SDB Resources

GC 21 - document 1 - 1978

XXI General Chapter of the Salesian Society



Editrice SDB

Edizione extracommerciale

Direzione Generale Opere Don Bosco

Via della Pisana, 1111

Casella Postale 9092

00100 Roma-Aurelio

Rome, 12 February 1978

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Contents Presentation

Signs and Abbreviations

Document 1: Salesians, evangelizers of the young ........... 1-165

Document 2: The Salesian Brother: a "lay-religious" vocation at

the service of the salesian mission ...................... 166-211
Intervention of the Rector Major on "Sharing in the life and

government of the Congregation" ........................ 212-239

Document 3: Formation to salesian life ...............     240-342

Document 4: Opera PAS and the Salesian Pontifical University


Document .5: Revision of the Constitutions and Regulations . . 371-446

Deliberation: Confirmation of the decisions of the SGC concerning the Faculty granted by the M.P. Ecclesiae Sanctae II 1, 7


Appendices: 1-19 (Cf Index) ......................... 448-592

Analytical Index General Index


The 5 Documents of the GC21 have been arranged in logical order which differs to some extent from the practical order in which they were prepared and presented in the assembly by the respective Capitular Commissions.


My dear confreres,

I am pleased that the first letter in which the new Rector Major greets you and meets you fraternally, even though briefly, should be the promulgation of the Documents of the 21st General Chapter. In choosing the official presentation of our chapter work for this first encounter we enhance and enrich our fraternal solidarity.

We feel immediately at home and at our ease because we are dealing with something directly linked with the heart and wishes of our Father Don Bosco, something both vital and intimate at the highest level. Such a meeting immediately creates an air of friendship; we are talking about the reason for our existence, the present-day meaning of our common vocation; we are touching the most delicate point of the fundamental choice that each one of us deliberately made at his religious profession.

We feel a proper appreciation of each others significance and importance, because the General Chapter relies on the capabilities and responsibility of each confrere; in effect it outlines a future of which we are to be the architects and builders, and exhorts us to be calm but none the less resourceful in our task. And so this first meeting reflects the joy of our vocation and opens up a vision of hope.

We are in the period immediately after the GC21. We know very well that with the passage of time we become tired; but the present is a moment of youth in which it is lawful, and in our case even natural, for us to do a little dreaming. Even though somewhat laboriously and with the inevitable defects of any human enterprise, the chapter assembly has been a "moment of grace"; it must not pass unobserved ("timeo Deum transeuntem")!

We must let ourselves be stirred up and rejuvenated by the breath of the Holy Spirit; we must go back with Don Bosco to our origins, a time of dreams, when there was more emphasis on grace than on human calculations, when vitality was more evident than crisis, when there was more concern about future planning than brooding

8                          PRESENTATION

over past failure. Let us reawaken in ourselves the psychology of those times, confident in the intervention of the Lord who periodically renews our youth. Even those who are older, even the sick, even those who are tired and in the evening of life, let all feel at this time a deep gratitude to the Lord who renews us.

With the GC21 he is making a new appeal to us: our vocation is not in fact a dialog of the past, now closed; it is always open in an attitude of conversion and hope to new invitations from the Spirit of God.

With this letter I present and officially consign to you the new chapter documents. The Constitutions tell us that "all members will readily accept the deliberations (of the GC) which become of obligation for all as soon as they have been promulgated by the Rector Major" (Art. 152). Let us therefore receive these documents with gratitude and loyalty.

I invite you to read attentively my concluding discourse to the members of the Chapter (n. 552-592), and to look upon it as a presentation; it will enable you to see at once in synthetic form the main lines of the Chapters work. There are three principal objectives to which our duty of conversion must be directed:

— we must become specialists in taking the gospel to the young; — we must live as authentic religious with a mission to fulfil;

— we must take care of the process of on-going formation through

renewed salesian animation.

You will find in the text the launching sites from which our re-launching must take place: the Word of God, the Constitutions, the Preventive System, the spiritualization of the role of the Rector, correlative and complementary aspects in the figure of the confreres.

I want to draw your attention here to what I would call a strategic element: the reactivation of the Marian aspect of our vocation; she will ensure a climate which will render our efforts efficacious. A doctrinal and cultual revival of devotion to Mary Help of Christians, designed to insert the salesian family actively into the Marian movement of the present day, will enable us (even miraculously, as Don Bosco assures us) to realize a new flourishing of vocations, and the courage and clear thinking that we need so much today in the fight for the faith.

The Help of Christians will lead us, as in Don Boscos dream at the age of nine and as always in the history of salvation, to Jesus Christ; she will help us to become, with and like Don Bosco, his faithful disciples; she will prompt us to make of our life an explicit testimony

PRESENTATION                          9

to his paschal victory by which he saved the world, and with which we enthusiastically join all our energies -7 the fruits of intelligence and the initiatives of love — for the salvation of todays youth.

Dear confreres, let us look on these chapter documents as a message of grace for our life and work: let us study them personally, make them the object of serious reflection in community, and draw up concrete programs for their practical application.

I greet each one of you with affection and hope, and I ask each of vou personally for your continual prayers and daily sacrifices for the new Rector Major: they will redound to the good of the Congregation. I thank you all for your work and fidelity, and I assure you of my personal dedication to all of you, through the daily celebration of the Eucharist.

Mav the love of the Father — rich in initiative, the zeal of Christ  generous in obedience, and the joy of their Spirit, enliven the heart of every confrere and refine the atmosphere of every salesian house.

Let us be one in faith and hope, united in heart and soul in the strength of mutual love.

And now the watch-word is: "To work!" Affectionately,


Rome, 24 February 1978


art.       article

c., chap.    chapter

cf       compare

doc.      document

ibid.      ibidem

p., pp.     page, pages

1. Acts of the Magisterium

AA        Apostolicam Actuositatem

CD        Christus Dominus

CP        Communio et Progressio

EN        Evangelii Nuntiandi

ES        Ecclesiae Sanctae

ET        Evangelica Testificatio

GE        Gravissimum Educationis

GS        Gaudium et Spes

LG        Lumen Gentium

OT        Optatam Totius

PC        Perfectae Caritatis

PO        Presbiterorum Ordinis

PP        Populorum Progressio

RC        Renovationis Causam

RdC      Rinnovamento della Catechesi (Catechetical Renewal)

SC        Scuola Cattolica (The Catholic School)

SDV      Summi Dei Verbum

Syn.77      Message of the Synod on Catechesis

SCRIS     Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes

Oss. Rom.    Osservatore Romano

SIGNS AND ABBREVIATIONS                             11

2. Salesian abbreviations

ASC       Acts of the Superior Council

ASGC     Acts of the Special General Chapter

AWCSB    Acts of World Congress of Salesian Brothers

BM      Biographical Memoirs

CC       Salesian Cooperators

Const     Constitutions

DB      Don Bosco

DBV      Don Bosco Volunteers (Volunteers of Don Bosco)

EE       Past Pupils, (USA Alumni)

Ep., Epist.    Epistolary of Don Bosco

FMA      Daughters of Mary Help of Christians

FP       Ongoing Formation

FS       Salesian Family

FSE       Faculty of Education Sciences (UPS)

GC      General Chapter

LAS       Libreria dellAteneo Salesiano

LGC       Letter of Grand Chancellor

MB      Memorie Biografiche

MHC      Mary Help of Christians

MM      Mass media

Op. Sist. Prey. Opuscolo sul Sistema Preventivo di Don Bosco

Op. Ed.    Opere Edite (Edited works)

PAS       Pontificio Ateneo Salesiano

RCS       Report of Superior Council (on restructuring of Opera


RDF       Report of Formation Department

Reg      General Regulations

RF, RFIS    Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis

RI        Ratio Institutionis

RM      Rector Major

RRM      Report of Rector Major on State of Congregation

Sch Precap.  Precapitular schemes, GC21

SB       Salesian Brother

SDB       Salesians of Don Bosco

SGC       Special General Chapter

SGUPS     General Statutes of UPS

SP       Salesian Priest

Stat. Conf.    Statutes of Past Pupils Confederation

Syn      Synod

UPS       Salesian Pontifical. University

VDB      Volunteers of Don Bosco (Don Bosco Volunteers)

YA       Youth Apostolate





INTRODUCTION .............................. 1-19

Part 1 YOUTH AND ITS CONDITION ................ 20-30



1. The evangelized community

1.1 The gift of brotherhood and evangelization ............. 34-37

1.2 The gift of consecration and evangelization ............... 38-41

1.3 The gift of prayer and evangelization ................. 42-45

1.4 Animation of the community for evangelization: role of the rector .  46-57

1.5 Practical directives ............................. 58-61

2.       The community as animator

2.1 The salesian community animator of the educative and pastoral com-

munity ..................................... 63-68
2.2 The participation of cooperators and past pupils in the pastoral and

educative work of the SDB ......................... 69-75
2.3 The collaboration of other laymen in the educative and pastoral com-

munity ..................................... 76-78

2.4 Practical directives ............................. 79


NESS ..................................... 80-119

1.      The salesian educational and pastoral plan

1.1 Contents .................................. 81-95

1.2 Style .................................... 96-104

1.3 Practical directives ............................ 105

2.                                                                   Vocational fruitfulness       106-119


1.                                                            The oratory and youth center: settings for evangelization    121-127

2.                                                            The school: a setting for evangelization   128-134

3.       The parish: particular aspects of the salesian evangelizing presence . 135-142

4.                                                            The missions      143-147

5.                                                            Mass media: a means of evangelization    148-153

6.                                                                   New modes of salesian presence for evangelization    154-161

CONCLUSION ............................... 162-165


The GC21 consigns this document to the confreres with the fraternal 1 hope that in it they may find light and helpful encouragement in their task of witnessing the gospel and taking it to the young. "There are millions of them in the world," the Pope told us, "often confused and bewildered by a multiplicity of discordant voices, who are waiting for your saving word; they are looking for the friendly hand of a brother, who will guide them with quiet certainty towards the Absolute."

To meet and reply to their expectations, this document was born.

1.It is a practical document, in the sense that it begins from the 2 evaluation of the present situation and its problems, and leads to conclusions which it invites us to adopt to render our work more faithful and efficaciously apostolic.

2.It is a family document. The conclusions are motivated by refe- 3 rence to a framework of common values shared by all the salesian family. It is not a question of ideas divorced from actual salesian life, but of those found concretely in it. They become fully the constitutive elements of that life when efficacious evangelization is a consequence of fidelity on the part of the confreres; and when the latter find themselves in difficulties, that life suffers; it becomes impoverished and begins to fade away and asks to be revitalized.

