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BUONA NOTTE: Plenum Report of of the Winter Plenary session of the General Council 20-1-2004


Good night of the Rector Major Fr Pascual Chavez


Good night of the Rector Major Fr Pascual Chavez
to the community of the Generalate
at the conclusion of the Winter Plenary session
of the General Council
(ANS 23-1-2004)

Taking advantage of this traditional good night I want to bring you uptodate at the end of the work of the Plenary session of the General Council, anticipating this by two days. The winter session of the General Council in fact will finish in two days time, but the Mass we are celebrating on Wednesday 21 January to greet and thank Mgr. Luc Van Looy, and the appointment with those taking part in the Salesian Spirituality Days, to whom I shall speak on Thursday evening persuaded me to anticipate it in this way This period of two months of work has been particularly intense and very demanding, both on account of the agenda we set ourselves and because of the circumstances which accompanied it. Among these was the appointment of my Vicar as bishop of Ghent with the consequent domino effect it produced. First of all we had to appoint the new Vicar, the new Regional for Italy and the Middle East, and the new Roman Provincial. This latter appointment has also made it necessary to find a replacement for him as secretary of the CISI.

These days of the plenary session have also been marked by the sad event of the death of Fr Fedrigotti, a very fine confrere, from whom, humanly speaking one might still have expected many years of fruitful work. When you think that Fr Vecchi, when he was elected Rector Major was only 65 years of age, and he assured the Council that he felt just about mature enough to offer something to the Congregation. Fr Fedrigotti, on the other hand was not yet 60, and with the wealth of qualities he had been given he should still have been able to give many years to the Congregation. The course of his illness was extremely rapid and death came only a few months after his sickness began. His loss followed quickly after that of Fr Liberatore and Fr Brocardo. In the homily at the funeral Mass for Fr Fedrigotti, I said that theA Lord had visited us very forcefully and had asked us to carry out his will, an inscrutable truth but one that requires trusting understanding of his ways and of his thoughts.

As regards the work in the council, first of all we have appointed 11 new Provincials. The Provincial of AFO, Manuel Jimenez; of ATE, Jos Antonio Vega; the first Provincial of the new Vice Province of AFW (West Africa), Riccardo Castellino; of the BMA province, Dalmasio Medeiros; of the BRE province, Joao Carlos Ribeiro; of the GBR province, Michael Winstanley; of the INH province, Noel Maddhichetty; of the IRO province, Gianluigi Pussino; of the PLO province, Boleslaw Kezmierczak; of the PLN province, Zbigniew Lepko; of the THA province, Joseph Prathan.

In this plenary session we have also erected 4 new Vice Provinces, the first of these in West Africa (AFW) containing the confreres of the houses previously maintained by other provinces, and now brought together into one circumscription. The salesian houses in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria are now part of it. We have created 3 other new Vice Provinces belonging to the South Asia Region: the former delegation of Myanmar, that belonged to the Calcutta province; the former delegation of Sri Lanka, which was in the Madras province; the former delegation of Konkan, that was part of the Bombay province. With these new Vice Provinces the Congregation practically reaches 100 juridical circumscriptions. Only a few months ago, during 2003, we carried out the unification of the two Venetian provinces. In 2005 the two German provinces will be re-unified and later the provinces of Holland and North Belgium will be united.

We have examined 8 reports of Extraordinary Visitations. This is one of the most important interventions of animation and government for the life of the provinces, through a study that takes place in the Council on only two occasions: when the state of the province is examined before the appointment of a new provincial, and immediately after an ExtrAaordinary Visitation. One must say that from these visitations one often has the impression that the tangible fruits leading to a real change in the province that has been visited do not materialise. But you cannot even make this dependent upon the fact that an Extraordinary Visitation is made. In fact, for the Visitations to be fruitful three determining factors are absolutely necessary: above all a good analysis of the state of health of a province, and this is the task of the Visitor; in the second place the incisiveness of the guidelines given, and I can tell you that when these are clearly identified and traced out, and especially put into practice, the ideal conditions are present; for a significant turning point in the life of the provinces; finally, this has a great influence on the third factor that makes the Extraordinary Visitations fruitful, and that is the willingness to ensure that the recommendations given are put into practice, and this is particularly up to the provincial and his council, and it is the task of the General Council to monitor and to assist with the implementation of the course of action indicated.
Among the other topics that we have dealt with I only mention a few that seem to me to be more significant. We have discussed and we have studied a possible way of conducting the General Chapter. In particular we have seen how this can already develop from the team visits from which the challenges which are being faced in different situations should emerge, since, from the various different observations it should be possible to have an overall view of the identity, of the vitality and the way the Congregation is planning to go in the various contexts. With the topic that we want to propose for the Team Visits we want to carry out an assessment of the last 20 years in the life of the Congregation, that is from GC22, in which the text of the Constitutions was renewed, up until GC25. We havent had much time to go very deeply into this topic in a consistent way and therefore we have had to concentrate in our study on studio GC25 and to see how this has been communicated, how the 5 practical schemes of work have been taken up, what difficulties have been encountered in the provinces and especially what benefits have come from it. Beside these some questions emerged which will help us to define the themes for GC26 better.

