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Da Mihi animas, caetera tolle

GENERAL CHAPTER 26 - DA MIHI ANIMAS CETERA TOLLE


DA MIHI ANIMAS CETERA TOLLE

INTRODUCTION

I have promised God that I will give of myself to my last breath for my poor boys (Biographical Memoirs XVIII, 216)

Don Bosco's passion for the salvation of youth is our most precious heritage. The 26th General Chapter set itself the task of reviving it in each Salesian by putting the famous motto of our Father and Founder, Da mihi animas cetera tolle, at the centre of reflection of the communities and provinces. Thus began a process of interior renewal and reflection which emerged through the contributions which came to the Chapter Assembly as a point of departure for its work.

Pilgrims to the places of Don Bosco, we have seen from the beginning that the Da mihi animas cetera tolle gathers up the charismatic experience of our origins and the witness of so many confrères of yesterday and today. It questions our capacity to be Don Bosco in our time and invites us to be enthusiasts for his project of holiness, joyful and credible witnesses of the Salesian spirit, enamoured of God and consecrated to the young “until our last breath”. Thus we find ourselves at the source of consecrated life and at the heart of the mission, because the mystical and ascetic nature which marks out the Salesian vocation is found concentrated in this motto. This all means for us that we return to Don Bosco and begin afresh with him in order to go out to meet today’s young people.

They were with us as principal interlocutors throughout the Chapter, with our lively desire to reveal God's love to them. The youth frontier today is more than ever full of challenges and opportunities; it is there as both attractive and difficult. It is essential that we understand the expectations and needs of the young, appreciate the values they are more sensitive to, and recognise their own potential. We must take account of the threats and obstacles they need to cope with and overcome in their search for life, the way of freedom, in their experience of love. It is a responsibility which comes from our vocation to accept the challenge of this emergency, and not desert a frontier that belongs to us. Education and evangelisation are the greatest contribution we can offer the young, the Church and society today in the spirit and with the methods and contents of the preventive system.

Accepting the invitation of the Rector Major in his letter of convocation, we have spelled out “starting afresh from Don Bosco” following four themes: the urgency of evangelisation, the need for vocation ministry, evangelical poverty and the new frontiers. It is not a case of separate themes, but of elements built into our Father and Founder's programme of spiritual and apostolic life. They are elements of great relevance for today, from which come concrete and demanding tasks of renewal. They are our priorities for this time.

We have identified them by putting ourselves in harmony with the Church and by listening to the Congregation, paying attention to the different regional contexts, noting the more lively and prophetic testimonies, facing up to new forms of poverty and the challenges which evangelisation poses for the entire Church, both in countries of ancient Christian tradition and in mission countries. Our own time in discussion together has helped us a great deal, both the debates in the aula and the work in commissions; but more helpful still has been the atmosphere of prayer and fellowship which has marked our time together, and, especially, the authoritative word of the Holy Father Benedict XVI.

Thus we have arrived at drawing up the text which we present now, as a reminder of our experience and a sharing of the effort we made to decipher and interpret the signs of the times. In it you will find the core themes divided into:

  • God's call: looking at both Don Bosco and the young, we have carried out a work of discernment to discover what God wants from us today;

  • Situation: we have taken what the confrères offered as the fruit of their research and the telling of their experience, and we have identified both the positive and the problematic elements, aware that God speaks to us through history;

  • Guidelines for action: introduced by some points which encourage a change of mentality and structures, these identify in summary fashion the main priorities the Congregation intends to deal with over the next six years; they are divided into actions which touch the individual Salesian, the community, the province, the region and central government, offering pointers to be taken up and made concrete in the various contexts.

The fruit of our work now comes into the confrères' hands and becomes an invitation to renewal and to fidelity to Don Bosco and, through him, to God and the young. We have as stimulus and encouragement our confrères, the young, the laity and other members of the Salesian Family who have given witness through their holiness to the beauty of our project of life, the fruitfulness of the Salesian spirit and the spiritual strength of the Da mihi animas cetera tolle.

The years to come will be a time of grace for us Salesians. The 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Congregation in 2009, the centenary of the death of Blessed Michael Rua in 2010 and the bicentenary of Don Bosco's birth in 2015 make the coming years an extraordinary time. We will have a chance to recall to mind and more deeply understand the history of our charismatic experience, in order to identify ourselves with it and live it with the passion and radical nature of the Da mihi animas cetera tolle, and to offer and share it joyfully and with prophetic capacity. We have before us a favourable time for returning to Don Bosco and starting afresh with him and like him, passionate for God and the young, docile and attentive to the Spirit, trusting in the presence of the Help of Christians. It is a journey and grace we would like to share with all members of the Salesian Family.

The Confrères of the 26th General Chapter

 

 

I. STARTING AFRESH FROM DON BOSCO

 

“Keep doing all the things that you learnt from me and have been taught by me and have heard or seen that I do” (Phil 4,9)

 

 

GOD'S CALL

“The Lord has given us Don Bosco as father and teacher. We study and imitate him, admiring in him a splendid blending of nature and grace. He was deeply human, rich in the qualities of his people, open to the realities of this earth; and he was just as deeply the man of God, filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and living "as seeing him who was invisible". These two aspects combined to create a closely-knit life project, the service of the young. He realized his aim with firmness, constancy and the sensitivity of a generous heart, in the midst of difficulties and fatigue. "He took no step, he said no word, he took up no task that was not directed to the saving of the young. Truly the only concern of his heart was for souls.” (C. 21).

 
1. Ritornare a Don Bosco

Listening to the Spirit we feel called to return to Don Bosco as our sure guide in following Christ with a burning passion for God and for the young, especially the poorest of them.

To return to Don Bosco means loving him, studying him, imitating him, invoking him and making him known. It also means applying oneself to getting to know his story and to a study of the origins of the Congregation, constantly listening to the expectations of the young and the challenges of today's culture. The wealth of sources and Salesian studies now available to us allow us to more deeply understand the motivations which led him to certain choices. These also help us to appreciate the goals and projects which gradually became clearer through his activity, the original synthesis of pedagogy and pastoral ministry which he achieved by taking St Francis de Sales as his inspiration. These opportunities challenge us particularly to discover the rich humanity that immediately made him a friend to the young, and the profound spirituality which motivated him daily to dedicate his life to the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.

To return to Don Bosco also entails grasping more deeply the many ways of conveying the charism in the cultural contexts of various countries and availing of the contribution of the vital experience of so many generations of Salesians, among whom some luminous examples of holiness stand out. This enables confrères in every Region to rediscover the wealth of the tradition they have received and to draw inspiration from it for an authentic inculturation of the charism.

2. Return to the young

To return to Don Bosco means "being in the playground", that is being present with the young, especially the poorest of them, in order to discover the presence of God in them and invite them to be open to his mystery of love. Don Bosco returns among the youth of today through the witness and action of a community which lives his spirit, and which is animated by the same apostolic passion. He recommends that each Salesian joyfully encounters the young in their daily lives, pledging himself to listen to their pleas, to know their world, encourage them to take the lead, to reawaken their sense of God and offer them ways to holiness found in Salesian spirituality. It is Don Bosco who asks us once again to face up bravely to the challenges of the young and give a courageous response to the crisis of education in our time, rallying a vast movement of forces on behalf of youth.

In his dream at nine years of age Don Bosco received Mary as his mother and teacher. He let himself be guided by her in his mission to the young. This is why we too feel that she is present in our Houses and propose her to the young as a spiritual model and help as they grow up.

3. Charismatic identity and apostolic passion

By studying Don Bosco's spiritual journey and re-living his apostolic passion today, we feel called to let the fascination of his charism shine forth, show its beauty and communicate the power of its attraction. This urges us to developing a visible and credible witness to our vocation, a radical following of Christ, a strong sense of belonging to the Church, the Congregation and the Salesian Family, a clear perception of our spiritual and pastoral identity. Without such a charismatic, riveting and all-involving proposal, the process of vocational identification is difficult.