For this reason the term "frame of reference" has been adopted; it is a picture to which that life can compare itself as to an exemplar, to which it can aspire as to a saving ideal. The document begins and ends with concrete facts. It is not in any sense a complete treatise; it is much less than that, but it may well be the more precious on that account because of its particular point of view and those to whom it is addressed.

Paul VI to the GC21 (n. 477).

16                        CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

The documents very composition or structure bears this out. Each part deals with a practical problem, which it evaluates in the light especially of the Constitutions, and for which is then indicated the line of solution, followed by the practical directives which seem most urgent for a concrete conclusion.

4 3. It is a meaningful document for the present day. The Church is calling for our services at a moment in history when the emphasis is on evangelization. The originality and creativeness proper to our charism leads us to try to interpret and live this moment in a salesian way, because "no one can be unaware of the connection between our argument and the problems of education in the present day." 2

Our charism must be one of the "designs" for meeting the needs of "modern youth, so thirsty for truth and far-reaching designs." 3 The idea therefore that links the various parts of the document and gives them unity is our vocation as evangelizers, which becomes real when it is lived out in our pastoral and educative projects, restudied and put into practice.

5 4. This commitment is urged upon us by the letter which Cardinal Villot, in the name of the Holy Father, sent to Fr. Ricceri, and by the address which the Pope himself gave to the General Chapter in private audience. The points on which he dwelt and in connection with which the sons of Don Bosco "are filially submissive and at his disposal for the good of the universal Church" 4 are interrelated with each other and give a soul and vitality to our document.

6 5. The Pope, after praising the choice of the general study theme of the GC21, spoke of Don Bosco, a sustaining and restraining presence who goes ever before us with youthful and dynamic tread. He recalled the reference in his Memoirs to Don Boscos "priestly thirst" which made him want to "launch out among the young so as to know them intimately and so be able to help them keep away from evil."

The thirst of his vocation, and young people and their condition, form the two dimensions of the life of Don Bosco. And "at a time which was so complex and calamitous" he lived them out as "a true champion of the history of Italy and of the Church."5

2 Message of the Synod of Bishops on catechesis, no. 1.

3 From the text of the address of homage read to the Holy Father by Fr. Egidio Viga no (n. 464).

4 Constitutions art. 128.

5 Paul VI to the GC21.


6. This heavy responsibility arising from the charism whichwe also 7 share lays on us obligations in the same direction:

a)   We put to ourselves emphatically the problem of our fidelity in "following Christ in a total and unconditional way. by means of a generous, joyous and faithful practice of the evangelical counsels" in Don Boscos spirit, to show to young men and boys "a face that is not just a mask but the clear manifestation of a brotherly love reflecting that of God himself which is greater than our own heart (1 Jn 3, 20).6 "Give first place to the religious spirit," says the letter of Card. Villot.

b)  "We maintain the special character of salesian work and pedagogy and this more especially because the requirements both in the Church and in civil society today appear to correspond more than ever to the particular apostolate of the sons of St. John Bosco, whose first interest and preference has always led them to dedicate them-selves to the male section of young people."

c)   We live this vocation and charism, following Don Bosco who was a "true champion," as men of faith and dedication who through their acquired skill are able to reawaken the creative inventiveness of the gift of God.

7. The directing and correcting figure of Don Bosco and that of the 8 Pope, who "points out the determining factors of our identity at a moment of change when it is not easy to see clearly" compel us to reflect on these decisive sectors, and lead us to make an objective evaluation with a consideration not only of the values and principles to be retained and developed but also of the urgent need to find suitable means for defending them.

6 Ibid.

7 Letter of Card. Villot to Fr. Alovsius Ricceri, 29 Oct. 1977 (n. 448).

8 Intervention of Fr. Egidio Vigano in the Chapter assembly.


9 "Preaching the gospel and catechizing are fundamental to our mission. As salesians we are all and at all times educators in the faith."

This service which "demands from our communities ability to announce, and courage to bear witness to the gospel," was proposed to us also in the message of the Bishops, meeting in the Fourth Synod. They are of the opinion that "in the next ten years catechetics will be throughout the world the natural and most fruitful terrain for the renewal of the entire ecclesial community." 3 And they thank those religious communities who provide renewed hope "in the great spiritual fecundity for a world lived in the spirit of the Beatitudes." The Pope himself refers to the "immense contribution" made by those religious who are witnesses to sanctity, and dedicate themselves to making Christ known "with an inventive originality.that excites admiration."

10 This inventiveness and originality for us salesians arises from and is continually nourished by a double source: from Christ and his gospel, lived according to Don Boscos spirit, and from the young who "are said to abhor all that is false and fictitious and to look only for the transparently true."

We wonder whether we really believe what we proclaim whether we live what we believe, whether we truly preach what we live, attentive to the appeals coming from the young; whether we really bear witness to an effective solidarity with them and at the same time a solidarity with the Absolute which is God."

Const. 20.

2 Ibid.

3 Message of Synod 1977, n. 4.

4 Message of Synod 1977, n. 18.

5 EN 69.

6 cf Const. 101.

7 EN 76.

9 cf EN 76.


"Following closely. Jesus Christ, we choose a deeply christian way 11 of loving God and our brethren with undivided heart."9 For this we point in the first place to the Constitutions, faithfully put into practice, as a privileged criterion of our identity as individuals and as a community. And we affirm the necessity to know them, accept them and live them, so as to be able to present once again the riches of the apostolic heart and intentions of Don Bosco, "a man of God and Gods man for the young., n:1

In this sense we reaffirm also the enduring value of Tradition which the Rector Major and General Chapter, in the light of the life of the confreres, interpret with authority and propose afresh in a new way.

At present the ASGC have a special importance for us; although they bear "the imprint of our weakness, they are a valid attempt to bring Don Bosco close to the youth of our time, and they contain "the motivation of the Constitutions themselves and the principles from


which they spring.

Secondly we recognize in youth itself the other source of our inspi- 12 ration in spreading the gospel. We salesians are sent to the young, and especially to the poorest of them, and we collaborate in the creation of a new society grounding to the full their life in faith.

We meet these young people in different countries of the world, and they present a great diversity with different standards of conscience and freedom; sometimes fixed and closed in on themselves because of the emargination caused by their poverty, sometimes a prey to contradictions and conflicts even of a violent nature, and occasionally following Christ and already at work on the building of a more human society.

In each and every one of these young people one can detect the need for truth, for freedom and human growth, and the desire (often no more than implicit) of a deeper knowledge of the mystery of God.

They go through this experience as living parts of a setting called 13 "the youth situation.” It is made up of tendencies and reigning

Const. 75. ASGC 769. ASGC 769.

12 ASGC Introduction p. ix.

13 Message of Synod 1977 n. 1.


20                          CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

values which make easier the growth in faith of their humanity, or make it more difficult.14

The harmonious relationship which is so necessary to educate them, liking what they like but without abandoning our adult role of salesian educators, becomes in this way both difficult and complex.

And yet the gift of God which is our vocation is a source of hope; we must update our skills, but even more must we believe in the force of the Spirit and the special gift he has given us to enable us to conquer every fear and not desert the difficult field of our youth commitment.

The GC21 therefore looks on the one hand at the young and perceives a happy coincidence between their expectations, the appeal they make to us, and our own mission; 15 and on the other it looks at the new engagement of the Church to evangelization and discovers in our mission of taking the gospel to youth the fundamental characteristic of our identity.

14 But how do we set about this work of evangelization? As sharers in the evangelizing activity of the Church we believe in Don Boscos charism and hence in our own particular way of evangelizing the young. This we do in a realistic way by means of the salesian educational project, the "Preventive System", rethought and reactivated with its operatives, content, aim, style and means in the various settings in which we work.

We are well aware that education and evangelization are specifically distinct activities of their class, but nevertheless there is a strict connection between them on the practical plane of existence. In Don Bosco and his preventive system salvation refers to the whole of the young person. It is freedom from sin and growth in Christ even to the level of sanctity, but it is also freedom from the many conditions•of poverty and dereliction, of social and cultural subjection, so that the young may become "upright citizens." 16

Today Evangelii Nuntiandi confirms this notion. The various elements in the process of evangelization ("presence, sharing the lives and fortunes of fellowmen, . renewal of mankind, witness, open proclamation, commitment of the heart, entry into the community,

14 cf EN 19.

15 Address of Pope Paul to GC21 (n. 467-478).

16 cf EN 31.

SALESIANS EVANGELIZERS OF THE YOUNG                                 21

reception of the signs, apostolic action"), far from being in conflict and even mutually exclusive in fact complement and en-rich one another."

We salesians, evangelizers of the young, accompany our work by 15 accepting as a necessary preliminary the evangelization of ourselves.

As individuals and as a community of believers we have a specific charism in virtue of which we dedicate ourselves to education." Set in the midst of the world we are often tempted by idols" and we know that we have an incessant need to listen to the word of God and be converted to it to nourish the heart by fidelity to the commandments in his love and with motives of hope and trust.

We need to conform ourselves to Christ in Don Boscos spirit so that like him we may be enabled to evangelize by educating.

To this end each of us, in the religious and educative community, 16 builds and cultivates, as far as lies in his power and with the help of his brethren, his own humanity and talents so that the community may be renewed. It becomes the place where God is present and communicates with us.

To this end we joyfully accept his initiative to consecrate us with the love of the chaste, poor and obedient Christ, and we reply with the joy and alacrity of our collaboration.

To this end, when we come to recognize his presence and the gift he has given us, we love him, we give him praise and thanksgiving. But precisely because we are sent by him to the young, we feel that our prayer becomes also light and strength. We are enabled to discern in the world the action of God in the events and life of youth, the significance of our consecration for their salvation, and we feel the urgent need for our collaboration.

The community develops this progressive self-evangelization 17 through the ministries which animate it, especially that of the rector. And in turn the community itself becomes an animator by inserting itself into the complexity of the social and ecclesial context of its neighborhood and promoting collaboration, so as to make a full and

17 cf EN 21. 15 cf EN 24. 19 cf SC 89.

2" cf EN 15.

22                        CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC2I

timely response to God who sends it, and to the young who await it.

To the extent in which this conversion is accepted, there will live in the community the soul of the "preventive system," which in addition to being a method of education is above all a spirituality; it is a love freely given, inspired by the love of God which forestalls every creature by his divine providence, accompanies him by his constant presence and saves him by giving his life for him.