Another topic that we have just finished looking at is that of vocational frailty, a problem that is causing concern to all the Congregations and all the dioceses. It often happens that after scarcely 2 or 3 months of profession, the confreres no longer have the will, the motivation or the energy to continue in their salesian life, giving up consecrated life. We hope that our proposal produces in the provinces some reflection on the reasons for people leaving and above all encourage them to ensure that the formation procedures are better implemented.

We have approved the financial budget, - for the first time given that previously we were only involved in approving the balance sheet. Important choices had to be made and some extraordinary work that had become necessary was approved at Colle Don Bosco, at the UPS, at the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians and at the Pisana.

Other occasions that I want to share with you. Above all the course for the new provincials. Last time 9 provincials took part, and one of them has taken the fast track to arrive in the Generalate community, Fr Pier Fausto Frisoli who had scarcely completed the formation process for new provincials and has been called into the General Council to take the place of Fr Bregolin. This means that these courses are very successful. It is an experience rather than a course of communion, a time during which the provincials are offered an overall framework of dimensions and the areas covered by the expression animation and government of a province. Basically the course is aimed at enabling the new provincials to carry out the main function to which they have been called: to animate and Agovern a province. Clearly the course cannot satisfy all the needs of the provincials, and therefore the Regionals through meetings of provincial conferences, along these lines and on the basis of an exchange of experiences between the old and the new provincials provide a complementary formation programme.

We have had a meeting with the General Council of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a practice begun some years ago of meeting every six months during the summer plenary session in the FMA Santa Rosa house at Castelgandolfo, and during the winter session here at the Pisana. A meeting of this nature is meant to be a sign of the willingness to seek a way forward together, deepening and re-vitalising our common charismatic roots and promoting a greater synergy in the areas where we are working. On this occasion, the topic we dealt with was the significance of the approaching beatifications for the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians with Sr Eusebia Palomino, for the Salesian Congregation with the priest Fr Augustus Czartoryski, with the Salesian Cooperator Alessandrina Da Costa, and we need to add, with the Past Pupil Alberto Marvelli. Just this morning the official information arrived from the Segretariat of State that on Sunday 25 April the beatification of the three members of the Salesian Family will be celebrated in St Peters Square, while that of Alberto Marvelli has been set for next October. After a brief introduction to the topic there was a very valuable discussion which concluded with the decision to establish a working commission to prepare for the great event of the beatifications. The meeting of the two General Councils of the FMA and SDB also devoted some time to looking at the initiatives and the pastoral plans connected with the 50th anniversary of the canonisation of St Dominic Savio and the centenary of the death of Laura Vicuna. I can tell you that there are many initiatives in progress.

And finally a word about the meeting of the theological comAmission of the USG (Union of Superiors General) to which I belong and in which I took part. The theme was decided for the next Assembly which will take place at the end of next May. The theme we shall consider is the Mutuae Relationes Populi Dei. This title indicates how we shall consider not only the Mutuae Relationes, the document written 25 years ago that tried to create links of communion between the bishops and religious life, but see the document from the perspective of an ecclesiology of communion, a new paradigm of the relationships within the Church between bishops, religious, lay people and movements. Why? Above all because there is no shortage of problems. Much is still said about communion but in practice a very great deal remains to be done to reach the objective set by Lumen Gentium from the Vatican Council II. At the same time we are continuing preparations for the World Congress of Consecrated Life, which will take place in Rome between 23 and 27 November, with the theme: Passion for God, compassion for humanity. These are two inseparable elements which are the foundation of consecrated life in which the love and passion for God is transformed into love and service ones brothers and sisters, the primary commitment of the mission of every consecrated person. The Good Samaritan has been chosen as the icon. It is said that a spirituality without theology runs the risk of becoming spiritualism, and a theology without spirituality runs the risk of becoming ideology, and this happens often. A passion for God with compassion for man become idolatry, a compassion for man without a passion for God is reduced to philanthropy.

I give everyone my best wishes for happy salesian feasts. The day after tomorrow we shall celebrate the centenary of the death of Laura Vicuna, on the 24 the feast of St Francis of Sales and on the 31 the feast of our beloved Father and Founder Don Bosco. The stimuli and examples provided by these Saints are to help us to model our lives on that of our Father and on thosAe who have known how to be his faithful disciples and devoted children, and above all perfect imitators. Thank you Good night Rome, Generalate, 20 January 2004

Fr Pascual Chvez V.
Rome, Generalate, 20 January 2004