Each Salesian is called to contemplate the heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd and Apostle of the Father, and to follow him, according to Don Bosco's example, in an obedient, poor and chaste style of life. In this manner he will dedicate himself generously to the young, live his vocation in the community joyfully and thus find his way to holiness.

Don Bosco, who handed over the Constitutions to Fr John Cagliero before the latter's departure for Patagonia, indicated to us the way we should make a “fair copy” of the Congregation for today: by being faithful to him through a convinced observance of our Rule of life. Furthermore, the cross which is given to us at our perpetual profession invites us, through the images it bears, to spend our lives with the young and for the young until our dying breath, taking up Don Bosco's invitation: work out how to make yourself loved.

 

SITUATION


4. Return to Don Bosco

The figure of Don Bosco is ever attractive and relevant. Many confrères desire to know him better and imitate him in their lives. One sign of this is the growing readiness to take part in formation opportunities which call to mind the origins of the charism. The young and lay people as well are involved in this renewed interest.

The publication of new Salesian studies and critical editions of historical sources has offered a support for a deeper understanding of our spiritual and apostolic experience. In order to avoid a merely affective or nostalgic understanding, we recognise the need to throw more light on Don Bosco's mystical experience and to study the spiritual and pedagogical wealth of our tradition, paying particular attention to putting the Preventive System into practice and inculturating it.

There are numerous well-qualified expressions of esteem for and recognition of the educative service we carry out in difficult contexts and for young people at risk. The unavoidable life-questions of so many youngsters compel us to find adequate responses. They convince us of the effectiveness and relevance of the Salesian charism in today's world.

5. Return to the young

Confrères and communities are generously dedicated to educative and pastoral service. They carry out intensive work for disadvantaged young people, the poor, the working classes through a variety of works and initiatives. Faced with situations of an educative emergency, we accept the challenge and are often able to discover the resources and ways to offer an adequate response.

The passion of some confrères is contagious, and enthuses many adults who not only collaborate, but share the responsibility, making the life and activity of our educative and pastoral communities possible. We also appreciate the readiness of many young people to be protagonists and to become apostles amongst their own companions, even to the point where vocations to special consecration mature. At times however, the style of management of our works hinders a more direct presence of confrères amongst the young and with the laity. It absorbs all their energies in tasks that could be entrusted to others.

But it must be admitted that for not a few confrères the world of the young is something difficult and distant, arousing in them fear and the feeling that they are not adequately prepared. A difficulty in understanding language accentuates the cultural alienation that can then result in physical and affective distance.

6.

Charismatic identity and apostolic passion

Many confrères are committed to the renewal of spiritual life. This shows itself in the joyful atmosphere of many communities, in the pastoral energy which animates them and in the depth of their prayer life. Many have found the personal and community plan of life helpful for their personal growth. Nor can we overlook the serenity and spirit of faith of so many elderly and sick confrères who offer up their illness for the salvation of the young, and support the community through prayer. Where all this is found one recognizes a happy involvement of adults and young people in the one mission, especially when they have been offered a process of formation.

It is painful to acknowledge, nonetheless, other patterns entering into community life: patterns marked by individualism, ease, a tendency to adopt bourgeois values, rigid approaches, denial of visible indicators of consecrated life. Don Bosco had already put his early Salesians on guard against these dangers.

Activism and over-focusing on efficiency, the lack of a community project, individualism, an insufficient or unbalanced distribution of tasks are all obstacles to prayer, make interior life fragile, bring a chill to our fraternal relationships, and diminish the attention owed to each individual confrère. By weakening the ascetic aspect of the cetera tolle we prejudice the apostolic passion which finds its inspiration and expression in the da mihi animas .

These lights and shadows in our communities clearly demonstrate the difficulty we experience in our consecrated life combining, as Vatican Council II requested, the sequela Christi, the Founder's charism, and the adaptation to the changing conditions of our times (PC 2).

 

GUIDELINES FOR ACTION


7.

Processes required for change

In order to face up to the demands of the call and the challenges which arise from the situation, and in order to carry out the guidelines for action which follow, we need to change our mentality and modify our structures, moving from:

  • a superficial knowledge of Don Bosco to a serious and committed study of the history, pedagogy, ministry and spirituality of our Father and Founder, and of the reflection of the Congregation;

  • a ministry focused on activities to be carried out to a ministry more attentive to encountering the young where they are to be found;

  • a routine practice in our spiritual life and pastoral work to living the “da mihi animas cetera tolle” as daily prayer and passion.

GUIDELINE 1

Return to Don Bosco

8.

Be committed to loving, studying, imitating, praying to Don Bosco and making him known in order to start afresh from him.

9.

Let each Salesian

  • re-awaken in his heart a renewed interest in a deeper, more systematic knowledge of Don Bosco through a serious and persevering study of the Salesian history, spirituality, pedagogy and pastoral ministry, and of the Preventive System to put it into action;

  • read and meditate frequently on the Constitutions - “Don Bosco's will and testament” (C. 196).

10.

Let each community

  • make reference to the Constitutions in daily life: use them regularly in community meetings, especially at times of discernment; choose appropriate moments for reading and commenting on them; offer occasions for the review of life;

  • practise lectio divina with Salesian sensitivity, e.g. by making reference to texts belonging to our tradition and the situation of those for whom we work; *- include specific occasions within the community plan for the formation and updating in Salesianity of confrères as well as of lay people who share responsibility for the mission;

  • update the Salesian section in the House library;

11.

Let each province

  • encourage the updating of confrères, lay people who share responsibility with us, and members of the Salesian Family, in Salesian studies; promote Retreats which refer to sources of the charism in addition to the Word of God; occasionally offer pilgrimages to the Salesian places of origin;

  • take advantage of the proximate preparation for perpetual profession as a privileged occasion for a deeper understanding of themes in Salesianity and for a re-reading of the Constitutions;

  • take care to send some confrères to attend specialist courses in Salesianity at the UPS or at other Centres, in view of the animation of the Province and the requirements of formation;

  • commit itself to making Don Bosco known through the use of media;

  • study and deepen its understanding of the history of the Salesian charism in its own cultural context.

12.

Let the Rector Major with his Council

  • invest adequate personnel resources in the UPS, the Salesian Historical Institute and other Centres dedicated to the study and the spreading of Salesianity;

  • coordinate and organise collaboration among these Centres with a view to a better theological understanding of Don Bosco's spiritual experience to develop his pedagogical and pastoral intuitions and to study the gradual inculturation of the charism in different contexts;

  • study the possibility of specific experiences of ongoing formation in the fundamentals of Salesian spirituality, with special attention given to Rectors, in preparation for the bi-centenary of Don Bosco's birth;

  • set up an international team of confrères to provide for the animation of the places of origin of the Salesian charism;

  • make the most important Salesian texts accessible and available in various languages, as well as in digital form;

  • see to the publication and translation of a collection of the principal Salesian sources.

GUIDELINE 2

Return to the young

13.

Return to the young, especially the poorest of them, with the heart of Don Bosco.

14.

Let each Salesian

  • learn to encounter God through the young to whom he is sent (Cf. C. 95);

  • find the time to be present with the young as a friend, educator and witness to God, whatever his role in the community may be;

  • when age, health or other reasons prevent a physical presence among the young, cooperate in the mission to them, through prayer, by showing interest, by offering up his own life.

15.

Let each community

  • renew its understanding and practice of Salesian assistance (cf. (C. 39), by involving lay people who share the responsibility;

  • plan some formation meetings as part of the annual community programme, which have a thorough study of the youth situation as a topic;

  • welcome young people both for occasions of sharing our life and for meetings which reflect on their situation;

  • plan initiatives for going out to meet the young where they live their lives.

16.