18 The GC21 intends to draw attention to some problems existing in the life of the Congregation, as evidenced by the authoritative indication of the Holy Father, the data and urgent requests sent in by provincial chapters and individual confreres and felt by the Chapter members, or arising from the Rector Majors report. As far as possible it desires to evaluate their positive and negative aspects and give guidelines concerning points which seem to be of fundamental and practical importance.

It refers back to the picture of common and accepted values (Constitutions and ASGC) for the justification of certain attitudes it adopts, and to give meaning to the commitment it calls for from the confreres if they are to bear witness to the gospel and announce it to the young.

19 Practical directives

a)     Let the provinces decide on ways for promoting the knowledge and assimilation of the revised Constitutions. Let them be accepted as the concrete criterion of our identity and the basis for revision of life and future planning at both personal and community level. Let them be made the object of days of retreat, of formation workshops, and times of prayer. (cf "Formation to salesian life" n. 240-342).

b)     As a sign of unity and as an authoritative interpretation of our identity, let particular esteem be shown for the ASGC, the Acts of the GC21, the ASC, and the guidelines and directives provided by the Superiors. The best ways of doing this shall be decided at provincial level.

c)     Let a knowledge of salesian history and spirit be fostered through the researches and publications of the Center of Salesian Studies, by the publication of a critical edition of the Constitutions of our Society, by a greater diffusion of salesian literature (translated and in popular form), with the richest possible exchange of news and initiatives (Salesian Bulletin, ANS, Provincial Newsletters). (cf "Formation to salesian life" n. 342; cf also practical directive n. 105c of this document).



Evangelization presupposes an adequate knowledge of the young

Work of education if it is to be concrete and offer a useful service 20 cannot limit itself to general principles and vague guidelines. It must be precise as to content and method so that young people being educated may be shown that attention and respect taught us by the pedagogy of God who loves every individual, "calls each one by name," and makes him a protagonist of the Good News. It must take account of age, circumstances, culture and sex.

Evangelization proceeds therefore, and of ever increasing necessity, by way of an analysis of life-situations that influence the youthful personality. The models presented by the surroundings, the aspirations, the tensions and vindications which they induce, often find a ready reception in the mind of youth. They give rise to various emotions and attitudes, often at a subconscious level, which can prejudice or favor the educative process and the very understanding and acceptance of the gospel.

The object of this part of the document is to give a general account of the "youth situation," so as to prompt salesians, individually and as communities, to lend a willing ear to the voice of the world of the young and to keep it in mind in the educative and pastoral dialog of evangelization.

The situation

The Constitutions display a lively knowledge of the world of youth 21 and bid us be solid with them, to appreciate their values, to turn their

ASGC 34; cf n. 44, 47, 52, 54. 2 Const 9.

24                                CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

positive qualities to good account so as "to discover the gospel value" they already possess.4 The ASGC describe in broad outline the condition of youths starting from some of the signs of the present time.

The revision which preceded the GC21 brings us back in fact to a realistic analysis of the youth situation. It confirms that the announcement of the gospel must be adequately embodied in the complex context of the present day. And in this connection it emphasizes the considerable difficulties experienced by some salesians in accepting and understanding the young, in tuning in to their wavelength when discussing their problems, in getting into educative dialog with them.

All this has an influence on the choice of those for whom we should be working.

It is disturbing to note in many of our works a diminution in the number of this preferential group, and that we seem to be choosing others who have less claim to our attention.

22 The reasons underlying these facts are obviously complex and at times vary with the place in which the Congregation is called upon to carry out its evangelizing activity.

We list some of them:

23 The socio-cultural scene has undergone rapid change in many countries; in others the same kind of change is imminent. The effect is to increase the level of confrontation and rupture between the young and adult generations. Particularly disconcerting are the heightened conflicts appearing in some aspects of society, which the young deeply resent:

— the glorification and exploitation of the individual;

— the call for freedom, and its simultaneous repression in many instances;

— the aspiration to higher values, and the challenge to values of any kind;

— the desire for solidarity and at the same time the crisis of belonging; the growing drift towards anonymity and indifference;

3 Const 16.

4 Const 14.

5 ASGC 34-44.

6 ASGC 31-33.


— the rapidity of communications and diffusion of information, and the slowness of cultural and social reform;

— the search for unity and world peace, and the persistent conflicts in political, social, racial, religious and economic sectors;

— the exaltation of everything concerned with youth, and at the same time a cleavage at times between youth and whatever concerns work, involvement or responsibility.

The present socio-economic situation emarginates entire countries 24 and even in the most developed nations isolates vast areas of collective poverty. One notes the great hardship of many young people of the poor classes, cut off from the society to which they should belong, deprived of economic and cultural benefits and of the full exercise of their responsibility. They are prevented from becoming fully men.

The Church reflects this deep and rapid cultural change. Internally 25 a profound and wide revision of traditional culture has impaired the elaboration of human and christian values ;7« faith has undergone a vast process of secularization, which calls in question the ways in which christian teaching has been formulated and its credibility. Local christian communities find it difficult to communicate with youth, which feels itself different, occupied with new interests but wanting to share responsibility.

Externally in the meantime, new visions of man are being elaborated which are difficult to reconcile with, or completely opposed to, the christian view. The ideology is so strongly presented as to claim for itself the total meaning of existence, taking the place of the christian teaching.

In a salesian setting the lack at times of a systematic and positive 26

study of the reality of youth in process of change, and at other times

and insufficiently updated re-elaboration of the values inherent in

the salesian educative heritage, put a break on impulse and initiative,

and sometimes lead to a prejudicial lack of understanding.

The fundamental aspect for evangelization

Very many young people, immersed in this vast process to the 27 growth of which they themselves in part contribute, are striving to

7 Cf GC 54.

8 Cf EN 20, 63; GS 53.

26                        CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

find their bearings and pick out clearly the details of the picture of human and christian values for the purpose of their own maturation. They are like people who have gone astray and got lost. These are the ones to whom we dedicate ourselves with salesian generosity.

Nevertheless positive and promising signs are not lacking in the young and in youth groups, which if properly educated can in turn serve as leaven for the masses. In response to the invitation of the Council, they can "become the first and immediate apostles of the Young." 9

In line with the recent reflection of the Church, we hold that the decisive point is to encourage the deep and healthy aspirations of these young people by bringing to maturity their solidarity, explicit or implicit, with the gospel.

Youth has become conscious of itself and of its condition, and young people are maturing in their awareness of sharing and coresponsibility; not only because they are in a numerical majority -- by the year 2000 they will form two thirds of humanity — but because they are "harbingers of the future"; I° because the problems they pose, even though in a confused, clumsy and disconcerting manner, "will probably be tomorrow the problems of all" ;11 and because they tend to become the active subjects of evangelization."

28 They are sometimes openly critical of the institution itself and dissatisfied with the actual practice and religious experience they find in the ecclesial community. But they also make themselves sincerely available for research and comparison, with a marked propensity towards personal communication and dialog." They go back to the purity and root value of the gospel, and for this reason they question vigorously and sometimes inordinately the whole ecclesial community."

Recently there has been noted a reawakening to the inner values of prayer, of contemplation, and of interest for the word of God 5 which urges them on to action to improve the world. They are resolute in

9 AA 12; EN 72.

° Syn 1974. 1977, n. 3. Syn 1974.

12 Cf AA 3. Syn 1974.

13 Cf Syn 1974.

14 Cf Syn 1974.

15 Cf Syn 1974.


affirming an undeniable solidarity between faith and life;16 they are particularly sensitive about justice in the world; they demand a "christian industry in the formation of history";" they carry the practice of the faith even into concrete action in the social and political fields.

The salesian attitude

The recent study of the Church and its appeals, and the reflection 29 made by the salesian family based on the sane and serene realism of Don Bosco, oblige the salesian community to reveal and evaluate the expectations of youth, to promote their human and christian maturation and avoid the risk of a common levelling down. One must keep in mind their specific needs and their link with the world of study or factory, of agriculture or employment. Special care will be given to those boys and young men who live in a context of economic under-development and marginalization. We work for them on the basis of a fundamental solidarity in continuity with the novelty of the Good News, which is salvation offered to all men "as a gift of Gods grace and mercy." "

Practical directives

a)     The gravity of the youth situation of our time and the insistent appeal of 30 the Church and society obliges our Congregation, because of its specific mission, to mobilize the confreres in the next six years around the problems of the youth reality, and to make of them the primary objective of its renewal and its various activities.

b)     As a premise to every educational and pastoral program, salesians need to be more sensitive to the youth condition, understood in its expectations which are most in line with the gospel, through an adequate and serious analysis and by means also of direct contact with the young.

c)    At a provincial and local level an organic project is to be developed, capable of orienting the work of the whole community to the task of evangelization; it needs to be periodically evaluated and revised.

16 Cf GE 1; PP 21.

17 Syn 1974.

18 RdC 138.

19 EN 27.





31 The task of announcing the gospel derives from "Jesus himself, the Good News of God, the very first and greatest evangelizer." It flows from "the Holy Spirit, who is the principal agent"2 of evangelization. It was rooted historically and is realized now by the witness and announcement of messengers of the gospel. Through them the Church "seeks to convert both the personal and collective consciences" of people of various cultures and introduces them to the gospel, "proclaimed above all by witness."4

A study of evangelization therefore requires us to look at the persons whose labors bear witness to the gospel message.

At the same time "evangelization is for no one an individual and isolated act; it is one that is deeply ecclesial." 5 The gospel witness and announcement issues from the community, which while feeling within itself "a constant need of being evangelized" makes evangelization its own vocation. It stirs up, inspires and sustains diverse forms of collaboration in the one mission of evangelization.

As salesians we share in the mission of the Church in the manner proper to us. We publicly confess that the Fathers love has called and united us into a community for the evangelization of youth, carrying on a work of education inspired by the charism of Don Bosco and according to his Spirit: "We form a community of the

I EN 7.

2 EN 75.

3 EN 18.

4 EN 21; cf 20, 41.

5 EN 60.

6 EN 15.

7 EN 14.

8 EN 15, 19 ff.


baptized. We seek to be obedient to the Spirit and strive to realize through our religious consecration the apostolic design of our Founder."

Our religious life is lived in apostolic service: "the evangelical exi- 32 gencies, the search for perfect love, the practice of the counsels, the common life are lived in the context of and according to the demands of the apostolic work to be accomplished and they contribute their value to it." We reaffirm the "vital integration" of these two elements which mutually influence and enrich each other.

