GC28 outline of reflection on the theme


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This outline offers some suggestions for the journey of the Provinces in preparation for GC28. They can be useful in focusing the attention of confrères, local communities and Provincial Chapters on the theme of GC28, guiding the reflection and work of all.

2.2.1. Letter of convocation of GC28

The journey towards GC28 begins with the personal study of the letter of convocation of the Rector Major and with the community discussion on its contents.

The title of the letter from the Rector Major, "What kind of Salesians for the youth of today?", brings out the will to give an answer to young people, especially the poorest and most excluded, in the light of a charismatic vision that wants them at the centre of our Salesian vocation. For this reason Salesians are needed who are prepared and ready to work with Don Boscos mind, heart and hands in the Church and in Society and who accompany the young in the world of work, in the digital world, in the defence of creation, etc. In this pre-Capitular time, all this asks us to be in harmony with the Churchs synodal journey on young people, especially by studying the Preparatory Document and the Working Instrument of the Synod of Bishops 2018; it will also be important to bear in mind Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortations: "Evangelii gaudium" and "Amoris laetitia".

This requires a renewed formation that, as a response to each persons personal vocation, is permanent or ongoing in nature. Evidently, this response has its roots in initial formation, but is destined to grow dynamically over time and to outline a profile of the Salesian, conforming to Jesus Christ and Don Bosco in response to the current situations. This profile requires the ability to accompany young people, which is the fruit of the direct experience of those who have first matured the need to be accompanied. In order to accompany others on their journey through life, it is necessary to live the experience of being accompanied. In this profile we must also keep in mind our call to holiness, just as Pope Francis presents it for all Christians in his Apostolic Exhortation "Gaudete et exsultate".

This is a formation that is necessary to strengthen the youth mission shared with the laity of the educative pastoral community. This urgently calls for overcoming the resistance that still makes the shared mission optional; it aims at the good of the young and requires a specific and joint formation of Salesians and lay people. It is opportune at this time to take up again GC24 and what it had said about sharing in spirit and mission with lay people in order to verify the journey that has been made and the further steps to be taken.

The theme of the Chapter is one; at the same time it is divided into three thematic nuclei: the priorities of mission, the profile of the Salesian, the sharing of mission and formation with the lay people. These are not three separate topics, but are linked elements so that the theme is one and the same. It is unusual for the theme of a General Chapter to be presented in an interrogative form: "What kind of Salesians for the youth of today?” This question makes explicit the desire, the will and the commitment to listen truly to the young, to the confreres in initial formation, to lay people.

After the commitment to bear witness to the radical nature of the Gospel that began in GC27, it seems important to us now to focus on evangelical prophecy. Thus Pope Francis wrote on 21 November 2014 in his Apostolic Letter "To all Consecrated People" on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life: "I am counting on you to wake up the world, since the distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy. As I told the Superiors General: «Radical evangelical living is not only for religious: it is demanded of everyone. But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way». This is the priority that is needed right now: «to be prophets who witness to how Jesus lived on this earth… a religious must never abandon prophecy» (29 November 2013)". We could therefore think of the theme of the chapter from the perspective of prophecy.

2.2.2. Preparation process for the GC28

The General Chapter is preceded in all the Provinces by the Provincial Chapter. This is explicitly required by the Constitutions (Const. 172). The Provincial Chapter is responsible for electing one or more delegates to the General Chapter and their substitutes (cf. Const. 171) and "forward(ing) proposals to the Moderator of the General Chapter" (Reg. 167).

The implementation of these tasks does not exhaust the nature and competence of a Provincial Chapter. It would be erroneous to think that it should meet, in the imminence of a General Chapter, only for the election of delegates or to send proposals to the Moderator. Articles 171 and 172 of the Constitutions and article 167 of the General Regulations list a wide range of purposes and tasks, but not all of them are to be accomplished at each and every Provincial Chapter.

The reflection on the theme "What kind of Salesians for the youth of today?” is a priority; it does not concern only the confreres who will participate in GC28. The letter of convocation of GC28 intends to promote a profound reflection, oriented towards conversion, on behalf of every confrère, every community, every Province. In this process a very important moment is the "representative assembly of the confrères and the local communities", which is precisely the Provincial Chapter.

The theme of GC28 does not call for academic or doctrinal reflection on which to exercise by writing theological considerations, of a spiritual or pastoral nature, to be "sent to the Moderator". It is a "provocation" for everyone. It is the voice of the Spirit that impels us to ask ourselves questions, to "examine our own works", to "revise", to "repent and convert". "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says”. It is the Spirit who speaks also to us and who invites us to listen (Cf. Rev. 2: 1-29).

The General Chapter will be held in Turin Valdocco in 2020 and about 250 confrères will participate in it; but, more correctly, it should be said that it has already begun and that all the confrères of the Congregation are participating in it. The individual confrère asks himself about the profile required of him by the changed circumstances and by the encounter with the young, in order to respond to Gods call in this particular moment of history. The Salesian faithful to Don Boscos apostolic project as presented in the Constitutions reviews his basic choices, his way of life and work; together with him the community and the province verify their credibility and fruitfulness in the contexts in which they live.