Let each province

  • cultivate a constant and more focused attention on how the circumstances of young people are evolving in their own area, in dialogue with civil and ecclesial institutions;

  • study the possibility of setting up spirituality centres which offer young people opportunities for prayer, days of recollection and retreats, education in listening to the Word, and sacramental life.

17.

Let each region

  • encourage collaboration between provinces in establishing criteria and norms for behaviour to be followed by confrères and lay people who share responsibility for the Salesian mission in order to guarantee the safety of minors in our centres and to prevent any kind of abuse, in fulfilment of what was said in GC 25, 36.

18.

Let the Rector Major with his Council

  • enhance the Congregation's presence in international institutions which are concerned with youth policies.

GUIDELINE 3

Charismatic identity and apostolic passion

19.

Rediscover the significance of the Da mihi animas cetera tolle as a programme of spiritual and pastoral life.

20.

Let each Salesian

  • ask God each day for the grace of unity between contemplation and apostolic activity and commit himself to realising it, thus avoiding the risk of fragmented and superficial activity;

  • take personal responsibility for his own spiritual and pastoral formation in order to mature authentically in his vocation;

  • renew or strengthen the practice of being accompanied by a spiritual director, looking at Don Bosco's experience;

  • be ready to share his own faith journey, richness of Salesian spirituality and apostolic activity with his confrères, with lay people who share responsibility with us, with the members of the Salesian Family and with the young.

21.

Let each community

  • organise its daily rhythms of life in such a way as to enable each confrère to take part in community occasions as well as to be truly present among the young;

  • care for the quality of community prayer and liturgical celebrations (cf. Cost 86);

  • highlight Salesian feasts as occasions for community formation and transmission of the charism;

  • value the service that the Rector, as first in order of responsibility for formation, exercises through the Good Night, conferences, the personal talk, fraternal animation.

22.

Let each province

  • prepare confrères to carry out the role of spiritual guides for the community, giving particular attention to initial formation communities;

  • accompany communities in drawing up the community project so as to ensure ongoing formation opportunities for confrères of every age;

  • plan formation initiatives to help confrères live a life of resplendent chastity which conveys God's love for each young person and prevents any kind of counter witness and abuse in their regard.

 

II. THE URGENT NEED FOR EVANGELISATION

 

If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast; it is a duty for me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9,16)

 

 

GOD'S CALL

“'This Society had its beginning in a simple catechism lesson’. For us too evangelising and catechising are the fundamental characteristics of our mission. Like Don Bosco we are called to be educators to the faith at every opportunity. Our highest knowledge therefore is to know Jesus Christ, and our greatest delight is to reveal to all people the unfathomable riches of his mystery. We walk side by side with the young so as to lead them to the risen Lord, and so discover in him and in his Gospel the deepest meaning of their own existence, and thus grow into new men” (C. 34).

 

23.

An evangelised and evangelising community

“The word evangelisation has a very rich meaning. In the broad sense it sums up the Church's entire mission: her whole life in fact consists in accomplishing … the proclamation and handing on of the Gospel which is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rm 1:16) and which, in the final analysis, is identified with Christ himself (cf. 1 Cor 1: 24). …In any case, to evangelise does not simply mean to teach a doctrine but to proclaim Jesus Christ by one's words and actions, that is, to make oneself an instrument of his presence and action in the world” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal note on certain aspects of evangelisation, n.2). We work within the Church, and guided by the Spirit, for the coming of God's Kingdom, “bringing to men the message of the Gospel, which is closely tied in with the development of the temporal order” (C. 31).

The source of all the work of evangelisation lies in a personal encounter with Christ. This experience is a daily event for us, one which is renewed in our listening to the Word, our participation in the Paschal mystery through the liturgy and the sacraments, in our fraternal sharing and our service of the young.

Mary, the first to welcome and carry the message of salvation, teaches us to create evangelised and evangelising communities. From her we learn that a profound experience of God is at the root of our mission and that the first and principal way to evangelise is our witness of faith. This witness becomes more convincing when we approach the young as friends and accompany them as fathers and teachers, radiating joy and hope. In this manner we pass on what we believe and demonstrate what we proclaim through our lives.

24.

Centrality of the proposal of Jesus Christ

We perceive evangelisation as the principal requirement of our mission, aware that the young have a right to have Jesus proclaimed to them as the source of life and promise of happiness now and in eternity. Our “fundamental purpose is that of proposing that everyone should live their human life as Jesus lived it. …At the centre should be the proclamation of Jesus Christ and of his Gospel, together with the call to conversion, the acceptance of the faith, their taking their place in the Church; then from this will come faith journeys and forms of catechesis, liturgical life and the witness of charitable work” (Benedict XVI, Letter to Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva, Rector Major of the Salesians, on the occasion of the General Chapter XXVI, 1 March 2008, n. 4).

Through the Church the Lord Jesus calls us to carry out a new evangelisation: “new in its zeal, its methods and its expressions” (John Paul II, Speech to the CELAM Assembly, 9 March 1983). This entails that we creatively and courageously prepare various appropriate ways of bringing the young to a personal encounter with Christ, so they may grow in the desire to follow him and become apostles of the Gospel and builders of a new world. This emphasis at the heart of every educative intervention of ours is one which we must also communicate to lay people, involving them more and more in pastoral work.

25.

Evangelisation and Education

Evangelisation demands that we safeguard both the proclamation in its entirety and the gradual way in which it is offered. Don Bosco gave his attention to both of these so he could offer all young people a deep experience of God, bearing in mind their real circumstances.

In the Salesian tradition we have expressed this relationship in various ways: e.g. “upright citizens and good Christians” or “evangelising by educating and educating by evangelising”. We note the need to continue to reflect on this delicate relationship. In any case we are convinced that evangelisation offers education a model of fully developed humanity and that education, when it succeeds in touching the heart of the young and developing the religious meaning of existence, encourages and accompanies the process of evangelisation: "Without education, in fact, there is no deep and lasting evangelisation; there is no growth or process of maturity; there is no change of mentality or culture" (Benedict XVI, Letter to Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva, Rector Major of the Salesians, on the occasion of the General Chapter XXVI , 1 March 2008 n. 4). This is why, right from the outset, education must draw its inspiration from the Gospel and evangelisation must adapt itself to the evolving circumstances of the young person. Only thus can the young person discover in Christ his or her true identity and grow to full maturity; only thus can the Gospel deeply touch his or her heart, heal it from evil and open it up to a free and personal faith.

Aware that we are called to educate and evangelise also in ways of thinking, languages, customs and institutions, we commit ourselves to fostering dialogue between faith, culture and religions. This helps the Gospel throw light on the great challenges which human beings and society face from epoch-making changes, and transform the world through the leaven of the Kingdom.

26.

Evangelisation in various contexts

The urgent need for proclaiming the Risen Lord impels us to confront situations that resonate in us as both an appeal and a concern: peoples not yet evangelised, the secularism which threatens lands which are of ancient Christian tradition, the phenomenon of migration, new and dramatic forms of poverty and violence, the spread of movements and sects. We also feel called to respond to certain opportunities such as ecumenical, inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, the new sensitivity for peace, safeguarding human rights and protecting the environment and all creation, the many expressions of solidarity and voluntary movements that are becoming more widespread throughout the world.

These elements, recognised in the Apostolic Exhortations which followed the Continental Synods, are challenges for the entire Church and require us to find new ways for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ while respecting and appreciating local cultures. From this comes the need for each of our Regions and Provinces to make the effort to identify the most suitable ways to carry out our common mission in the specific circumstances of each context.

 

SITUATION


27.

An evangelised and evangelising community

Many confrères intensely live their passion for God and the young. This is shown through a desire for a more prophetic life of consecration, marked by spiritual depth, sincere fraternal community life, and apostolic courage. In this manner, living and working together, they feel they can give an authentic and joyful witness of the charism and attract the young to seriously consider the Christian way of life being offered them and consecrated life itself.