The GC21 shares the conviction of the SGC that "the extent to which a community is evangelical will be the measure of its being salesian."" We have been engaged in and have been solicitous in verifying the exactitude of this measure. Hence this General Chapter wishes to indicate to the confreres some norms which in the next six years will be of help to the communities as they strive to announce and bear witness to the gospel among the young.


The very phrase, "evangelical community" well expresses the wit- 33 ness value that our community, open to the gift of God and to its growth from within and from without, offers to the youth of the world.

Each of our communities receive gratuitously from the Lord the gift of brotherhood, the consecrated gift of chaste love, poverty and obedience, the gift of urgent prayer for the coming of Gods kingdom. Each community enjoys the fruit of the salesian charism and spirit. Each community is ready by its very life, more than by its words, to reflect the resplendent Word that it has received.

In accordance with the practical aim of the GC21, which is to verify rather than propose anew norms for community life, religious consecration, prayer, and apostolate, we are interested in drawing attention to a few problem areas that the experience of the past six years opportunely suggest for our consideration.

The emphasis which the SGC put on the community as the integrat-

9 Const 2.

I° ASGC 115.

ASGC 339.

30                                 CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

ing element of the salesian vocation shows its central importance.

Hence its renewal is of primary interest.° Accordingly, we will present the threefold aspects of renewal — brotherhood, religious consecration, and life of prayer — in conjunction with the theme of evangelization in and through the community.

1.1 The gift of brotherhood and evangelization

34 The purpose of the gospel announcement is to promote mans union with God and with his fellowmen.14 Therefore, the witness of a life of communion is a most important factor in evangelization n because it is in a way an experience anticipating the very reality that evangelization hopes to achieve.6

In changing times when civil society and to some extent the Church itself is subject to tensions, conflicts and divisions, "it is especially necessary for religious to give witness as persons whose vital striving to attain their goal — the living God — has effectively created unity and openness in the depth and steadfastness of their life in God.""

The "new man" is born from God in the spirit of brotherhood. In this regard we salesians need only to recall the brotherly atmosphere of the first community formed by Don Bosco."

When we speak of community we do not wish to limit the term to the local community where the personal relationships of the members with one another are more immediate. We mean also the provincial community which has the duty to foster the fraternal spirit in the local communities. In a sense the provincial community, which is much more complex than the local community, better represents the vastness of the salesian vocation and mission. Finally, by community we mean the whole Congregation" which shines forth in the universal Church as a distinct community of brothers.

35 We can safely say that in the last few years our community life has

12 Cf Const 3.

13 Cf ASGC 512.

14 Cf Jn 17, 21-23.

18 Cf Jn 13, 35; 17, 21-23; At 4, 32-33; EN 77.

16 Const 80, 90.

17 ET 34.

18 Cf ASGC 496 ff.

19 Const 57; ASGC 512.

20 Const 56.

SALESIANS EVANGELIZERS OF THE YOUNG                                 31

undergone a maturing process in both its human and religious aspects in response to the initiatives of the SGC.

It is with satisfaction that we note from the reports of the provincial chapters that the directives concerning the community have met with positive results in the style of life and action as well as in the implementation of coresponsibilitv.

In many cases there has been a growth in mutual acceptance of one another and in cordial relationships as a result of the fruitful overcoming of tension and polarization. The development of the family spirit has often enhanced joyful occasions and serene circumstances. The family spirit has found genuine expression in significant charitable gestures, especially in regard to the care of sick confreres. The community sense has been increased by practices of coresponsibility as prescribed by our Constitutions, which have fostered communication, dialog and understanding even among confreres of different ages and cultures.

But defects are not lacking.                               36

The GC21 considers it necessary to say a few words especially regarding individualism. The risk of individualism is very serious, and it is always close at hand. We can measure its seriousness by the fact that it takes confreres away from the community, from its structure and from its means of communication. In addition, it gives rise to the easy illusion of seemingly providing some confreres a style of life more appropriate for the following of Christ.

Individualism is manifested in the following ways:                 37

— in the difficulty of inserting and integrating the individual within the community. The community often becomes an instrument within an organization which guarantees purely external security and advantages;

— in the lack of a deep sense of belonging to the community, with a corresponding difficulty to enter into sincere dialog. One does not listen, nor speak freely in such circumstances. This is due to the fact also that some confreres are not disposed to understand the importance and religious significance of meetings in common. There is no fraternal correction, according to the rule of the gospel; and a climate of distrust and mutual prejudice is accepted with resignation;

— in the failure to assume responsibility in the pastoral and educative work of the community, since this would interfere with the

32                              CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

individual initiatives and activities arbitrarily taken up on ones own;

— in the phenomenon of "flights of affection" which deprive the community of the cordiality of brotherhood, of the typically salesian manifestations of gratitude, of the joy of festive celebrations and the like;

— in an attitude of self-sufficiency in regard to the magisterium of the Church and of the directives of the Congregation. It is an attitude that creates factions and pressure groups;

— in closing ones self off from the."communion of supernatural goods": some confreres do not take part as brothers in hearing the Word of God and in sharing their own experience of faith.

Individualism can be overcome by means of vigilance and personal determination. But the community, inspired by proper authority, can help by using means apt to develop the person of each confrere: — by the appreciation of the talents of each one;

— by the cordial and enlightened openness with which it values the work of God in the life of the confreres;

— by the most just distribution possible of the work of the common mission;

— by the coresponsibilitv of all;

— by the rightful place given to human means to increase the spirit of brotherhood;

— by the redimensioning of the communities in number and in the type of work, so as to favor closer and more friendly interpersonal relationships.

Without a doubt whatever helps us grow in a humane spirit is precious in building up a fraternal union and offers an opportunity for the expression of genuine love. Nevertheless the spirit of brotherhood is definitely a gift of God; and it is God who gives it. It is an awareness of Gods presence in others, in all other persons. It is the giving witness to the work of God in the hearts of men. This is the witness we are called upon to give today, particularly to youth.

21 EN 21.

SALESIANS EVANGELIZERS OF THE YOUNG______________________________________ 33

1.2 The gift of religious consecration and evangelization

The openness to the gift of brotherhood gives rise to a further dis- 38 covert. "Don Bosco often noted how the sincere practice of the vows strengthens the bonds of charity and unity of action. But this is not all. He observed that by the intensive living of the evangelical counsels, we free ourselves from whatever might be of hindrance in the ready practice of that pastoral charity which inspires our mis-


sion, essentially devoted to the needs of the young.

Consecrated chastity, poverty, and obedience in the pursuit of the Fathers Will is a manifestation of the service of God in the following of Christ, bestowing upon brotherly union all its vigor. It gives besides a prophetic testimony and witness of the gospel before the world and before the young.

Our self evaluation shows forth, as pointed out by the Rector Major, 39 the effort of the vast majority of salesians, amid new circumstances and changes of the social environment, to live their consecrated chastity "with dignity and in a distinctive manner which is totally salesian." They truly wish to be the special messengers of purity in the presence of the worlds youth."

The brotherly atmosphere and the family spirit which they engender is indeed an indispensable condition for the development of consecrated chastity and for the strengthening of determination in the face of difficulties. Mutual understanding and fraternal correction, accompanied by personal effort, prudence, and the use of psychological as well as supernatural means, all contribute towards a glorious and secure witness to the gospel and to the salesian charism.

On the other hand we have to report that "the practice and even the very understanding and image of this distinctively salesian characteristic has fallen in various parts of the Congregation, where it has been obscured or even ridiculed."" Ideas and attitudes, the permissive mentality, certain kinds of worldliness variously justified, the rejection of the ascetical norms indicated in the salesian Constitutions26 and tradition have sapped at the life force of this virtue and

n RRM 81.

23 Ibid 82.

24 Sch Precap 213.

25 RRM 82.

26 Const 79.

34                               CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

at its rich witness value both for individual persons and for the community.

Against such a background it is necessary to state again "the specific importance of the witness and proclamation of chastity for us salesians in the world of youth," especially because of the present cultural situation in this regard."

Only the love of God decisively calls one to religious chastity, and hence it requires vigilance as well. A deep spirituality is helpful in understanding and in leading a life of consecrated chastity, with a will to bind oneself to others in a purified and qualified love, as established by the charity of Christ. This is an entirely virginal or disinterested love, ready for sacrifice, free, all-embracing and inspired by mercy and hope. Our task is to respond in faith to the gift of grace received from the Father," and to announce this love to the world of youth, who wish for unity and solidarity among men. In addition it is a prOof that all spirit of brotherhood finds its source and completion in the free gift of the Father.

40 Regarding salesian poverty the evaluation notes among the confreres a positive and changed mentality in accordance with the balanced and moderate stance proposed in the Constitutions. Poverty consists not simply in an interior detachment, which permits one to be well provided while professing poverty, nor in a simple dependence in the use of material goods. Neither does it consist in a purely sociological condition where one does not have what is necessary to satisfy the basic needs of life. Poverty means a loving and practical fidelity to the primacy of the spirit and of brotherly love in a world where love of money and of success is the prevailing mood. The practice of poverty will deepen our sense of its value in an opportune way, when our lives are linked with and conditioned by the service we render to poor youth. Speaking of work and temperance, the Report of the Rector Major notes: "We observe with satisfaction that on the part of the vast majority of salesians temperance is manifest in the .standard of living that characterizes them. It is certainly not below the standard level maintained in the various countries, but neither is it above the local level where they serve.""

"We salesians are great workers, men in shirt sleeves who live on

27 Sch Precap 213.

28 Const 75.

29 RRM 108.


work. There is no doubt, thank God, that we have thousands of confreres, even older ones, who give marvelous examples- of work, both in humble assignments and in highly responsible ones." And in these posts they share the lot and preoccupations of the poor, often seeking to get close to them and to experience for themselves the conditions in which they live. This effort, in fact, has given rise to several very encouraging undertakings.

"In a civilization and a world marked by a prodigious movement of almost indefinite material growth. the call of God places you at the pinnacle of the christian conscience. You are to remind men that their true and complete progress consists in responding to this call to share as sons in the life of the living God, the Father of all men.""

