150TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDATION
OF THE SALESIAN CONGREGATION
To the Salesian Confreres of the Congregation
Now that we have concluded the 26th General Chapter, which was a real Pentecost for all of us, we are ready to experience and celebrate an new event of grace: the 150th anniversary of the foundation by Don Bosco of the Salesian Congregation.
On the evening of 18 December 1859 at the Oratory of Saint Francis in Don Bosco’s room a group were gathered together, their intention “to promote and maintain the true charity that is needed in the work of the festive Oratories for youth abandoned and in danger”; as Fr Alasonatti writes in the minutes of this meeting. In the same minutes we then read: “The above mentioned participants decided therefore to band themselves into a Society or Congregation while, while aiming at the sanctification of each member by mutual assistance would strive to promote God’s glory and the salvation of souls, especially those in greater need of instruction and formation.”
1859 therefore is the year of the birth of our Congregation. So I want to propose to all the Confreres that we live 2009 as a year of grace, remembering where we come from, who we are, are where we are heading. With this celebration of our charismatic identity the pilgrimage of the casket of Don Bosco begins in all the Regions of our Congregation and in this way preparation starts for the bicentenary of his birth in 2015.
This event will be for all of us a spiritual and pastoral journey, that will begin with the Solemnity of Don Bosco on 31 January 2009, that will have as key moments the 24 June, his name-day, and the 16 August, his birthday, and will culminate on 18 December 2009 with the renewal of profession by all of us Salesians. We shall give special thanks to Mary on 25 May, the Solemnity of the Help of Christians. In this way we are given the opportunity to “start afresh from Don Bosco”, Founder of our Congregation, of the Salesian Family and of the vast Salesian Movement.
It is a question of taking to heart our identity as consecrated persons, dedicated by vow to the primacy of God and the following of Christ obedient, poor and chaste, totally at the disposal of the Spirit, and precisely on account of this totally dedicated to the young. It is an identity to be lived with joy and to be visibly demonstrated in evangelising zeal, in love for the salvation of souls, in pastoral enthusiasm, that draw their inspiration from Don Bosco’s plan of life “da mihi animas, cetera tolle”. Our identity therefore ought to be clearly seen in the fire of apostolic passion.
During 2009 we shall find the time and various ways to study, meditate on and pray the Constitutions. They indicate to us the way to be faithful to Don Bosco’s charism and to our vocation. If during the course of the year we have gone over and re-discovered the goals of holiness traced out in our Rule of Life, then the renewal of profession on 18 December will be the fruit of a process of conversion and the starting point for a renewed offering of our lives to God for the young. The preparation and the celebration of perpetual profession this year should be given particular weight. We will also devote ourselves to the study of the document of the GC26 in order to familiarise ourselves with the letter and to take up its spirit. The Chapter document is the face of the Congregation today.
From the beginning the Salesian Congregation was made up of those young men in the Oratory who were caught up in Don Bosco apostolic zeal and his plan of life. 2009 asks us to tell young people the story of the beginnings of the Congregation, about those who were the “co-founders” with Don Bosco, and also asks us to involve them more and more in the apostolic commitment to the salvation of other young people. The apostolic involvement of the young is the natural soil in which the Salesian consecrated vocation grows. So many young people in the world who start out from an apostolic commitment find themselves captivated by this vocation. Let us have the courage to propose to the young the consecrated Salesian vocation! It is my hope that this six-year period, starting from this occasion of the 150th anniversary of our Society, may really be a period of great vocational fruitfulness.
The Strenna for 2009 is also an encouragement for us to consider our role in the Salesian Family. Born 150 years ago as a Congregation, we are aware that our Father was thinking not only about us but had always wanted to create a “vast movement of persons who, in different ways, work for the salvation of the young” (C. 5). In this and in the Salesian Family we have particular responsibilities. We have been envisaged as evangelisers of the young and as animators of a charismatic family.
Right from now in personal, community and province formation and spiritual programmes. these particular suggestions can be kept in mind. In this regard I have set up a Commission, coordinated by the Councillor for Formation, which in the next few months will offer you some useful material on the subject.
May the Spirit of Christ inspire us on this path; May Mary Help of Christians sustain us with her motherly care; may Don Bosco be our model and intercede for us.
Cordially in the Lord,
Rome, 24 June 2008
Birth of St John the Baptist
Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva