27 May 2012
Dear Confreres and Friends of the Salesian Missions,
I greet you on this Pentecost Sunday with the heart of a disciple of Jesus that feels God's love today personally, and wants to share it with others.
Fro the 26th time the Rector Major is offering the Congregation a mission theme to help make known the involvement of confreres, and so open eyes and hearts to new mission opportunities. In 2013 our attention turns to the African continent, where thanks to the missionary efforts of many provinces through Project Africa (1978-2005), most of the confreres working in this region today are local: about 1000 African Salesians! The freshness in faith of the young Churches, now making up some 150 million faithful, has really become a spiritual lung for all humankind.
As I do each year, I would like to point out the deeper reasons for Salesian Mission Day, which has already found a place in the educative and pastoral planning of many provinces.
In our second year of preparation for the Bicentenary of Don Bosco's birth we are invited to come to an understanding of his pedagogy. In the four Lives he wrote about his boys: Luigi Comollo, Dominic Savio, Francis Besucco and Michael Magone, Don Bosco offers concrete models of disciples of Jesus to his sons who are educators to faith of young people.
The Salesian society is the result of a simple catechism lesson (cf. C. SDB 34). We are aware that if a Salesian takes up his vocation and mission as catechist again after many years, he renews his sense of faith and being an educator to faith of the young. The theme of SMD 2013 aims to help us be more available as spiritual companions of the young, so that in the first instance we return to the practice of personal spiritual direction as part of being faithful to our calling. The photo of Don Bosco hearing the confession of a future successor, young Paul Albera, is a highly symbolic one for us.
We also find ourselves in the context of the Year of Faith (11 October 2012 – 29 June 2013). In these words, on 16 October 2011, Pope Benedict XVI highlighted its real motivation: “I think that after half a century since the opening of the Council, tied to the happy memory of Blessed Pope John XXIII, it is appropriate to recall the beauty and centrality of the faith, the need to strengthen it and deepen it on a personal and community level, and to do so not in a celebratory perspective, but rather a missionary one, the mission ad gentes and new evangelisation”.
The theme of SMD 2013 helps us understand the urgency of the personal journey of faith, one that can never cease. We are disciples on the road and we seek daily, more and more, to follow the Master. If our heart is not evangelised we cannot become evangelisers of the young who are waiting for us, and we will not be able to animate our catechists in their important role.
One way of strengthening a mission culture is to disseminate information about the missions in an attractive way, each day. Thanks to the many video products around the Salesian world, like for example those from “Missioni Don Bosco” (Turin) the Congregation and the Salesian Family is up to date with missionary life today. Every year some 15 DVDs are sent out to 53 TV stations and 4000 Salesian Houses (SDB and FMA) in 133 countries around the world. Visiting Salesian communities, however, I have seen two extremes: in some cases the cassettes remain in their plastic wrap, while in others the DVDs are copied and set around to leaders and catechists in all the mission stations or basic communities and large parishes. There are some communities that watch a brief mission video every week. SMD 2013 offers five short videos on the journey of faith, in seven languages - Italian, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Polish and German – and these can help communities rediscover this great wealth of our Congregation. Dozens of films on the missions within close reach!
My dear friends, I invite you to accept the challenge of helping the young to embark on the journey of faith and walk with them as patient catechists. Thank you for your courageous response to his final invitation ".. You will be my witnesses! " (Acts 1:8), entrusting this Salesian Mission Day 2013 to the guidance and protection of Mary, Mother of the Church.
Affectionately, in Don Bosco
Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva