding with handing over prospective names to the guide, who in the fourth session in the hall presents the result of discernment in commissions with two names that had gained the greatest number of preferences: Fr Ángel Fernández and Fr Fabio Attard. After supper, an hour of Eucharistic adoration.
Wednesday 11: morning Eucharist in the Basilica and in the first work session in the hall, election of secretaries and scrutineers for voting, then the vote to elect the Rector Major. Fr Ángel Fernández Artime is re-elected for a second six-year term. In the following two work sessions, back to commissions for discernment for election of the Vicar of the Rector Major. After Vespers, the Rector Major gives the goodnight. After supper, an hour of Eucharistic adoration.
Thursday 12: morning Eucharist in the Basilica at which the Rector Major presides, preaching a homily focused on the figure of the ‘good shepherd’. In the first work session in the hall, the straw vote for candidates for election as Vicar of the RM - Fr Stefano Martoglio. Immediately afterwards, commissions by Regions to select candidates as Councillors for the different Sectors (Formation – Youth Ministry – Social Communication – Missions and Economy). There is a meeting of a small group of Chapter members (Frs Stefano Martoglio, Enrico Stasi, Pier Fausto Frisoli, Rossano Sala, Pascual Chávez) convened by the RM to study the choice to be made given the Government’s obligatory measures in this coronavirus emergency and that leads to the decision to conclude GC28 on Saturday morning with the Holy Mass, after which confreres may depart. This means that all elections for Councillors have to be finished by Friday evening and, in a decision made in assembly, the Rector Major and his Council are entrusted with the work done on the working document in view of a Chapter document. So before lunch there is a return to the hall for the Rector Major’s official communique on the decision taken regarding conclusion of the Chapter.
In the first part of the afternoon, work continues in commissions by region, who then hand over their names of candidates for Councillors. In the second part, in assembly, straw vote and election of Councillors: Formation, Fr Ivo Coelho; Youth Ministry, Fr Miguel Ángel García Morcuende, who is not a Chapter member; Social Communication, Fr Gildásio dos Santos; Missions, Fr Alfred Maravilla; Economy, Bro. Jean Paul Muller. After Vespers, Fr Stefano Martoglio gives the goodnight.
Friday 13: in the morning, Eucharist in the Basilica, main celebrant Fr Stefano Martoglio and in the first work session, work in commissions by region to choose their candidate for Regional Councillor, and, in the second work session, voting. Results as follows: Africa-Madagascar, Fr Alphonse Owoudou (AFO); America South Cone, Fr Gabriel Romero (ARN); East Asia-Oceania, Fr Joseph Phuoc Nguyen (VIE); South Asia, Fr Michael Biju Pulianmackal; Europe-Centre North, Fr Roman Jachimowicz (PLN); Interamerica, Fr Hugo Orozco (MEG); Mediterranean, Fr Juan Carlos Pérez Godoy.
In the afternoon a photo record of GC28 in front of the monument to Don Bosco, followed by the film, in the hall, on Artemides Zatti, and in the final work session, the Closing Address of the Rector Major and Declaration of closure of GC28.
Things come to an end in the Basilica with Vespers, the singing of the Te Deum and the handing over of the cross of the Good Shepherd. After supper, festivities for the Rector Major and the new General Council.
Saturday14: in the morning in the Basilica, the final Eucharist with the Rector Major as the main celebrant.
After breakfast Chapter members begin to depart for their various places of origin.
At lunch time there is a very simple commemoration of the 80th anniversary of UPS. And at the end, Fr Ángel invites a group of Chapter members to visit the works going on in the Casa Museo Don Bosco, that has been made very beautiful and will be a great gift to the Congregation and the entire Salesian Family because it reconstructs the different stages of this “mother house”, its development and current presence in the world.