12 April 2009: Solemnity of the Lord's Passover
Dear confreres and friends of the Salesian missions!I greet you with a joyful heart for this Easter celebration, the Solemnity of the Lord's Passover, humanity's feast day 'par excellence' since it is a hymn to life's victory over death. It is the feast of all feasts in the Church which came about precisely through the Resurrection to be its witness throughout the world, a feast which designates who we are as a Congregation and a Salesian Family called to bring the young, especially the poorest and most needy of them, to the fullness of life in Christ.
In this Easter context I am happy to offer you a theme for the missions to propose to the whole Congregation. The chief scope of such an initiative is to give a push to mission animation by putting forward a proposal which can become a yearly concrete project.
And finally, after 1988 our attention goes, for the first time, to the European continent. We are talking about the new frontiers which GC 26 has urged us towards.
Salesian Missions day 2010, which will have the motto “The Salesians of Don Bosco walking together with young Gypsies”, presents us with a very meaningful and demanding theme. In the DVD which comes with this letter you will find experiences already taking place in three European provinces which have made a choice for Gypsies as a new frontier for their mission. To speak about Gyspies in Europe means opening one's eyes to a challenging reality of a population something around 12 million people, belonging to more than 15 ethnic groups who have been around the old Continent for centuries.
Here are the reasons which have: urged us to choose this theme:
- Right from the outset we wanted to give Project Europe a strong and convincing missionary push, in order to give life back to this continent. As the Church reminds us from the time of Paul VI until the recent 6th World Congress on Pastoral Care for Gypsies (Germany, Freising, September 2008), ‘Gypsies are at the heart of the Church’.
- We would like the Congregation, the Salesian Family, the Church and society to know about our involvement with them. We effectively have 10 European provinces (SBA, SLE, POR, GBR, BEN, GER, IME – Albania, INE, CEP – Bulgaria, SLK, UNG) involved in various ways on behalf of Gypsy youth. The last three provinces in particular listed above, during 2010 are offering experiences of communities involved in a true integration of Gyspies into the warp and woof of modern Europe, while respecting their precious thousand year culture. It can be noted that 3 SDBs have the role of National Director of Pastoral Care for Gypsies - in Slovakia, Italy and Germany.
- A warm and pastoral approach to this cultural and social situation, other than being our contribution to building bridges amongst the various ethnic groups which make up the Gypsies and European societies, should help remove many of the prejudices or other expressions mirroring real discrimination.
- And of course it should show that, faithful to Don Bosco, our contribution is always offered from an educational perspective, involving the Gypsies themselves so they become proactive in their own human, social and Christian development. Once again we find ourselves faced with an appeal for constructive dialogue between the Preventive System and Human Rights.
I encourage you to take up this invitation of mine to set out for and enter into this new frontier in order to “walk together with young Gypsies” and be a sign of God's love for them. Thank you for your generosity and solidarity.
With warm greetings in the Crucified and Risen Lord.
Rome, 12 April 2009
Fr. Pascual Chávez Villanueva, SDB