The convocation of the Provincial Chapter is, therefore, a great opportunity for every Province. Given the articulation of the theme, it is suggested that in every local community there be moments of listening to the young, to the confrères in initial formation, to the laity. It would then be important to have separate provincial meetings with these three groups and to have their representation at the Provincial Chapter. A significant contribution will be made by the young confrères who, at the very beginning of their formation, lay the foundations for building up the profile of the Salesian and who, as young people, can give a more objective vision of their peers, given their proximity in terms of age, culture, etc.

2.2.3. Articulation of the Theme of GC28

The letter of convocation of GC28 asks us to focus our attention on three thematic nuclei, which are now proposed to the Salesian communities and to the Provincial Chapters. These nuclei refer to what must characterize the Salesian of the future, so that he may be able to respond to the Salesian mission of today, together with lay people.

Priority of the mission with the youth

Expectations of the youth. GC28 intends to focus on the cornerstone of our father Don Boscos "project of a strongly united life": "the service of the young" (Const. 21). The elements of this project are always new, always different, from generation to generation, from culture to culture. In this diversity, the Congregation wants to discern and "verify that its works and activities are providing an effective service for young people who are poor" (Reg. 1). We therefore need to evaluate our options and indicate some prophetic guidelines so that poor young people, in the various types of poverty, exclusion and rejection, may be at the centre of our choices. We also need to indicate how to focus our attention and efforts on the priorities of todays youth, their concerns, their problems such as lack of work, the challenges of the digital world, human rights, ecology, ...

Accompaniment of the youth. Young people today ask us to be present among them and to be with them; this is the occasion to rediscover Salesian assistance as being with and for the young. They ask us to be accompanied, therefore not to be left alone; they demand competent guides alongside them, who are masters in the art of accompaniment. Therefore, a crucial task for a renewed youth ministry today is the quality of the experience of spiritual accompaniment of young people on the part of each Salesian. We ask ourselves what steps we still have to take so that every Salesian may be an accompanier in the journey of every young person.

Family and youth ministry. Parents who are the first and natural accompaniers of young people cannot be absent from the Salesian mission. The reality of families is “a challenging mosaic made up of many different realities, with all their joys, hopes and problems” (AL, 57). Once again a General Chapter of the Congregation draws attention on the family as the subject and object of the processes of youth ministry, and on the concrete ways in which families can be involved and helped.

Profile of the Salesian today

Salesian formation. In recent years we have repeatedly expressed the need for a more explicit reference to Don Bosco, his figure and his history, so that our pastoral ministry and our spirituality are not generic; in this we have been helped especially by the celebration of the Bicentennial of Don Boscos birth and by the three years of preparation. We must now ask ourselves what further steps we can take in our "re-starting from Don Bosco", so that our Salesian vocation may be charismatically even more marked.

Ongoing Formation. The profile of the Salesian today focuses on an often forgotten reality: the whole life is a response to the Lord who calls. The Lord always calls us in a situation and while He makes His voice heard, through numerous mediations, He asks our personal answer. There is therefore a need for self-formation and ongoing formation. The presence of guides, who know how to accompany the steps of each one, allows us to respond in time to the many appeals we receive. We must ask ourselves how to give impetus to our formation so that it may be ongoing.

In mission formation. Formation takes place in the events of history and not only in anticipation of a goal to be achieved and for which special preparation is necessary. If seen only as preparation in view of a mission, the profile of the Salesian easily expires in functionalism and in superficial learning that does not really involve mind and heart and, therefore, existence. That is why it is important to recognise that one is formed in and through situations and to find ways for this to happen in practice. In order to respond to situations and to be able to read the signs of the times it is necessary to take further steps to learn the art of discernment.

Formation in the community. Don Boscos experience says that, in order to be "constructors and builders of communion", it is necessary to be formed in the community. Together we learn to belong to God, to our confrères, to the young. In our formation it is necessary to verify the criteria of vocational discernment regarding the suitability to live in community and the learning of community ways of life. In order to mature the awareness of this community belonging, especially at the beginning of Salesian life, quality teams are necessary, composed of people who, by continually experiencing the values of the Salesian vocation (cf. Const. 98) are able to communicate it to others. Moreover, listening attentively to valid and prepared companions leads us to progressively assume the traits of Jesus Christ, as Don Bosco assumed them and made them his own. We therefore ask ourselves how to ensure the formation and composition of teams of quality formators.

Shared mission between Salesians and laity

Achievements and resistances in the mission shared with the laity. After more than twenty years since the celebration of GC24 on the lay people, it is considered important first of all to highlight the experiences that have led to positive achievements in the mission shared with the laity and the motivations or situations that have facilitated these acquisitions. It is also necessary to identify the resistances, sometimes unconscious, that have so far prevented a path of sharing in the mission with the laity, in order to remove obstacles; changes in mentality and attitudes are often necessary, but equally necessary are planning and institutional decisions.