But our self-study points out on the negative side the need in our own spiritual life for conversion to this value of the gospel so well expressed and emphasized in our Constitutions. It records a weakening of the salesian sense and awareness of work and temperance. There is a tendency to "fractionation" and to a bourgeois life, a frame of mind indicating a kind of economic independence and autonomous administration, which is associated with the individualism of the consumer society.32

Considering the common effort towards poverty, we have to note deficiencies in fulfilling two objectives, even though in both instances they lie within reasonable possibility. First, there is the "scrutinium paupertatis." And secondly, article 89 of the Constitutions: "All our activities, the location of our works and their availability to those in need, must reflect our poverty."

Poverty means sharing all that we have, all that we are, and all that we do. And this is the witness that will speak loud and clear—the very witness that the world and youth expect of us. In this regard the SGC spoke also of collective and communal poverty as absolutely indispensable.33

Speaking of obedience, the SGC had "called for a renewal in the 41, practice of obedience in harmony both with its supernatural value and with the new ways of practising it, applying this to the one who commands as well as the one who obeys." 34

38 Ibid 111.

31 ET 19.

32 Sch Precap 211-212.

33 Cf Sch Precap 211.

34 RRM 116.

36                                CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

"There is in our confreres a great availability to serve. This is true of the vast majority of salesians even in cases of at times heroic obedience. This goes to show an edifying availability born of love and of faith. I take this opportunity to express the thanks of the whole Congregation to these generous confreres. As long as there are such men in our ranks, we can look with hope and confidence to tomorrow." "

There are also some deficiencies—failings and crooked lines more in practice than in theory. There is some evidence, in fact, of an insensibility to cooperation and solidarity; a growing tendency for individuals to work on their own and independently; the feeling that working within and together with the community is a restraint and impediment. We have to note also a lack of understanding in some cases of the gospel meaning of authority and its relationship to fraternal union.

To make our witness credible our life of faith must be seen as obedience to God and a personal participation in the death and life of Christ. And we must recognize our urgent need of mediation to reach him, the mediation of the Church, of men, of brotherly union. Finally, this must take place in the spirit and in the renewed ways of common life and obedience, in dialog, in coresponsibility and in mutual collaboration on all levels.

In the beginning there was some mention of superficiality. In the case of obedience, as in chastity and poverty, it is necessary that the communities deepen their experience of faith in the religious life, through which the members "find in Christ the purpose of their existence, and who regard their witness of the paschal mystery to the world as their motive for the particular service they offer to their brethren, especially poor and abandoned youth, according to the charism of Don Bosco.""

1.3 The gift of prayer and evangelization

42 The salesian community realizes that it exists only because it is a gift of the grace of the Holy Spirit; and by prayer it adores, praises, petitions and thanks the Lord.

It revives in this way the consciousness of its intimate and vital relation with God and renders itself more adapted to its mission.

35 RRM 122.

36 ASGC 511.


In this sense, prayer is "the very centre, indeed it is the true secret of the renewal of our salesian vocation today." It "enables us to discover the living meaning of our adoption as sons of God. It is the basis of our apostolic service directed to all men. It maintains kindled in us the joy and enthusiasm of our total self-giving."" And it fosters and strengthens the witness of our brotherliness.

The renewed Constitutions and the SGC bring out the following:

— the need for personal prayer which becomes a pledge of authentic and deep union with God;

— the urgency of a greater appreciation of prayer in common;

— the necessity of a continued renewal of spirit, in content and form, in tune with the sensibilities and attitudes of the young and in close connection with pastoral tasks.

The report made by the GC21 from the material offered by the provincial chapters indicates that the salesians are showing a growing appreciation for common and liturgical prayer (concelebration, liturgy of the hours). They engage themselves with diligence and careful preparation for days of recollection and retreats in various forms. They promote group experiences in prayer for youth; and some take part with great fruit also in experiences of their own in various spiritual experiments.

With some preoccupation we must note also some negative points in 43 regard to the community life, which at least to some degree fails to reflect sufficiently that renewal requested by the Church and the Congregation. In varying intensity there is need of deep and continuous conversion. Here are some areas in need of improvement: regular attendance at the common practices of piety by those confreres who too easily and without due reason excuse themselves; greater care in prayer by those confreres who tend to go too fast; and appropriate preparation for liturgical celebration of various kinds. There has been the lack of initiative to promote common prayer among salesians, boys, and others connected with our mission. To some extent there has been a negligence of the sacrament of reconciliation and other personal expressions of salesian piety. The need felt for greater spontaneity and creativity in common prayer has prompted some to find outside of the community prayer expe-

37 ASGC 519.

38 ASGC 529.

38                  CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

riences considered by them to be more authentic and meaningful. Generally, no provision has been made in a satisfactory way on a provincial level, to prepare leaders and animators for spiritual and liturgical exercises, capable of helping the communities in a time of change to preserve and deepen the salesian style of prayer.

44 In view of all this and for a greater witness to the gospel, we make the following fundamental recommendations:

1.3.1 To deepen the apostolic significance of our prayer life

In each of us and in our communities apostolic action and the spiritual life have one source: "They are the fruit of the Lords death and resurrection" 39 and they are enlivened by his Word.

In the light of this paschal mystery the salesian community seeks to combine its organized rhythm of prayer with its daily routine of activities in a "liturgy of life." It detects traces of Gods presence in the world, feels called to cooperate in the divine plan of salvation through its testimony and witness, recognizes its own limitations, seeks pardon for its failings, and renews its fidelity. It adores, praises, thbnks and petitions the Divine Majesty, devoting itself with greater generosity to its apostolic mission of bearing the love of God to the young. It seeks more efficacious ways of stirring up the thirst for God in them, by praying, living and celebrating liturgical and salesian festivities with them. Above all it fosters the hearing of the Word of God which continually calls to conversion, especially through the sacrament of reconciliation. It gladly takes part in youthful expressions of prayer, encouraging creativity and the lively sharing of personal and communal experiences in prayer.

1.3.2 Planning the times for prayer

"It is necessary always to pray." This injunction certainly includes set times for prayer which are apt means to perfect our love in the accomplishing of the will of the Father.

In this context we can appreciate the expressions of the following article of the Constitutions: the salesians "have few practices of piety, but we pray without ceasing, and after the manner of Don

39 Const 58. 39 Const 67.


Boscos own union with God aspire to become contemplatives in action by praying in simple heart to heart colloquy with Christ, with the Father conscious of his presence, with Mary our helper." 4°

To foster this spirit of prayer the community schedules times for prayer. In this way we visibly and concretely prove our claim that God holds first place in our life and sends us on our mission for youth.

1.3.3 Remaining faithful to salesian devotions

The salesian community remains faithful to those devotions which 45 Don Bosco especially promoted: the devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to Mary Help of Christians.

The presence of Christ in the eucharist enables us to take part in the mystery of salvation. Our Lady "holds a unique place in the history of salvation and in the life of the Church." In the words of Pope Paul VI she is "the Star of Evangelization" who continues to guide the community in the fulfillment of its mission.

Finally, through the devotion to our Father Don Bosco confreres will be helped in imitating his continuous union with God in the midst of their labors. They will be faithful to him in leading a life of "salesian cheerfulness".

1.3.4 Renewal of prayer

Christian prayer is not only a gift of God; it is also the fruit of sound instruction.

The salesians wish to give great importance to everything which can be of help in the growth and renewal of prayer life. We consider retreats particularly suited for this purpose. The retreat offers a true opportunity for contact with God.

The salesians feel more keenly the need for an openness and for a well-balanced spontaneity and creativity in prayer, whether personal or communal. This will ensure a greater authenticity and prevent the danger of routine in prayer. The riches of the liturgy and the renewal within the Church offer excellent opportunities which we can profit from. They can be blended with the salesian spirit and become a genuine expression of our own charism.

4° Const 48.

41 Const 65.

42 Cf EN 82.

40                        CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

Let the salesians pledge themselves to pergonal prayer in the firm conviction of its necessity. Personal prayer should come before common prayer and is a good preparation for it. Through prayer the mutual exchange of gifts in charity will thrive among the confreres.

1.4 Animation of the community for evangelization. Role of the rector.

46 The experience of the ecclesial community in the recent years of renewal is that it must develop in an atmosphere of coresponsibility. And it finds in the services which occupy it, especially in the "service of authority," one of the strongest sources of its growth in faithfulness to God and in the service of men.

After having considered some aspects of the salesian community in the field of evangelization, it now seems necessary to give serious attention to the need of an animating spirit within the community itself for its apostolic work. Indeed, it seems certain that our communities have an impelling need for a basic and growing vigor as they seek to live according to the gospel and to carry on the work of evangelization. This is one of the points insistently made by the Congregation in its self evaluation.43

We speak of "animation! In its original meaning it is contrasted with the imposition of external force. It designates the inner energy and activity of the soul, which gives life, harmony, growth and cohesion to all the parts of a living organism sharing in the life functions of the various members of the body.

By "spiritual animation" of a religious community we mean whatever promotes the initiatives, conduct, and life of the specific vocation of a particular institute. It calls for active sharing and for mature and conscientious cooperation on the part of every member of the community according to each ones respective role and personal gifts. Successful "animation" therefore is shown by the increase of coresponsibility and by the recognition by members of the community of their complementary functions. It is expressed by an adult mentality and an advanced state of maturity.

In this sense "animation" seems to be closely linked with the ability to motivate and with efficacious suggestion—in a word with per-

13 Cf n. 39 of present text.


suasiveness. It opens the way for dialog, communication and discernment. It fosters willingness to listen. For us salesians it appears as part and parcel of the system of Don Bosco—reason and kindliness.

The "animation" of a christian community cannot be reduced to a technique or a mere method, though these may be useful. It must be founded on docility to the Spirit, who is the first "animator" of the people of God. For a religious community it is linked to the initial project of the Founder, who was raised up by the same Spirit. Hence for us salesians such spiritual animation is at once "religious" and "pastoral".

"We are living in the Church at a privileged moment of the Spirit." 44 Our times therefore require us to be able to decipher the untiring initiative of God in life and in history. We need inspiration to know the proper response in this situation. If so, we will design a work of wisdom which will indeed renew the apostolic activity of the congregation according to the signs of the times and the expectations of our confreres.

1.4.1 The situation

In the last few years we have reason to be encouraged by several 47 positive developments in our communities: a greater "spiritual" sensibility and attentiveness to the Word of God; an increase in the sense of coresponsibility and a greater ability to dialog; the rise of various initiatives, some spontaneous and some organized, which promote good spirit in the community; provincial and inter-provincial cooperation in the work of formation; and the difficult attempt to create in every house a formative atmosphere.