On the other hand we come across spiritual superficiality, frenetic activity, a bourgeois life style, weak evangelical witness, a half-hearted approach to the mission. This translates into awkwardness in bringing out our proper identity as consecrated persons, and into apostolic timidity. The complexity of certain works sometimes risks absorbing confrères' energies in managerial tasks, weakening their primary role as educators and evangelisers.

28.

The centrality of proposing Jesus Christ

The education of the young to faith, re-launched by GC 23, sees the generous commitment of many confrères who offer experiences and differentiated courses adapted to the age, the various circumstances of the young and cultural situations. Despite this we note that the invitation to draw up programmes and processes for young people to encounter the Lord Jesus has not been fully taken up.

Our initiatives are not always clearly directed to education to the faith. Processes of catechesis are weak and in many cases do not engender in young people a convinced and regular sacramental life, a true sense of belonging to the Church and courageous apostolic involvement. The lack of structure and continuity, the result of insufficient reflection and study, has sometimes led to a ministry more of initiatives and events than of processes. In other cases what we have offered has not been sufficiently part of the programmes of the local Church.

In many contexts a certain difficulty is felt due to the distance of young people from the faith, resistance brought about by a secularist mentality widespread amongst families, a misconceived respect for non-Christian religious traditions, a lack of courage on the part of educators.

29.

Evangelisation and education

We perceive that the Salesian charism is a lively part of local Churches and esteemed by them. Don Bosco's Preventive System is more relevant than it ever was and people everywhere find it very attractive. Many young people are open to the search for meaning in life and ready for a serious and courageous educative and Christian proposal. There is no shortage of young people ready to be involved personally in evangelising their peers, especially by belonging to groups. Others on the other hand, victims of the lack of attention today's society has given to education, need our help to achieve an awareness of the deep questions they carry within.

We note the growing number of lay people and members of the Salesian Family who share responsibility not only in organisational matters, but also take up pastoral activity in our works and where they live. We are often not adequately concerned about offering them a systematic formation. We are heirs to a strong tradition in the field of research and of publishing, in the area of catechetics and youth ministry. We note nevertheless the danger of blunting our efforts given the difficulty of finding and preparing specialised personnel and coordinating our initiatives. We also perceive the difficulty in being present in a significant way in the dialogue between faith, culture and religions which is a fundamental challenge for our mission today.

We have improved our institutes of higher education in their response to the needs of the young for academic and professional preparation. These centres are attended by students of diverse nationality, culture and creed. This brings with it the duty of ensuring not only the quality of teaching and research, but also that of the Salesian identity and the proposal of evangelisation.

30.

Evangelisation in different contexts

We encounter settings open to the Gospel in areas recently evangelised. The location of our centres among the people allows contact with many people and offers the possibility of working in the service of the faith in many ways. Missio ad gentes, an essential part of our charism, continues to engender enthusiasm in many confrères who offer themselves for the mission and to involve many young people in volunteer projects. We are committed to getting to know and understand the cultures, languages, religions and local traditions in order to inculturate the Gospel. In some developing countries there are communities exercising a prophetic role in the field of social justice.

In countries of ancient Christian tradition there are expressions of popular religiosity which are a treasure for transmitting the faith and which deserve to be better fostered, promoted and where necessary purified. In the western world we see a widespread crisis of the culture inspired by Christian values, to the point where the Church is no longer an authoritative point of reference for many people and institutions. This gives rise to a particular difficulty in proposing the Gospel and educating to the faith.

Many of our works find themselves operating in a multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural context which poses new challenges to and offers new opportunities for evangelisation. Among these, our relationship with Islam is of particular note, since it demands that we set out adequate strategies for dialogue and proclamation. Where an explicit or immediate proclamation of Jesus Christ is not possible, our presence as Christian educators is a prophetic sign and plants a precious seed of evangelisation.

 

GUIDELINE


31.

Processes required for change

In order to face up to the demands of the call and the challenges which arise from the situation and to carry out the guidelines for action which follow, we need to change our mentality and modify our structures, moving from:

  • a mentality that favours roles of direct management to one that favours an evangelising presence among the young;

  • an evangelisation made up of events lacking continuity to a systematic and integrated evangelisation programme;

  • an individualist mentality to a communal style which involves the young, families and lay people in proclaiming Jesus Christ;

  • an attitude of pastoral self-sufficiency to one of sharing in planning by local Churches;

  • considering the effectiveness of our presence in terms of the esteem of others, to understanding it in terms of fidelity to the Gospel;

  • a mentality of cultural superiority to one of positive acceptance of cultures different from our own;

  • considering the Salesian Family only as a chance to meet, get to know, and exchange experiences, to a commitment to making it a true apostolic movement on behalf of the young;

  • a model of evangelisation aimed only at transformation of the person to an evangelisation which also looks to transforming social and political structures.

GUIDELINE 4

An evangelised and evangelising community

32.

Put encounter with Christ in the Word and the Eucharist at the centre of our communities, in order to be authentic disciples and credible apostles.

33.

Let each Salesian

  • make a personal plan of life which offers the necessary time for individual and community prayer, give attention to meditation on God's Word, make good use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and give pride of place to the daily Eucharist.

34.

Let each community

  • make a community plan of life which provides opportune initiatives to encourage the centrality of the Word of God and Eucharist;

  • involve elderly confrères in the work of evangelisation, where they can, so as to contribute through their experience and wisdom, also as spiritual directors and confessors.

35.

Let each province

  • offer good renewal programmes and appropriate materials, seeing to the quality of Retreats, Monthly Recollections and lectio divina;

  • ensure adequate formation accompaniment for those in practical training and confrères in their quinquennium.

GUIDELINE 5

Centrality of the proposal of Jesus Christ

36.

Propose to the young with courage and joy that they live their lives in the way Jesus Christ lived his.

37.

Let each Salesian

  • apply himself to a systematic and spiritual study of the Word of God in order to assimilate it and make Jesus the inspiration, criterion and purpose of every educative and pastoral activity;

  • give witness to his own faith, saying what effect the meeting with Christ has had in his life;

  • see to his own updating in areas of study which permit a critical interpretation of our times and an effective way of proposing the faith.

38.

Let each community

  • put into its pastoral and educative plan programmes for proclamation, catechesis and education to the faith which are appropriate for those to whom they are addressed and for their contexts;

  • offer lay people in the pastoral and educative community who have made an option for Christ, a formation which helps them be educators of the faith;

  • educate the young to personal prayer and encourage a style of celebration which communicates an authentic experience of joyful and lively encounter with the Lord;

  • frequently offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation as an essential step along the road to conversion, and the Eucharist as the source and summit of Christian life;

  • foster youth groups as a place where the young can feel that they are active agents in their own journey of faith and service to their brothers and sisters.

39.

Let each province

  • review its pastoral and educative plan with a view to new evangelisation, selecting the most appropriate means for bringing the Gospel to settings and situations which present new challenges;

  • strengthen the preparation of confrères and lay people who share responsibility with us, in the area of pastoral disciplines: youth ministry, catechetics, liturgy, missiology and social communication.

40.

Let the Rector Major with his Council

  • encourage, through the Formation Department, a more consistent theological and pastoral preparation in curricula for specific formation.

GUIDELINE 6

Evangelisation and education

41.

See to a more effective integration, in each setting, of education and evangelisation, following the logic of the Preventive System.

42.

Let each Salesian

  • appreciate that a direct and warm relationship with each young person is a privileged form of witness and proclamation.

43.

Let each community

  • examine its pastoral activity in order to check that it is safeguarding both the proclamation in its entirety and the gradual way in which it is offered, following the logic of its contents and processes;

  • see to the renewal of catechesis and be open to new forms of accompaniment of children, older youth and adults in the process of Christian Initiation;

  • see to the formation of a moral conscience and educate young people to social and political involvement following the inspiration of the social teaching of the Church;

  • encourage opportune reflection on the relationship between culture, faith and religions so that the Gospel may resonate as part of the great questions which impinge all areas of human awareness today.

