“Volunteers to proclaim the Gospel”
4 April 2010,
Solemnity of Easter
My Dear Confreres and Friends of the Salesian Missions,
I greet you with a heart full of joy at the celebration of the Solemnity of Easter, the Feast of mankind par excellence since with the conquering of death it represents a hymn to life, the Feast of Feasts of the Church, which precisely takes it birth from the Resurrection to bear witness to it before the world, the Feast by antonomasia in the Congregation and in the Salesian Family called to bring the young, especially those who are poor and most in need, to the fullness of life in Christ.
In this Easter setting I am pleased to present to you the missionary theme to be proposed to the whole Congregation in the year 2011, when the 125th anniversary occurs of the fifth missionary dream – the last – which Don Bosco had in Barcelona. The main purpose of this initiative is to give a strong impetus to Salesian missionary voluntary service in all our Provinces. The focus is on the continent of American, where some very significant experiences of voluntary service have been taking place, and which, for 40 years already, have involved thousands of young people. At Valdocco, on the last Sunday of September in the Missionary Expedition which we hold each year, we can see at the side of the religious many young people who bear witness to the free gift of their lives and their time to the Salesian mission as volunteers.
Salesian missionary day in 2011, which will have as its title “Volunteers to proclaim the Gospel,” gives us a theme of great significance, a subject specifically chosen for Salesian missionary voluntary service. In the DVD, which will follow this letter, you will find described some experiences from three Provinces in America, which show us this apostolic protagonism of the young, tried and tested over the years.
Here then are some reasons which led us to choose this theme:
- Returning to Don Bosco means also, discovering the most important dynamics of the preventive system, those of the apostolic groups which arose/began in the Valdocco Oratory. After 150 years, these dynamics are present, even though in a different way, in the various experiences of youth groups; all together they constitute a powerful experience of missionary voluntary service which has developed especially in recent years. Every years hundreds of young volunteers, coming from our centres are sent out to undertake a demanding mission. In voluntary service we find the must authentic expression of the young sent to evangelise, we find a serious faith journey, a visible expression of Salesian youth spirituality.
- We want to respond to the signs of the times, as the “Project for the six-year period 2008-2014” puts it: ‘To foster the development of voluntary service with a clear Salesian identity paying special attention to formation’ (section YM 4.2); in addition, ‘Accompanying the development of Missionary Voluntary Service – to encourage the setting up missionary groups, circulate information about successful experiences of youth voluntary service (missionary) and encourage its vocational outlet’ (section Missions 2.1.3). The delegates at the last GC26 expressed a strong desire for and commitment to the development in our Provinces of experiences of missionary voluntary service. We also find the subject emphasised by international bodies such as ’UNO (World Day of Voluntary Service 2001) and the European Union with the Year of Voluntary Service 2011.
- The continent of America has been chosen precisely because it was the first which developed formation and accompaniment programmes for explicitly missionary voluntary service. Some Provinces provide us with a rich tradition of voluntary service on which those Provinces which are just beginning this process can draw. In addition the theme for 2011 SMD is very much in harmony with the Strenna for 2010, through the same evangelising and vocational dimension. To sum up, we want to offer to the whole Congregation and to the Salesian Family a rich experience though short films and formation material produced in various Provinces, especially those in America.
My dear friends I encourage you to accept this invitation of mine to contribute to the development of missionary voluntary service in the cause of the Gospel, and for the protagonism of young people in the Salesian mission. I thank you for your generosity and solidarity.
Affectionately in the Crucified and Risen Christ,
Fr Pascual Chávez V., SDB