On the other hand, perhaps as a consequence of a growing spiritual need, we have to lament some negative situations and certain blindspots which concern us: the falling off in some confreres of enthusiasm for vocations; the absence of unity and of a deep spirituality at community level; 45 the lack or inadequate functioning of some roles or structures within the community;46 and above all, a certain emptying of the figure of the rector, accompanied by a weakening of personal and pastoral dialog, of spiritual direction, and of

44 EN 44.

45 Sch Precap 207-208. Sch Precap 237-240.


42                        CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

the distracting of attention from more important duties to less vital ones, sometimes turning upside down the proper functioning of government.

48 This situation has occasioned the following insistent recommendations from the confreres:

— On the one hand to increase coresponsibilitv and the understanding of the respective roles of the individual confreres and members of the house councils in the religious and pastoral work of the community; and

— On the other hand to prepare animators and to intensify the formative functions of the provihce, especially of the provincial and his council 49

— Finally, and above all, the confreres emphasize the necessity of clarifying the function and figure of the rector. They make reference to the manner of choosing and preparing him, to personal and communal spiritual direction, and to the simplification and the setting of priorities in regard to his duties.5~

All the points mentioned above have to do with animation and must be carefully studied. The GC21 has chosen to answer these urgent requests of many provincial chapters and individual confreres by more clearly delineating the figure and function of the rector, who is the principal animator of the Community.

In doing this we do not intend to undervalue—but on the contrary to emphasize anew—the importance of coresponsibilitv. Indeed, there is an inner connection among the various roles and the various means of animating the community, which all revolve around the rector, who is their common point of reference.

1.4.2 Frame of reference. Ministry of the rector.

49 The rector can only function" in the context of the community and of the pastoral work which it carries on in the salesian name and spirit. His function in no way implies any inequality in the common

47 Sch Precap 227-235. 48Sch Precap 237-240. 49 Sch Precap 241-244. so Sch Precap 227-235.

51 Sch Precap 227-237.

52 Const 54, 182.


vocation but "a presiding over in charity," 53 with a special obligation to serviceM for the advantage of the unity and corporate identity of the whole community.

"According to the will of Don Bosco and our uninterrupted tradition," the 19th General Chapter assures us "the rector constitutes, without a shadow of doubt, the center of unity and of initiative of all salesian work whatever its type or composition either as the head of the religious community and guide of the confreres, or as the one who encourages and sustains every activity, apostolic or formative, being first among those who would educate; or as the one finally responsible for every activity whether it be economic, technical, or in the field of organization." 56

"The concrete definition of this unifying and vitalizing activity of the rector," in the words of the same 19th General Chapter, "must include something which cannot be substituted, namely, the coresponsibilitv and mutual collaboration with other superiors, in the first place with his council." 57

The SGC also has emphasized the responsibility of the rector as the center of the community and his role as religious and pastoral guide."

1.4.3 A complex role, with complementary functions.

The office of rector is quite complex: all sections of salesian life 50 converge upon it, at least for their final coordination. This includes the religious and spiritual, the apostolic and pastoral, the educative and cultural, the economic and organizational aspects of all activities. But there is question here of shared responsibility—apportioned and diversified according to complementary roles assigned to the different members of the communitv.59 The rector must know how to respect and appreciate these responsible roles. White fostering the legitimate initiatives of the confreres, he shall take care to "keep himself free from commitments which could interfere with his fundamental duties towards the confreres."6o

53 ASGC 502.

54 Cf Const 115.

55 ASGC 714-716.

56 AGC XIX, 32.

57 Ibid 32-33.

58 Cf ASGC 526, 678, 644-646.

59 ASGC 647. 68 Reg 153.

44                        CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

Today the vastness of some of our works, and the increased complexity of their operation on the one hand, and on the other a better understanding of the principle of subsidiarity, demand that we make the effort to define anew and, wherever possible, to simplify the difficult task of the rector.

1.4.4 Some salesian criteria

51 In this effort it might prove profitable to keep the following criteria in mind:

— the ecclesial and pastoral characteristics proper to a salesian

community; 6


— the type of community spirit explicity wished by Don Bosco;

— the salesian tradition according to which the community is "guided in its apostolic task by a member who by his sacerdotal ordination and by his pastoral experience is able to direct it spiritually and orientate its mission";63

— the practical sense, by which an intelligent leeway is allowed to those persons holding key positions within the community.

1.4.5 Priorities among the duties assigned to the rector by the Constitutions

52 In the light of the Constitutions, and after a centurys experience of their practice, it is not difficult to establish the following order of priorities in the duties assigned to the rector:

1st: He is the preserver of unity and the custodian-of our salesian identity, in direct collaboration and in unity, of spirit with the provincial and his council. He is "the sign of Christ uniting his followers in the service of the Father. He is at the centre of the community, a brother among brothers, who recognize his responsibility and his authority.""

2nd: He is the pastoral guide of the salesian mission in a threefold function: as teacher of the Word, as sanctifier through the ministry of the sacraments and as coordinator of apostolic activity. He holds

61 Cf ASGC 78-84, 27-30.

62 Cf ASGC 713-719.

63 Const 35; Cf also letter of Card trllot to GC21; Aubry, Direttore salesiano secondo la nostra tradizione, pp. 59-124, in Contributo di Studio alto Schema III Roma 1977.

64 Const 54.


principal responsibility for the mission among the young and the people entrusted to his community; he preserves and renews the fidelity of the confreres in their pastoral commitment to the "preventive system"; he cooperates with the bishop and the diocesan clergy in the combined pastoral action of the local Church.

3rd: He directs the work of education and of human development required of his community in the scholastic and pedagogical fields and in cultural, social and cooperative projects.s

4th: He bears the principal responsibility in the overall operation of the work (finance, organization, discipline, public relations, buildings).66

Unfortunately, in more than one instance, our houses have witness- 53 ed somersaults in regard to the priorities just mentioned. In such cases an unbridgeable gap has separated the rightful description of the rector from his actual status, to the great detriment of the salesian spirit. Hence has arisen in no small measure the crisis which the office of rector has undergone.

The GC21 therefore considers it essential to restore the priorities as outlined above. We are convinced from our salesian experience that the rector, rather than acting himself, must get others to act, stirring up the initiative of the confreres and inspiring a sharing of responsibility in every member of the community in the accomplishing of common apostolic goals. "The task of the rector is to portion out the work to be carried on, and then to see to it that it is done." "The fundamental point is this—let the rector act as rector,


i.e., let him know how to get others to work.

Let the rector be a salesian rector, i.e., let him reflect the image, play the role, and act in the manner that Don Bosco, the supreme model of rectors, intended for him.

It is urgent to recapture this essential characteristic of the rector as the animator of the community, and as the "former" of souls who presides over the community in love." Let the various tasks in the fields of organization, administration and discipline be left to others, following Don Boscos practice with Don Rua.

65 Reg 154.

66 Cf Const 182; Reg 183.

67 MB XIII 18.

68 MB XIII 256, D. Bosco al GC1, September 1877.

69 ASC 281, 37.

46                                CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

1.4.6 Animation and its relation to authority

54 For an authentic renewal of the office of rector it seems opportune to consider the role of his religious authority and the service he renders as animator of the community and of the confreres. He is in fact designated by the Constitutions as the superior of the local community, and "he governs it with the collaboration of his council."71

The service of his authority aims at strengthening the vocation of each one as well as the sense of mission in the whole community and its single members. By his encouraging guidance he seeks to bring together under one common goal all the services which the community renders. For this purpose he undoubtedly possesses true religious authority in respect of all the confreres.71

Don Bosco remains the true model of every salesian rector. Like Don Bosco, the rector must be a father, a brother and friend, shepherd and teacher, =and the center of unity. He inspires initiative and coordinates the various activities, seeking the necessary cooperation on every level, a truly prudent "superior" of a religious and apostolic community.

1.4.7 New style of exercising his ministry

55 According to this model, it seems necessary to renovate the style of exercising authority by the rector. Cultural changes require a genuine renewal in the light of the values that are emerging as signs of the times and as a result of the 2nd Vatican Councils deeper understanding of "service".

This renewed style brings about a sense of equality as brothers, rightful recognition of coresponsibility, respectful consideration of the adult conscience of each person, appreciation of the legitimate differences of mentality, sincerity and frankness in dealing with others, an atmosphere of affection and of service, ability to communicate, and some knowledge of the techniques of group dynamics. Above all, primacy must be given to "life in the Spirit" by daily striving to make Christ the center of the common life—in a word, a style of life that inspires respect for authority without being authoritarian."

7° Const 182.

71 Cf Const 125 & Decr. SCRIS, Feb 1972.

72 Cf Cost 94.

73 Cf Const 54, 93.


In the climate of this renewed style the rector must learn the discerning of spirits by prayer and counsel. By his personarstudy he must be well acquainted with the teachings and directives that come from the Magisterium, from the Constitutions and Regulations, and from the legitimate Superiors. Even in his time in the confidential . recommendations that Don Bosco wrote for rectors, the Saint recommended: "In matters of greater importance, before making a decision, always raise your heart to God in prayer. In hearing any report, listen attentively, but seek to weigh well all the facts before passing judgment."74

In this way he will be enlightened and guided to judge and make decisions with prudence in the face of the delicate and complex pluralism of ideas and conduct in religious life. Above all he will help his confreres through fraternal correction so that they live a life in conformity with the vocation they have chosen.

1.4.8 Some means of animation

Salesian traditions, and present-day sensitivity afford the rector op- 56 portunities and time for brotherly contact which in the simplicity of our family spirit have the potential of becoming strong instruments for encouraging and sustaining the community as well as individual confreres. Suffice it to mention a few of them: the gatherings of the council and of the assembly of confreres," the meetings in common for prayer, for meditation, for fraternal reunions, for the programming of activities and for the monthly day of recollection; spiritual reading, considered as an aspect of ongoing formation; the conferences;" the "good nights";77 the friendly talk with the superior;" and the like."

1.4.9 Coresponsibility of the community in the style of animation

On their part the confreres should clearly demonstrate their deter- 57 mination to be a part of the community by their cooperation, each according to his proper role, in the initiatives undertaken by the

24 Ricordi confidenziali ai Direttori.

75 Reg 154-155.

76 Reg 157.

77 Reg 43. 711 Const 96.

79 Cf Document on Formation.

48                        CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC2I

community, avoiding any plea to be excused and inclination to passivity. Only by the active participation and by the sharing of responsibility by all the members, in fact, can the community be assured of the lasting and effective inspiration needed for the accomplishment of the "rule of life" that all have professed.