44.

Let each province

  • ensure that all its works, through educative activity, carry out a real work of evangelisation;

  • prepare personnel and foster formation initiatives which help in making good use of social communication for education and evangelisation; ** accompany and assess the quality of teaching of religion and catechetics in our settings.

45.

Let the Rector Major with his Council

  • encourage, through the competent Departments, a deeper understanding of the relationship between evangelisation and education in order to put the Preventive System into practice, and adapt the frame of reference for youth ministry to changing cultural circumstances;

  • encourage reflection, through the Youth Ministry Department, on the contribution which the oratory criterion (cf. C. 40) can offer to the renewal of catechesis which is happening in the Church.

GUIDELINE 7

Evangelisation in various contexts

46.

Inculturate the process of evangelisation in order to give a response to challenges in regional contexts.

47.

Let each Salesian

  • learn the languages of the people with whom he works with a view to guaranteeing a truly inculturated evangelisation.

48.

Let each community

  • study and plan interventions, methods and strategies for the evangelisation of the young in their own context, in relationship to culture and the choices made by local Churches;

  • form Christian young people and adults in a multi-religious context to be disciple missionaries while respecting other religious traditions.

49.

Let each province

  • accompany each community in planning specific responses to challenges in the context in which it is operating;

  • offer formation initiatives to confrères and lay people on the theme of inculturation of the faith;

  • foster the missionary spirit, generously place at the Rector Major's disposal Salesian personnel for missio ad gentes, and encourage missionary vocations among lay people and families;

  • educate confrères in initial formation to a missionary sensitivity and to dialogue with different cultural and religious traditions.

50.

La regione

  • animate the provinces so they can effectively promote contextualised evangelisation, following the directions of Episcopal Conferences and Continental Synods and by sharing the more significant experiences.

51.

Let the Rector Major with his Council

  • foster experiences of inter cultural communities as a sign of communion and fraternal life and as a help to evangelisation in multi-cultural and multi-ethnic contexts;

  • accompany evangelising and educational activity on behalf of the young and families of other religions, by offering appropriate directions provided by the Departments for the Salesian mission.

 

III. NEED FOR VOCATION MINISTRY

 

“Look around you, look at the fields. Already they are white, ready for harvest” (Jn 4:35)

 

 

GOD'S CALL

“To meet the needs of his people the Lord continually calls some to follow him, and enriches them with a variety of gifts in the service of the Kingdom. We are convinced that many young people are rich in spiritual potential and give indications of an apostolic vocation. We help them to discover, accept and develop the gift of a lay, consecrated or priestly vocation, for the benefit of the whole Church and of the Salesian Family. With equal zeal we nurture adult vocations” (C. 28).

 

52.

Witness as the first vocational invitation

We gratefully recognise that the Salesian vocation is a grace we have received from God. He has called us to live by following the obedient, poor and chaste Christ, in a fraternal community with a mission to the young, based on Don Bosco's example. The generosity of confrères and the example of communities who live the primacy of God, the family spirit and dedication to the mission, are the first and most beautiful vocational invitation we can offer the young.

We know that a young person discovers the call to consecrated Salesian life when he encounters a community that is significant to him, or a model with which to identify, an experience of spiritual life and apostolic commitment, the help of a guide who accompanies him in his choice of Christ and gift of himself.

The lack of vocations experienced by some provinces, while it obliges us to duly assess the situation, challenges us to grow in the authenticity of our life and in our ability to invite. We are in fact convinced that God continues to call many young people to service of the Kingdom and that there are various factors which can encourage their response.

53.

Apostolic vocations

Today we feel more strongly than ever the challenge of creating a vocational culture in every setting, such that young people may discover life as a call and that all Salesian ministry may be truly vocational. This requires that we help young people overcome an individualist mindset and the culture of self-fulfilment which urges them to plan their future without heeding God; it also requires us to involve and form families and lay people.

There has to be a particular effort put into engendering apostolic passion amongst the young. Like Don Bosco we are called to encourage them to be apostles among their own companions, taking on various kinds of ecclesial and social service, being involved in missionary projects. To encourage a vocational option for apostolic commitment, these young people should be offered a more intensive spiritual life and a more personal and systematic accompaniment.

This is fertile ground where families capable of authentic witness can flourish, as well as committed lay people at every level of Church and society. Vocations to consecrated life and to ministry can also flourish.

54.

Accompaniment of candidates to Salesian consecrated life

Don Bosco, while working with tireless generosity in fostering many kinds of vocation in the Church, also called young men to stay with him permanently. For us too, proposing the Salesian consecrated vocation to young people is part of our fidelity to God for the gift we have received. It is what drives our desire to share the joy of following the Lord Jesus, staying with Don Bosco, in order to give hope to many other young people of the whole world.

Fostering consecrated vocations demands certain fundamental choices: constant prayer, explicit proclamation, courageous invitation, careful discernment, personalised accompaniment. We should be committed to daily prayer in our communities and involve young people, families, lay people, Salesian Family groups. Proclamation entails making good use of the many opportunities which present themselves over the course of the liturgical year. Inviting and discerning require a warm closeness which gives rise to confidence and allows us to recognise the signs of a vocation which a young person can show. Accompaniment requires us to help the young intensify their spiritual life, take part in suitable forms of apostolate, have an experience of community, get to know the Congregation, assess their motivations and take the necessary steps which lead to a decision.

We recognise the need for each province to have vocational communities or aspirantates which can welcome and accompany the young people who are interested in looking at the possibility of Salesian consecrated life. Then, in vocation ministry the essential contribution of families should be taken into account in various ways.

55.

The two forms of the Salesian consecrated vocation

Don Bosco wanted the Congregation to be distinguished for the complementary presence of lay Salesians and ordained Salesian ministers. We are therefore called to give priority and visibility to the unity of our apostolic consecration, even though it takes two different forms. We can do this by strengthening the primacy of God and the radical following of Christ as the basis of our life.

Salesian apostolic consecration lends a particular educative flavour to our way of living the ordained ministry, putting proclamation of the Word, liturgical celebration and guidance of the community at the service of the growth of young people; this is the specific contribution we should offer pastoral and educative communities and local Churches.

The same consecration marks out the Salesian Brother, making him a full time educator and evangeliser, capable of bringing, in all educative and pastoral areas, the values of his lay state and his being close to the young and the realities of work. (cf. C. 45)

Aware that the Congregation would put its identity at risk if it did not preserve this complementarity, we are called to more deeply understand the original Salesian contribution to the ordained ministry and to make greater efforts to foster the vocation of the Salesian Brother.

 

SITUATION


56.

Witness as the first vocational invitation

Numerous confrères live their vocation joyfully and are involved in creating an atmosphere which encourages the emergence of vocations. The attitude of many Salesians who welcome young people with simple, meaningful gestures such as a warm greeting, dealing with them in a friendly way, offering an animating presence, becomes a vocational witness. The example of a confrère who is serene and active in old age and the patient contribution of confrères who are sick, who know how to give their lives “new apostolic significance” (C. 53), can communicate to the young the beauty of a life that is dedicated and still fruitful.

The lack of vocations has sensitised communities and confrères to reflect on the ways of carrying out vocation ministry today. Many communities pray for vocations, invite in the young, lay people, families, using various forms of prayer and celebration.

The example of our lives, on the other hand, does not always manifest the centrality of God and a life style inspired by the Beatitudes. We are not ready, sometimes, to welcome young people into our communities. We also find difficulty in guaranteeing an educative and spiritual accompaniment. Pastoral individualism weakens the value of living and working together and renders less credible the invitation to be a part of our fraternal life. Ways of behaving which are not consistent with consecrated life, particularly with the vow of chastity, and those who leave the Congregation, impact negatively on the choices young people make. The widespread culture of the media, too, which often trivialises affectivity and offers a distorted image of the consecrated person, is an obstacle to identifying with the consecrated vocation.

