Roma, 31 gennaio 2009
First of all my very best wishes. In this letter I want to give you some news about practical developments regarding the “Project for Europe,” which Pope Benedict XVI in his two addresses at the GC26 and the Chapter itself indicated to us as one of the new frontiers, in the “relaunching of the Salesian charism” in this continent (GC26, 108).
The General Chapter XXVI in particular requested that «the Rector Major with his Council define the nature and the objectives of the Congregation’s intervention on behalf of a renewed Salesian presence in Europe» (CG26, 111). Already in my closing address at the GC26 I offered some initial explanations and guidelines in this regard; subsequently other steps were taken.
Last August I gave the Provincials of Europe and their Councils an Enquiry regarding the Project for Europe. I ask them to say what they thought about such a Project, to reflect on what they considered important in order to revive the Salesian witness and mission in the continent, to send me their proposals with regard to the priorities, forms of collaboration, the ways in which to coordinate the Project. The replies to these requests were interesting and valuable; they were the proposals in a “Working Document” I prepared, which contained in the first part a summary of these replies and in the second part the essential elements needed to put the Project into effect.
Then on 27-30 November at the Generalate there was a Meeting of the Provincials of Europe. At the beginning of the meeting I presented the Working Document. Starting from that, the Provincials and the General Councillors worked first in groups and then according to the Regions on the three areas on which the Project is focused: re-vitalisation from within of the Salesian presences, re-location and re-structuring, Europe a mission territory. At the end, the reflections and the proposals which emerged were given to the Rector Major and to the General Council for the drawing up of the Project. On that occasion it was also agreed that meetings of the Provincials of Europe would take place every two years and would be held in November 2010 and 2012.
Recently I set up the Commission for the Project for Europe. It is made up of the Councillor for Formation Fr Francesco Cereda, as the chairman; of the three Councillors for the Salesian mission: Fr Fabio Attard, Fr Vaclav Klement, Fr Filiberto Gonzalez; of the three Regional Councillors for Europe: Fr Pierfausto Frisoli, Fr José Miguel Nuñez, Fr Stefano Turanský; of three European Provincials: Fr Juan Bosco Sancho for the West Europe Region, Fr Stefano Martoglio for the Italy and Middle East Region, Fr Marek Chrzan for the North Europe Region. This Commission has the task of identifying the objectives and the strategies of the Project for Europe, of defining them for each of the three areas, in terms of results that can be evaluated, encourage and monitor the implementation of the Project. It will meet every six months in one of the Provinces in each of the three European Regions and then report to the Rector Major and the General Council.
Finally, in this winter session of the General Council we have completed the Formulation of the Project for Europe, which I attach to the letter of presentation. It will certainly be a help in setting the whole Congregation thinking and in enabling the activities of the Rector Major and the Council, of the Provinces and of the Regions of Europe, of the Congregation to converge. The Project having been drawn up, it is now a matter of putting it into effect; the path has been marked out and it will be easier to follow it.
Today we are beginning “the year of grace” for the 150th anniversary of the founding of our Congregation. The Project for Europe is the first seed of the GC26, which begins to take root precisely in that place where the Congregation began and from where Don Bosco’s charism has spread throughout the world. With this Project the missionary priorities indicated in the last six years are not diminished; they remain, while requiring us to look at Europe more specifically and in a more coordinated way.
In the letter he sent me at the beginning of the GC26, Pope Benedict XVI wrote this: «At a time when in Europe vocations are declining in number and the challenges of evangelisation are increasing, the Salesian Congregation needs to devote its attention to strengthening the proclamation of the Christian message, the presence of the Church and Don Bosco’s charism in this continent. Just as Europe has been generous in sending numbers of missionaries to the whole world, so now may the whole Congregation by making a special appeal to those Regions rich in vocations, be responsive in its regard» (GC26 p. 92).
This then is the time for missionary generosity; I therefore appeal to all of you, dear confreres, also those who are in initial formation, to respond with eagerness and enthusiasm to the needs of evangelisation, following the example of the great apostle and missionary Saint Paul, the two thousandth anniversary of whose birth the whole Church is remembering this year.
Let us entrust to Mary Help of Christians and to Don Bosco these proposals of ours; may they intercede for us.
Yours in the Lord,
Fr. Pascual Chávez Villanueva, SDB