Reciprocity of relations between Salesians and lay people. The Salesian understands himself in the light of the relationship he establishes with other vocations of the Church. In these years the contribution and reflection offered by the laity has grown and this has enriched the choices of the Congregation; our vocations are complementary. The presence of lay people in our works, not only as co-workers but as co-responsible for the same mission in favour of young people, has allowed the growth of a new subject: the educative pastoral community. This constitutes a real experience of Church in which young people are truly listened to and accompanied; and for this accompaniment to be effective, the Salesians alone are not sufficient. Alongside the common elements existing in relations between Salesians and lay people and the awareness of specific vocational differences, we must find ways of enriching and assuming attitudes of reciprocity.

Joint formation of Salesians and lay people. Along with positive experiences, improvisations and difficulties in formation with lay people also emerge in the journey of educative pastoral communities. It is therefore necessary to have a specific formation for lay people and then, as a consequence, a joint formation of Salesians and lay people. Formation within the educative pastoral community presents different speeds of the journey and steps taken. Here, too, we need to find ways to move forward.

Works under shared management or lay management. Different models of management emerge, which sometimes start from a lack of understanding of the states of Christian life and from a lack of appreciation of consecrated and lay people in a correct and synergic vision. Master models overlap, where the Salesians are leaders and hold power, along with charismatically correct pastoral models in which the Salesians act as guides and formators. Among the various models, attention should be paid to shared management works and to lay management works under provincial responsibility.

2.2.4. Methodology of Community Discernment

In the last three General Chapters we adopted the methodology of community discernment. In "Evangelii Gaudium", "Amoris Laetitia", in the "Preparatory Document" for the Synod of Bishops on Youth, in "Gaudete et exsultate", Pope Francis invites us to assume the practice of discernment. It is believed that, in harmony with the current journey of the Church and with the experience gained in our General Chapters, we must continue with this methodology.

In the process of discernment for the study of the chapter theme, the following moments are proposed: listening, interpretation, choices. For each thematic nucleus, the Provincial Chapters are invited to make a discernment according to these three steps. Compared to GC27, in order to adapt to the expressions that Pope Francis uses, the names of the three steps have been changed, but the methodology is the same.

Listening. The first moment asks us to recognise the situation; to look it in the face in its priority aspects; to see what challenges us most; to listen to what questions us. It is necessary to highlight what is most promising for the confrères, the communities and the Province, for the young and for lay people and which asks to be developed, but also what is more risky and which asks to be faced and overcome. It is a matter of recognizing the promising and risky expressions concerning the priorities of the mission, the needs of formation, the involvement of the laity.

Interpretation. In the second moment, starting from the aspects recognized through listening, it is a question of reading the situation; of identifying the deep causes of well-being or discomfort; of being able to interpret the challenges and risks. The interpretation of the situation must lead us to an in-depth understanding of it. The keys to interpreting the situation are the Gospel, the life of the Church, the Constitutions, the signs of the times. This second stage of the discernment process has been the most difficult for us to implement so far.

Choices. The third step is to identify the choices to be made. It is a question of finding and, therefore, of choosing what makes us advance towards new ways of living the mission of youth, of realizing the profile of the Salesian, of involving lay people. The choices must correspond to the situations that have been listened to and interpreted. These are prophetic and bold choices that strengthen what is already present but still unfinished, overcome what is weak and at risk, find new ways. These choices must be essential and fundamental and may concern processes and steps to be taken.

The process of discernment requires us to focus on certain priorities, both in listening and consequently in interpretation and in our choices. The written document will be the contribution of the Provincial Chapter to GC28. For each thematic nucleus, the written document to be sent to the Moderator  as the Inspectors Chapters contribution to the GC 28 should not exceed two pages.

In the Provincial Chapter, it is recommended that paper documents be avoided as much as possible and that digital technology be used, in order to encourage an ecological mindset and to ensure economic savings. This, too, can be a step forward in holding the Chapter.

2.2.5. Contributions to be sent to the Moderator of GC28

Within July 15, 2019, the various contributions must reach the Moderator of GC28; they may be of four different types:

·         contributions of the Provincial Chapters on the theme of GC28 "What kind of Salesians for the youth of today?” These contributions relate to the three thematic nuclei, each with a proper form;

·         contributions of the Provincial Chapters on matters concerning the life of the Congregation, the Constitutions or the Regulations; these contributions also have their own proper form; on each form there should be only one proposal;

·         contributions of individuals or groups of confrères on the theme of GC28 "What kind of Salesians for the youth of today?” These contributions relate to the three thematic nuclei, each with a proper form;

·         contributions from individuals or groups of confrères on matters concerning the life of the Congregation, the Constitutions or the Regulations. These contributions shall have an proper form, and on each form only one proposal is to be written.