57.

Apostolic vocations

Numerous communities are committed to giving importance to the vocational dimension of youth ministry. Despite this, we are aware of the risk of efforts that are improvised and sporadic; we often offer meaningful but isolated experiences, the result of activities which lack coordination between youth and vocation ministry.

The crisis of the family, a widespread relativist and consumerist mentality, the negative influence of media on consciences and behaviour are a strong obstacle to a vocational culture. We have not always sensitised our pastoral and educative communities, at the right moment, to the apostolic and vocational dimension, nor have we always shown that we appreciate shared responsibility with the laity and collaboration with groups in the Salesian Family.

The presence of so many youngsters in our centres is an opportunity for cultivating an educative dialogue, entering into their confidence, helping them to discover God's plan for their life and inviting them to offer the gift of themselves. We do not always know, however, how to enthuse them to be apostles among their own companions, and offer them diversified spiritual paths and service opportunities. As a result we risk levelling out our invitations and not knowing how to engender apostolic vocations, thus undermining the natural context where vocations to special consecration can mature.

58.

Accompaniment of candidates to Salesian consecrated life

There are provinces with a well-structured vocation ministry which is shared by the communities. They have set up discernment groups, retreats with a vocational dimension and experiences of voluntary service, communities of invitation and new forms of aspirantate/candidacy. They also use social communication media to facilitate a knowledge of Don Bosco's charism.

The practice of meetings between young confrères and young people discerning a vocation is fairly widespread; this is particularly useful since, through witness of this kind, young people can discover consecrated life as an attractive form of Christian living.

Adolescents and older youth are generous, but they experience difficulty in taking on long-term commitments. The recruitment mentality at times leads to having young candidates to consecrated life whose motivation is fragile. Unfortunately some young men are brought into the formation stages without being sufficiently suitable. Others have a difficult family situation behind them which needs to be understood and integrated in such a way as not to compromise the process of maturing. Vocation ministry is almost exclusively aimed at students, while we overlook young workers.

There are also sometimes difficulties of spiritual accompaniment because of the lack of preparation of Salesians. We still see weaknesses in the organisation of initiatives and proposals either at province or local level. When there is a lack of planned continuity, a change of confrères responsible for vocation ministry can be especially delicate. In some provinces there are no communities for vocational accompaniment.

59.

The two forms of the Salesian consecrated vocation

Many Salesian priests live their ministry at the service of the young and with an educative style which is faithful to Don Bosco's intuitions. In some cases, however, we encounter an unspecific pastoral approach and only a half-hearted taking on of our charismatic identity. This invites us to better distinguish the specific formation paths that can be followed.

The Salesian Brother vocation is often not understood, since it is less visible and poorly presented. Among other things, this is the result of it being tied mainly to managerial roles and not directly to youth activities. His role and purpose is not always presented with adequate emphasis in aspirantates, pre-novitiates and novitiates. In certain contexts the prejudice persists that the Salesian priestly vocation is more important than that of the Brother. The reduction of our presence amongst young workers has impacted negatively on proposing this vocation. Where, on the contrary, we find a significant number of Salesian Brothers who are culturally and professionally qualified and placed in roles of responsibility, this heightens the visibility of the vocation and arouses in young people a desire to follow it. A positive factor has been the introduction in all regions of a specific formation phase for the Salesian Brother.

 

GUIDELINE


60.

Processes required for change

In order to face up to the requirements of the call and the challenges which arise from the situation, and in order to carry out the following guidelines, we need to change our mentality and modify our structures, moving from:

  • thinking that we are the ones who take the lead in vocation ministry to humbly recognising that we are but mediators of God's action in this regard;

  • a vague and occasional vocational invitation to one of focused and attentive planning that creates a vocational culture;

  • a vocation ministry which we conduct alone, to projects shared with groups in the Salesian Family and with the local Church;

  • setting up vocation ministry as a response to the problem of a lack of vocations to one where we rediscover the joy of helping young people find out God's plan for them;

  • a mentality where we delegate vocation ministry to a few people, to one where we involve every confrère, community and the laity;

  • a vocation ministry which is separate from youth ministry to one understood and experienced as the very crowning of youth ministry.

GUIDELINE 8

Our witness as the first vocational invitation

61.

Witness with courage and joy to the beauty of a consecrated life dedicated totally to God in the mission to the young.

62.

Let each Salesian

  • keep alive an awareness of the gift of his own vocation, assuming an attitude of thanksgiving to God;

  • be committed to witnessing to a joyful life and sharing the story of his own vocation when opportunity presents itself;

  • strengthen fidelity to his vocation by constant recourse to spiritual guidance; let him also, in difficult moments, value the help that can be given by the human sciences;

  • pray daily for vocations;

  • transform the patience demanded by discomfort and suffering at the time of old age or illness, into a trusting offering of himself on behalf of vocations.

63.

Let each community

  • open its house to the young, especially those who are discerning their vocation, inviting them to share in key moments of community life;

  • support confrères in their affective maturing, helping them especially in moments of difficulty;

  • carry out a scrutinium each year on its witness of life;

  • involve young people in occasions of prayer for vocations.

64.

Let each province

  • foster, amongst confrères, a strong sense of belonging in order to witness to the value of living and working together.

GUIDELINE 9

Apostolic vocations

65.

Instil in young people an apostolic involvement on behalf of the Kingdom of God, with the passion of the da mihi animas cetera tolle and encourage their formation.

66.

Let each Salesian

  • be convinced that each young person has a God-given mission, and accompany him or her in discovering it.

67.

Let each community

  • draw up a proposal for vocation ministry which is appropriate for the context, working with the educative and pastoral community and the Salesian Family, bearing in mind the decisions of the local Church and ensuring adequate financial resources;

  • see to a ministry to families which uses encounters, reflection and prayer so that parents may be open to their children's vocation;

  • avail of the apostolic and vocational resources found in groups, voluntary work and missionary animation;

  • make use of the opportunities the liturgical year offers for vocation ministry;

  • present the idea of the Salesian Cooperator in a convincing way, as an invitation to the lay apostolic vocation.

68.

Let each province

  • draw up a plan for vocation ministry as part of the province's pastoral and educative project;

  • ensure the right conditions for the Rector to carry out his role as the primary animator of vocations and strengthen the role of the pastoral coordinator in each work;

  • offer experiences of apostolic service to young people, of belonging to groups and volunteer work;

  • work with groups in the Salesian Family and the local Church and other institutes of consecrated life in the area of vocation ministry;

  • encourage the updating of Salesians and lay people who share responsibility with us in discernment and accompaniment;

  • invest adequate financial resources and personnel in vocation promotion initiatives.

GUIDELINE 10

Accompaniment of candidates to the Salesian consecrated life

69.

Make explicit the invitation to Salesian consecrated life and foster new forms of vocational accompaniment and aspirantate/candidacy.

70.

Let each Salesian

  • learn to recognise the signs of a vocation that young people manifest and have at heart inviting them to Salesian consecrated life;

  • be available for spiritual accompaniment and see to his preparation for the task.

71.

Let each community

  • organise vocational groups and gatherings which have a process of discernment and accompaniment;

  • invite well-disposed young people to be part of the projects at Province level regarding vocation discernment for Salesian consecrated life;

  • make good use of feast days and regular celebrations of our Saints and anniversaries of professions and ordinations as opportunities for vocation ministry;

  • encourage sharing of experiences on ways to accompany young people along their vocational journey.

72.