In those cases in which, after an open and patient dialog, there remains opposition between personal points of view and the decisions of the superior, the individual confrere should accept the outcome with obedience, with the maturity of an adult in the faith, remembering the example of the obedience of Christ for the sake of the Kingdom.

In these cases the confreres should not forget that the person called to lead a community (made up of imperfect men) is himself imperfect; he too, like the other members of the community, needs support and understanding. Their sincere cooperation and esteem will make his task easier and more fruitful.

1.5 Practical directives on the "evangelized community"

58 1.5.1 To renew "rapport" among individuals and of individuals with the community

a.     The community should undertake annually a review of its life and activities looking to the future as well as to the past. This communal effort—which is to be considered among the most important and meaningful projects of community life—will engage the corresponsibility of all the confreres in a common plan of organization and in a needed evaluation of the common life.

b.     In order to give an impetus to fraternal union which is indispensable for our community life, let each confrere set a high value on the friendly talk with the superior, referred to in art. 96 of the Constitutions and the new article 71(a) of the Regulations.

c.     Meetings should be arranged on a regular basis so as to foster an atmosphere of communion among the confreres. In this way there will be communication and the mutual exchange of information, making use of modern techniques.


1.5.2 To renew the sense of the gospel-value of the           59

religious profession

a.   To better ensure and foster a greater sensitiveness to evangelical poverty, the provincial office should establish a periodic self-evaluation (scrutinium paupertatis), determining the time and procedure. In this examination should be included an appraisal of work as an expression of poverty.

b.   To provide psychological and emotional balance for the confreres and a helpful environment for confreres in difficulty, each community should examine that way it practises the family spirit and whether it makes the proper use of "fraternal correction" as recommended in the gospel (Mt. 18, 15-17).

1.5.3 To renew the apostolic dimension of our prayer            60

a.   In the spirit of faith every local community should make a periodic examination of its life of prayer, evaluating its apostolic dimension, the forms it takes, its content and the participation in it of the confreres.

b.   Times for prayer should be carefully arranged in conformity with the Constitutions and Regulations.

c.   Every confrere should renew his effort to be faithful to personal prayer, to the sacrament of reconciliation, to the practices of piety in common, and to listening to the Word of God.

1.5.4 To renew the common effort towards animation            61

The GC21 considers the above as one of the focal points of renewal and gives the following directives:

a. Every rector must seek to develop by prayer and reflection a clear understanding of his pastoral mission in the community, according to the norms of the Council. Let him study personally and with his community the proper ways to fulfill his duties, with constant patience in the face of difficulties which will always arise. Let him be solicitous to establish rapport with all the confreres,sespecially by means of the "friendly talk" which has been presented, more than as a norm, as a simple and practical way of fostering brotherly union and of strengthening ones vocation.

80 PO c II. ASGC 356.

sz Cf Reg 71(B).


50                                CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

b.     The provincial, as the chief animator of the province, should consider it among his principal duties to prepare an adequate number of animators for the various sectors of the province, thus providing "spiritual men" qualified to guide and enlighten consciences.

c.     The provincial should seek ways and means in every community to simplify the duties of the rector according to the norms given above. Let him establish the areas of jurisdiction, as suggested above in order to clarify the complementary roles of the individual confreres, the members of the council, and of the assembly of confreres.

d.     As soon as possible the Rector Major and his Council should see to the preparation of a Manual for Provincials and Rectors. This will clarify the parameters of authority, harmonize spiritual leadership with religious authority, and keep in mind the diversity of situations that might exist in different circumstances.

The Acts of the Superior Council and other special publications should offer practical directives, especially as regards the updating of spiritual direction for the confreres, taken singly and in community.


62 According to the SGC, "the formation of true pastoral communities, based on shared responsibility and collaboration, is one of the principal objectives of our pastoral renewal.""

This is first of all a valid statement for the salesian community itself, in which there must be a sharing of pastoral responsibility. In fact this holds for all true apostolic communities. "Our mission is entrusted to the community at provincial or local level." 84 "It follows that each salesian receives a part of the salesian mission to accomplish in so far as he is a member, and therefore in intimate solidarity with his confreres." 85

This is a valid statement also for the particular roles in animation which ecclesial and educative directives prescribe for different members within the community.

83 ASGC 357.                 •

84 Const 34; ASGC 29. es ASGC 29, 84.


It is our specific charism to lead and encourage the educative community. "Besides ourselves, the parents, lay workers and the young themselves are active members, united in dialog and shared responsibility at various levels." 86 Thus in varying environmentsr we carry on the evangelization that is required of us as educators." "Responsible collaboration and a life which shares the gospel spirit are, of their very nature, a witness that not only builds up Christ in the community, but radiates him, becoming a sign for everyone." 89

The GC21 picks out three aspects of animation within the salesian community, considering them important means of implementing and deepening our evangelical mission:

— the influence the salesian community should exert on the educative and pastoral community;

— the contribution of the salesian cooperators and past pupils who have made "the gospel choice" (message of the past pupils to the GC21, A3, statutes, art 1), of taking part in the educative and pastoral work of the Salesians of Don Bosco;

— the collaboration of other laymen and laywomen.

2.1 The salesian community animator of the educative and pastoral community

2.1.1 The situation

Our self-evaluation gives positive indications that the seeds of rene- 63 wal sown by the SGC have led to a better understanding of how much educative and pastoral action have in common with our mission. They are linked to the whole of our religious life, on the provincial and local levels.

As far as the communities themselves are concerned, there has been a real increase in the collective consciousness as well as in the awareness of the individual confreres.9! There has arisen a greater awareness of our responsibilities in the service to which we are called. Meetings and gatherings have multiplied in openness of

86 ASGC 357, 340, 750, 356, 395.

87 ASGC 377, 381, 386.

88 Const 39.

89 SC 61.

58 RRM 130-131. 91 Const 4, 52.

52                        CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

spirit and dialog, fostering the sharing of experiences and apostolic projects.

This renewal within the communities themselves has had repercussions outside, influencing also the educative community.

This is evidenced by the fact that there is a better integration of our pastoral work with that of the local Church and community. With the isolation of the past diminished or gone, there has emerged a greater share of responsibility by laymen, parents, and the young themselves, who have come to appreciate better the value and care of their own formation. Efforts have been made to clarify and construct together a practical program of education, establishing norms to put it into realistic execution. Thus attitudes of diffidence and distrust have been overcome, above all in cases where ideological differences have prevailed.

Finally, the need for a new kind of rapport between the various sectors of the educative community finds an echo in the deliberations of the provincial chapters which exhort the confreres to a more effective promotion of lay collaborators, especially of members of the salesian family, because "sharing responsibility with them increases our own competence and credibility."

64 Nevertheless there are negative aspects which prompt us to reflect and to make the necessary corrections. Besides the points made in dealing with the "community as brotherhood" we can add the following:

— at the level of the apostolic community, individualism and the spirit of independence; the lack of comprehensive planning and sufficient encouragement of pastoral activity within provinces and local communities. All this creates factions and diminishes corporate efficiency, especially when dialog is difficult and mentalities are remarkably different;

— at the level of the animating community, neglect of those human characteristics which give encouragement to the family spirit within communities.94 This deals a destructive blow to the preventive system, with little understanding and appreciation of the consequent detrimental effects of the educational process and on the effectiveness of single factors at work within the educative

92 Const 53.

93 Gruppo di maggio, Sch V, 14.

94 Cf ASGC 485-486.


community. There are some who, for various reasons arising from a divergence of backgrounds, do not even understand the importance of renewal and integration. They are not ready to accept necessary changes and thus fail to contribute effectively to the whole project of salesian education.

Besides, there is some difficulty in creating authentic educative communities in works which present a variety much more complex than the traditional boarding or day school, e.g. youth centers, parishes and the like. In these cases the confreres have different timetables, work at different locations and bear diverse responsibilities. Hence living and meeting together is rendered more difficult. There are also situations where our work is hindered because of outside interference, whether social, economic, political or religious. In these cases it is extremely difficult to practise our educational system.

2.1.2 Frame of reference

In view of our self-evaluation and in the light of the SGC and of 65 Church documents; emphasis must be given to the fostering and maturing of the educative community as a decisive element in the total pastoral perspective of evangelization.

The most important contribution that salesians can make to evangelization is to live as a genuine community.95 Indeed, the words of the SGC apply in the first place to the Congregation itself: "each community proclaims the catechism more by what it is than by what it says." 96

It is incumbent upon us to inspire with zeal for the salesian mission 66 all those who are associated with us. This is the proper way for us to bear witness to the gospel and to strengthen from within the educative community.

Article 5 of the Constitutions prescribes this for the whole salesian family. As for the laity associated with us in our mission, the clear statement of Article 39 is well commented upon in the Rector Majors report "We must recognize, especially today, not just from necessity but for reasons of sound pedagogy and in faithfulness to the

95 Cf Const 20, 28, 33; ASGC 29, 283, 288, 293, 296, 318-320, 436, 506.

96 RdC.

97 Reg 30-31.

54                               CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

Church, that we need laymen as conscientious and competent collaborators in our mission. In this way we will integrate the three aspects of our work: education, pastoral guidance, and witnessing to the gospel." 98

67 This animating role requires:

a)       a lively awareness, in theory and in practice, of the pastoral ne‑
cessity of sharing responsibility in our work of education. This re-

, quires openness, trust, and loyalty towards our co-workers. We must recognize that their circumstances of life differ from our own. We respect the roles which they must play in our work. We must seek out the multiple forms of collaboration and mutual help that their vocation and specific contribution offer us. Each salesian should be on his guard not to look upon their collaboration as an interference. They in no way hinder the various religious ties that bind the salesian to his community and to the superior.

b)      a clear understanding of the identity of purpose of our work of education and pastoral mission. Both are to be accomplished in coreslionsibility. "The different groups that make up the educative community are especially associated, according to each ones own


competence, in the one project of christian education." This requires the free allegiance of all those taking part in it, as well as common aims and convictions in all its members.10°

Fidelity in this work of education requires "a continuous self-examination and a constant return to the principles and motives that inspire it."101

68 c) The awareness of the specific role of the salesian community. "It is the duty of the whole educative and pastoral community to make sure that the distinctive characteristics of christian education do actually flourish in its midst." To achieve this "christian parents have a special responsibility.,, 102

But upon the rector, upon the salesian community and upon each one according to his position, falls the responsibility of leadership in preserving the salesian and pastoral identity of the educative corn-

98 ASC 279, 42.

99 SC 70.

ioo SC 58.

lin SC 67. 102 SC 73.


munitv, in faithfulness to their specific charism and mission within the Church. In achieving this the rector, after patient dialog, has the last word.

