27 May 2012
Letter from the Regional Councillor for Africa and Madagascar
and the Councillor for the Missions.
Hearts filled with Easter joy, we offer a greeting of peace and joy to all confreres!
In a special way we greet all Salesians on the front line, sharing their experience of the Risen Jesus with young people from many cultures and religions in every continent. We are convinced that your testimony is the best image of Don Bosco today. For every Salesian, Pentecost is an invitation to grow in the missionary dimension of our Charism!
We present you with animation materials for the 26th Salesian Mission Day (SMD) 2013 – The Faith Journey in Africa! It is the result of teamwork by the 12 Provinces and Vice Provinces of the Africa – Madagascar Region and the Departments for the Missions and Social Communication.
Many Salesians ask us what we want to achieve each year through the SMD.
The first beneficiaries of Salesian Mission Day are we ourselves, the Salesians of Don Bosco. We are invited to make Benedict XVI's belief our own: “The first poverty of peoples is that of not knowing Christ!”.
With this clear, it is possible to indicate three specific aims of Salesian Mission Day 2013:
In his recent post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus the Pope reminded us once again that Africa is, for the world and the Church “a spiritual lung” (no.13;177) . In his address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2011: “Encountering this faith that is so ready to sacrifice and so full of happiness is a powerful remedy against fatigue with Christianity such as we are experiencing in Europe today”.
In many countries around the world, in fact, we have already forgotten that the Church can generate new children through the journey of the catechumenate. The fresh stories of young catechists and their young catechumens in Africa challenges us. A good 147 million Catholics in Africa (2011), with a growth rate of 6.5 million a year, is a sign of vitality and hope. Salesian Mission Day 2013 then is a further invitation to be more attentive to the Church, truly Catholic and Universal. We are being called to get to know the most beautiful face of the African Church today.
So we invite all provincial communities to listen to the experiences of the young African Churches which are still little known. We also invite young people in Mission groups and Volunteer movements to let themselves be inspired by the Christian initiation of their peers, catechists or young catechumens in Africa.
In many areas of the continent there are young Churches, many of them have barely a century of evangelisation behind them. In most cases Baptism is received at a young age. They would normally go through the catechumenate journey for Christian initiation, which culminates in their receiving the three sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. In many dioceses there is an effort to develop this process of Christian initiation in line with their traditional ways, very much alive in many parts and cultures of Africa. The catechist in African dioceses is not only the one giving catechism lessons, but the leader of the Christian community, especially in rural areas. In places where it is difficult for the priest to get to, they are the ones who lead community prayer, prepare people for the sacraments, administer development and finance in the community. In many cases they are the true guardians of the faith and the Church, to the point of martyrdom.
Benedict XVI says in Africae Munus: ‘Catechists are invaluable pastoral agents in the mission of evangelization. Their role was very important during the first evangelization, the preparation of catechumens and the direction and support of communities. "In a natural way they brought about a successful inculturation that has produced marvellous fruits (cfr Mk 4:20). Catechists have allowed their ‘light to shine before men’ (Mt 5:16), because seeing the good that they do, whole populations were able to give glory to our Father in heaven. Indeed, Africans have evangelized Africans". This role so important in the past, remains essential for the present and the future of the Church. I thank them for their love of the Church (no.125).
As Salesians of Don Bosco,in our lives as missionaries of the young in every province, let's compare ourselves with the zeal of young catechists in Africa!
Catechist formation and publishing catechetical materials in local languages do not feature regularly in projects for mission support in our provinces. The audiovisual material for SMD 2013 focuses on three experiences in the journey of faith (Angola, Tanzania and Togo).
The support project for this year aims at collecting funds for catechist formation (volunteers, full time) and producing catechetical materials in local languages in the three provinces of ANG, AFE, AFO. Each province is invited to send any contributions collected during the SMD 2013 campaign to the Fondazione Don Bosco nel Mondo (Don Bosco in the World Foundation) in Rome.
Finally, we thank all confreres in the African provinces involved in preparing these materials. As a sign of the close collaboration of the Departments for the Salesian mission, we are especially grateful to those in the Social Communication Department and Don Bosco Media - Eurofilm Turin.
Warm greetings then, with a special prayer for help from Mary our Mother and Help of all Salesians, lay partners and young people who walk together with the young towards Jesus Christ!
Fr Václav Klement Fr. Guillermo Basaňes
Councillor for the Missions Councillor for Africa – Madagascar Region