Let each province

  • study possibilities for new forms of aspirantate/candidacy in order to have one or more communities where vocational accompaniment of young candidates can take place;

  • encourage reflection and cooperation between youth ministry and formation;

  • offer initiatives for vocation ministry at every level of a person's life, paying attention to affective maturity;

  • work with consecrated groups in the Salesian Family to offer vocational invitations to young women as well;

  • plan for specific vocation ministry to young migrants belonging to Catholic families or ethnic minorities, and indigenous young people;

  • take greater note of the criteria indicated in the Ratio regarding vocation discernment;

  • involve young confrères in vocation ministry at local and province level.

73.

Let the Rector Major with his Council

  • encourage, through the Departments for Youth Ministry and Formation, reflection on new forms of aspirantate/candidacy and on spiritual accompaniment, and offer opportune directions to provinces;

  • study, through the Departments of Formation, Youth Ministry and Missions, problems regarding the age of candidates, specific courses for indigenous vocations, the criteria for accepting those who come from other vocational programmes/experiences.

GUIDELINE 11

The two forms of the Salesian consecrated vocation

74.

Encourage the complementarity and specific nature of the two forms of the one Salesian vocation and take up a renewed commitment on behalf of the Salesian Brother vocation.

75.

Let each Salesian

  • value and foster the uniqueness of the Salesian consecrated vocation in its complementary forms.

76.

Let each community

  • accompany ordained confrères in highlighting their priestly ministry through our educative charism, giving preference to pastoral activities which are aimed directly at the young;

  • encourage the presence of Brothers among young people in educative and pastoral roles and not just as organisers and administrators;

  • make known the Salesian Brother vocation, by presenting the more significant models of this vocation.

77.

Let each province

  • make the Perpetual Profession ceremony an occasion for understanding better and proposing the complementarity of both forms of the Salesian vocation;

  • involve Salesian Brothers, where possible, in the various services of province animation, especially in vocation ministry and in the provincial formation commission;

  • strengthen the specific formation of the Salesian Brother, something which is happening at regional or inter-regional level.

78.

Let the Rector Major with his Council

  • encourage a serious and up-to-date reflection on the complementary and specific nature of the two forms of the Salesian consecrated vocation in the Congregation.

 

IV. EVANGELICAL POVERTY

 

If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me”
(Mt 19:21)

 

 

GOD'S CALL

Don Bosco lived his poverty in detachment of heart and generous service of others; his manner was marked by austerity, hard work and much initiative. Following his example we too live detached from all earthly goods; we participate with a spirit of enterprise in the mission of the Church and in her struggle for justice and peace, especially by educating those in need. The witness of our poverty, lived in a common sharing of our goods, helps the young to overcome their selfish possessive instinct and opens them to the Christian sense of sharing” (C. 73).

 

79.

Personal and community witness

Taking on our human condition, the Lord Jesus chose to be born and to live poorly, entrusted himself totally to the Father and shared the circumstances of life of the poor, proclaiming them to be blessed in that they had benefited from the Good News and were heirs to the Kingdom. He asked some to leave everything to follow him more closely, proclaiming by their lives that God is their true wealth. From this call comes the poverty of the Salesian who expresses his trusting abandonment to the Father, his closeness to and service of the poor, the blessedness of a life filled with love for God and our brothers.

From being a young boy Don Bosco, a man of humble origins, experienced the discomforts but also the values of a poor life. With Mamma Margaret as his teacher he gained a taste for work and a simple life style, serenity in trials and solidarity with those in need. Placing his total trust in Providence, he decided to live poorly and to spend all his energies for the young to whom God had sent him: “ For you I study, for you I work, for you I live, for you I am ready even to give my life” (C. 14). The detachment from everything that makes us insensitive to God and hinders the mission is the deep significance of the cetera tolle and is the criterion for evaluating our way of living poverty.

The first manifestation of poverty is the total giving of oneself to God in availability to the needs of the young; this brings with it self-renunciation and putting aside individual projects in order to share those of the community. Aware of Don Bosco's warning about comfort and ease, we are called to live an austere life style, to work tirelessly without giving in to activism, keeping our heart free from attachment to goods and material things. The community in particular feels itself called to seek institutional forms of witness which express a credible and prophetic poverty.

80.

Solidarity with the poor

By dint of our vocation, we are called to cultivate an attentive listening to the cry of the poor and announce the Kingdom to them as the basis of true hope and leaven for a new world. This requires the preferential choice for the most needy young people, attention to their needs, sharing their situation, overcoming a paternalistic, welfare mentality, a commitment to making them active agents in their own development.

Faithful to our charism, we are not content with offering them immediate help, but aim to condemn and fight against the causes of injustice, contributing to the creation of a culture of solidarity, educating to moral awareness, active citizenship, respect for the environment, proposing initiatives and projects of intervention, working with other organisations and institutes who promote life. This commitment requires that we renew our communities and, in our educative settings, our sensitivity to these matters, and that we overcome the tendency to bourgeois values which results in indifference to the global tragedy of poverty.

81.

Responsible management of resources in a spirit of solidarity

Don Bosco reminds us that “what we have is not ours; it belongs to the poor; woe to us if we do not use it well” (C. 79). The practice of poverty demands a management of the resources entrusted to us which is consistent with the purposes of the mission, responsible, transparent and carried out in a spirit of solidarity. This means, among other things, a clear and complete accountability, a rational and optimal use of our property, initiative in finding the necessary resources to guarantee the sustainability of our works, respect for legal work contracts, attention to the social setting where we are located, rediscovering the value of generosity in offering hospitality and some of the things we do, solidarity amongst our communities, provinces and the Congregation.

The challenges of widespread lawlessness, global injustice and the hoarding of goods on the part of some, call us to condemn these scandals and develop a culture of what is essential, equitable distribution of resources, sustainable development. This way poverty takes on a powerful educative value: it affirms the primacy of being over having, bringing about an authentic Christian solidarity with the poor, and challenges a consumer lifestyle.

 

SITUATION


82.

Personal and community witness

In general, confrères give witness to generous work and freely give of themselves until old age, putting what they are and what they have at the service of the poor; despite decrease in numbers, communities carry out many initiatives in a wide range of areas.

Sometimes we risk reducing the exercise of poverty to dependence on the superior; irregular management of money and personal accounts is noted. Poverty is not always expressed through simplicity in food, dwellings, journeys, media, organising our free time, looking after our health. In some contexts there is an exaggerated attachment to and support for our family of origin which is not consistent with the vow of poverty.

In many communities goods are shared and families in difficulties are helped. There are confrères who lend a hand in the care and maintenance of the House, but the widespread use of paid staff risks a weakening of our shared responsibility for common services. Lack of involvement in financial management of the community and insufficient information lead some to be unaware of the difficulties of the House, the cost of living, and problems which the poor face on a daily basis. The scrutinium paupertatis does not always result in modifying incorrect practices.

Sometimes, in initial formation, there is a lack of attention given to evangelical poverty expressed concretely in day-to-day living: they know of the implications of the vow of poverty, but do not learn in real terms to think and live as poor people.

83.

Solidarity with the poor

We undertake various initiatives in response to the most serious forms of poverty, such as taking in migrants, projects supporting development, help for victims of war and natural disasters, human development in mission territories. Important too is the work carried out in schools to educate to the demands of justice and in the cause of peace; we offer a culture of solidarity with initiatives on behalf of the most needy and excluded. We work for the poor, but sometimes not alongside and with them: in fact we are not always careful to foster their sense of involvement in development projects. We note a resistance in some confrères to going out to needy youth, and offering themselves for new presences in areas of poverty affecting the young.

Imposing buildings which are sometimes no longer meaningful in relation to the social context, costly and ostentatious materials, incorrect use of money, risk not giving witness to community and institutional poverty. Some works which started out on behalf of the poor have gradually ended up being aimed at the middle class.

84.

Responsible management of resources in a spirit of solidarity

Many efforts have been made to show greater transparency in administration, especially by a more careful drawing up of financial statements, better use of buildings, growing respect for the laws which currently apply, a practical solidarity at provincial level. We are encouraged by the fact that private benefactors, civil and ecclesiastical institutions continue to show trust in our work and lavish funds to sustain our works.