This task requires on the one hand a constant effort and a keen and increasing sensitiveness to the "world of education"; and on the other hand the presence of apostolic-minded salesian confreres, who working together give the salesian imprint and infuse zeal for the gospel into the educative community.

2.2 The participation of cooperators and of the past pupils who have made "the choice of the gospel," in working with the SDB in their pastoral and educative task

We are not concerned here with the general theme of cooperators or 69 of the past pupils in their role in the salesian family. We are interested here only in one of the multiple areas of collaboration which are open to the initiative of the cooperators and those alumni "who have made the choice of the gospel" (Stat. Conf. art. 1). How do they fit into the educative and pastoral work of the salesians?

2.2.1 The situation

The evaluation which the GC21 conducted attests that the Congre- 70 gation in general realizes the importance of the presence of these collaborators. There is a growing awareness in this regard.

The RRM speaks of "deeper relationships than in the past" and of "a much more active and effective cooperation with several of these groups."1°3 One reason for this is that the cooperators and those past pupils with a deeper formation display certain basic characteristics of a salesian vocation. There are several examples of this.

One is the action taken by the young cooperators in regard to apostolic and missionary work, which right from the outset justified the hope that is being placed in them. Another is the work for education that the past pupils pledged in their message to the GC21.

In this regard the provincial chapters I" insist on two things: that we entrust to lay collaborators, educative responsibilities and definite works of apostolate; and that those assigned to these tasks should

103 RRM 242.

104 Cf Sch Precap 262.

105 Ibid 262a.

56                          CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21


preferably be chosen from within the salesian family. This was also a directive of the SGC.107

71 On the other hand, on the part of some confreres there is detectable an attitude of little interest as regards these collaborators of the salesian family. They are looked upon merely from the point of view of efficient organization. Their value as an aid in the apostolate is not given due consideration.

Apparently this happens for four reasons. First, because the unique vocation of each group has not been understood clearly and there arises the constant risk of exchanging or substituting the roles proper to each group. Second, because there is lacking a living and continuous experience of the society in which our youth lives and hence an inadvertence that lay collaboration in our work is all for the good. Third, because of the failure of "initiatives and activities undertaken without due study at the proper levels and left—especially in individual works— to the interpretation and enthusiasm of a


single person." And fourth, most importantly, because there has been either a total lack or an insufficient amount of "serious training and formation of these collaborators of ours."109

2.2.2 Frame of reference

72 We are convinced that the presence of cooperators and of those past pupils who have made "the choice of the gospel"110 are important for our boys, for ourselves, and for our other lay collaborators.

A presence important for the young

— Every trained layman, in a community that educates in the faith, affords a better and more effective organization when salesians are lacking either in number or in competence. In addition such men exercise a specific role of education, diverse from but quite compatible with our own. Our Constitutions speak of "a special contri-


bution.Hence their presence, where possible and convenient, is an enrichment.

106 Ibid 262b.

107 ASGC 428.

108 RRM 243.

109 Sch Precap 263.

II Message of Past Pupils to GC21. III Const 39; Sch Precap 262.


— The cooperators and such past pupils fulfill this function well. The influence of the gift of their salesian vocations, together with the work carried on in communion with their brothers who live the religious life, demonstrates "different ways of serving the people of God, and integrating various vocations, so as to show forth the richness of the founders charism." Here is "a particular model of


christian pedagogy.

In these circumstances our boys can realize an authentic and complete human involvement. They will experience a sense of confidence, making them creative and happy persons—a sense of mystery that the consumer society dampens and squelches. At the same. time they will feel impelled to live the values of the gospel which they see demonstrated in their very midst. Gospel values previously inexperienced, will become alive by the example of these men living in "the vast and complicated world of politics, society, and economics," and throwing a different light on "the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of the mass media. the world of love, of the family, or professional work." "3

A presence important for ourselves

— When we think of the cooperators and of those past pupils who 73 with us are efficacious agents of the wish of the Founder, availing themselves of an indispensable variety of ministries for the fulfilment of our common mission, we are led to re-think and re-discover the specific nature of our vocation as bearers of the gospel with its particular characteristics and we are moved to train these laymen who are our brothers, binding them to us to assure more effectively the salvation of youth.114

— But this is not all. Besides offering to us the example of their life and the joy of such an experience, there arises very useful communication in the case of those among them who are laborers or employed in any way in the workshops and undertakings of those salesians dedicated to education in our professional schools. Their presence and experience exerts an influence that spreads to others. In planning an ideal program of education, the salesians ought to take these important advantages into account.

112 ASGC 159. "3 EN 70.

14 ASGC 151, 103b, 736.

58                       CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

A presence important for our other lay collaborators

74 These men offer a practical model of the salesian style and spirit. By bringing them into the work of training and leading other lay collaborators, according to the thought of Don Bosco himself, we have a guarantee that the preventive system will not run the risk of losing its salesian identity and its evangelical efficacy.

2.2.3 Guidelines for renewal

75 Considering all these facts, we are encouraged to be more diligent and to improve our work for formation in the following two directions:

— Let the salesian family make provision for its structures of formation.

Where the salesian family exists in these diverse groups, often there has been missing a "togetherness" whether in regard to communication, or formation, or operation. The SGC expressed the hope "for mutual collaboration and communication between various groups." Among other things it hoped for collaboration in "the means that will be useful for our formation and information in view of the common mission assigned to us."13 The Department for the Salesian Family will have to shed light on, articulate and eventually coordinate a program of cooperation toward this end.

— Let the salesians acquire a greater awareness and responsibility in the service to which they have committed themselves.

We recognize the wide and growing gap between need and possibility. Sometimes it is really impossible to accomplish what we wish. But in the same way we should realize that some of us, with renewed vigor and hope, must be converted to a spiritual awakening to the fact of the salesian family. In his letter of presentation of the SGC, the Rector Major called this awareness one of "the centres of


convergence in the actual postconciliar endeavor.

The Constitutions and the ASGC invite us to take up this challenge. We must put more impact into the work of formation of the cooperators and past pupils. We must give more attention to them in the significant events of our salesian life and in the promotion of coresponsibilitv in our educative and pastoral work.117

115 ASGC 175.

116 ASGC p.        Cf xviii-xix.

117 ASGC 744b.


2.3 The collaboration of other laymen in the educative community

Here we are referring directly to those laymen and laywomen who, 76 though not belonging to the salesian family, share with the salesians the responsibility of implementing our work of education. In the first place there are the parents, who are the first educators. In the school there are especially the teachers. In the youth center there are the leaders and promoters of the various activities. In parishes and in the missions there are those who under various titles contribute time and energy to a more complete evangelization.

Besides those whose vocation calls them to the salesian work, we must take into account the presence of the laity not only for the meaningful service that they render to the educative community, but also because of their great number.

In some parts of the Congregation, the disproportion between their number and that of salesians is steadily increasing, due to the constant increase of the first and the declining number of the second. This is a fact that carried the risk of loss of identity of our mission and calls in any case for a new and needed apostolate. And lay people have the right to exert roles of influence and coresponsibility. For this they ought to be prepared.

2.3.1 The situation

When lay helpers are convinced Christians, their presence affords 77 our youth a wider array of models of the Christian life. They make it possible for the salesians to give more time to spiritual guidance; and they provide the opportunity for greater dialog and updating in the face of family and professional problems.

Nevertheless there are some negative points. Some salesians are unprepared to work with laymen. Sometimes the choice of laymen has been made with a view to professional qualifications and competence to the neglect of pastoral considerations. At times reciprocal relations have been spoiled by a laborer-employer point of view, poorly devised and badly understood.

118 Cf Sch Precap 262.

119 Cf RRM 195.

60                         CHAPTER DOCUMENTS GC21

2.3.2 Lines of renewal

78 A new look must be taken at the figure of the laymen working with us in christian education. Our attitude must be broadened. We need a new style of more intense collaboration with the laity and a united effort with them to help the educative community grow.

In mutual understanding we will more easily find avenues of accord converging on the work of education that inspires them as well as ourselves.

To know better this work and its spirit we ought to study and research together, in a dialog of partnership rather than as masters.

In this common effort each one should take care to retain his own identity. The salesian should not play the part of a layman, neglecting his religious duties and the common life. The layman should not be expected to behave like a religious, for he has his own duties of secular, family, and political life.

The method of choosing these collaborators is important. This should not be under the pressure of the moment; the determining factors should be the preparation, quality and competence of the applicants. The ideal would be to find persons easily incorporated into our apostolic program, especially if they have a salesian background or some experience in christian youth movements. We ought not to hesitate to invite them to become salesian cooperators. In any case they should respect the nature and the "Catholic" aspect of our environment and work, even if they do not take an active part in our apostolic program. There could also be unbaptized persons as long as they are sensitive to those educational and human values that the salesian method demands.

Every educative community should set appropriate time for the ongoing formation for these lay people. There should be periodic meetings and times of reflection on the salesian method of education and on the educative work of the community in which they are involved.

120 Cf ASGC 710; Reg 168.4.


2.4 Practical directives

2.4.1 The animating salesian community                        79

The salesians should renew and promote the educative community in the places where they work (SGC 395), and engage the laity in pastoral corresponsibility.

2.4.2 The involvment of cooperators and past pupils in educational and pastoral work

a)  On the provincial and local levels, provincials and rectors should restore spiritual and apostolic vigor to the communities, making them dynamic centers of activity. To accomplish this they should appoint as delegates those confreres with the adequate preparation and talent.

b) According to a plan drawn up by the respective councils (salesians, cooperators, past pupils), during the next six years the provincial should make known to the communities the measures to be taken regarding the pastoral formation and vocation of the cooperators and past pupils. Let norms be established and ways indicated in which they can share responsibly in our apostolic initiatives.

c)  Let the salesians accept responsibility for the formation of animators for the salesian family, promoting from the initial stages of formation, knowledge about the family and communicating a sense of its value and importance.

2.4.3 Collaboration of other lay persons

a)  On the provincial level a directory for lay helpers should be prepared, indicating the characteristics of our educative environment and the human, professional, christian and salesian qualities necessary for an educator within our system.

b) Updating courses on the preventive system for lay people should be provided to insure their more effective insertion into our educative communities and pastoral works.