We do not always have the necessary competence for the management of financial resources; despite the effort to prepare economers/bursars, they do not all have the necessary preparation. Budgeting is not a widespread practice. We note, in the relationship with those who work for us, an ownership style which does not respect their dignity; we need to always remind ourselves to be more attentive to social justice in their regard. There is a difficulty, too, in sharing responsibility with lay people in management decisions.

The growing needs and complexity of certain activities risk transforming Salesian work into a business enterprise, with the danger of being excessively functional and efficient, especially when this weakens our pastoral intent. When carrying out big projects relating to new structures or re-structuring, there is the risk of wasting energy, time, money.

 

GUIDELINE


85.

Processes required for change

In order to face up to the demands of the call and the challenges which come from the situation, and to carry out the following guidelines, we need to change our mentality and modify our structures, moving from: 

  • a half-hearted apostolic commitment, to the unconditional gift of ourselves for the needs of the mission;

  • a theoretical esteem and formal observance of poverty, to effective practice and true inner freedom in the spirit of the Beatitudes;

  • a vague understanding detached from the circumstances of poverty, to one of concrete solidarity with the poor and a greater commitment to social justice;

  • a local mindset which is closed in on itself, to a provincial and global spirit of solidarity;

  • inadequate skills, to a more professional approach in administration;

  • management of resources from a proprietary mindset, to an awareness that we are stewards of the goods entrusted to us.

GUIDELINE 12

Personal and community witness

86.

Give credible and courageous witness to evangelical poverty, lived personally and as a community in the spirit of Da mihi animas cetera tolle.

87.

Let each Salesian

  • dedicate his whole life to God and the young with inner detachment, recalling what Don Bosco once said: “we need to have poverty in our hearts to practise it”;

  • express his poverty through tireless self-sacrificing work, fleeing laziness or frenetic activity, also by giving a hand in work and service around the House;

  • take care of his health and in agreement with the community plan appropriate periods of rest;

  • live the temperance that Don Bosco wanted of us through a simple lifestyle with regard to food, clothing, journeys, furniture, use of work materials, media and time, maturely accepting any discomfort when something useful or necessary is lacking;

  • rediscover the requirements of dependency on the superior and the community (cf. 75) and the sharing of goods as required by the Constitutions (cf. C. 76) and give an account of what he receives and whatever comes to him from any source.

88.

Let each community

  • ensure that confrères know and put into practice what is indicated in the Provincial Directory's poverty and administration section, especially in reference to personal use of goods and technological tools;

  • diligently make the annual scrutinium paupertatis in view of a more credible witness;

  • prepare the annual budget, present the financial statement, regularly inform confrères of the financial situation and sensitise them to the cost of living; punctually hand over to the province any monies left over (cf. R. 197).

89.

Let each province

  • draw up a plan of financial solidarity which guarantees equitable distribution of resources and lays down the criteria to ensure a tenor of life which is common for all communities;

  • ensure that directions concerning poverty, as proposed to confrères in initial formation are consistent with the effective practice of individuals and communities.

GUIDELINE 13

Solidarity with the poor

90.

Develop a culture of solidarity with the poor in the local context.

91.

Let each community

  • express its solidarity with the poor not only through charity, but also through choices that have an impact on the tenor of our lives;

  • educate, in collaboration with the educative and pastoral community, to a culture of solidarity, helping young people to bring a critical spirit to their interpretation of the economic and social phenomena of our time, involving them in initiatives and projects of development, and encouraging their taking part in similarly ordered activities of solidarity;

  • educate to a respect for ethnic and religious difference and encourage a spirit of brotherly concern.

92.

Let each province

  • plan experiences at the service of the most disadvantaged young people for confrères in formation;

  • choose areas of greatest poverty when opening new works.

93.

Let the Rector Major with his Council

  • help the provinces grow in their commitment on behalf of social justice;

  • support institutions fostering the rights of the young and, when possible and opportune, take a stand in the name of the Congregation against their violation.

GUIDELINE 14

Responsible management of resources in a spirit of solidarity

94.

Manage resources in a responsible, transparent way, consistent with the purposes of the mission, putting the necessary checks and balances in place at local, provincial, world level.

95.

Let each community

  • periodically assess the objectives and strategies of the work to avoid it being simply a business venture rather than a service of education and evangelisation;

  • ensure that the financial transactions of all sectors of the work are referred to the administrative office (R. 198), the inventory kept up to date, and that all the necessary information is made available to assist the administrative personnel in carrying out their work;

  • guarantee good planning and management with regard to personnel we employ, respecting the rights and duties laid down in law and seeing that they are respected;

  • be responsible for the planning, execution and monitoring of building and maintenance works, in understanding with the Provincial Economer (R. 195);

  • study its own financial situation to ensure the sustainability of the work and, if dependent on external help, set up a plan for financial self-sufficiency;

  • give attention to the correct use of funds which come from other bodies or institutions;

  • respect the intentions of benefactors.

96.

Let each province

  • accompany the financial management of individual Houses with the help of competent lay people who are trustworthy and share our spirit, and make the necessary checks;

  • ensure ethical sensitivity in the management and use of financial means, availing itself of the professional help available in this field;

  • act in such a way that the buildings in our works are suitable for carrying out the mission, that the structures are adequately used and properly maintained;

  • take account, in asking for financial support, of the planned elements of the Overall Provincial Plan so as to avoid setting up initiatives or structures which will not be sustainable over time;

  • rethink initial formation with regard to poverty, helping confrères to make correct use of their time, goods and money; offer essential knowledge of accounting and management; involving them in running the House;

  • educate communities to being ecologically sensitive, by supporting initiatives in the local area concerning respect for the environment, use of alternative energy and economical use of resources.

  • study the possibility of common contracts to acquire goods and manage expenditures and propose these to the communities as a way to make savings.

97.

Let the Rector Major with his Council

  • ask for a more practical solidarity of resources and personnel among provinces and regions, also through twinning arrangements;

  • keep an eye on the management of financial resources of the provinces to see that it is carried out in an ethical way and in a spirit of solidarity;

  • ensure effective supervision of Provincial Economer operations, at the same time assessing their carrying out of projects financed by the Congregation;

  • give directions for the distribution of donations coming in through institutional channels at General Administration and Province levels, being careful to see that there is an equitable distribution of resources and that benefactors' intentions are respected;

  • assess the opportuneness of the use of Free/Libre Open Source Software, through the Department for Social Communication, and give pointers to the Provinces.

 

V. NEW FRONTIERS

 

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor”
(Lk 4:18)

 

 

GOD'S CALL

Our apostolic activity is carried out in a variety of ways, which depend in the first place upon the needs of those to whom we dedicate ourselves. We give effect to the redeeming love of Christ by organising activities and works of an educative and pastoral nature attentive to the needs of the neighbourhood and the Church. Sensitive to the signs of the times and with a spirit of initiative and continual flexibility we evaluate these activities, renew them and create new ones. The education and evangelisation of many young people, especially among the very poor , means that we have to go to them where they are to be found, and provide adequate forms of service in the context of their own life style” (C. 41).

 

98.

Main priority: poor young people

Don Bosco, going through the streets of Turin, saw the needs of “youth at risk” and responded promptly to their needs, opening up new frontiers of involvement and also acting with “temerity” to “win souls for God”. Going around the streets of the world we too run across young immigrants, children exploited by sexual tourism and child labour, drug addicts, HIV/AIDS sufferers, social misfits, unemployed, victims of violence, war and religious fanaticism, child soldiers, street children, the physically and psychologically disabled, young people at risk. We are struck by some of the marginalised places where young people live, such as the shanty towns and city outskirts, and also by some of the marginalised situations such as those of refugees, indigenous children, Gypsies and other ethnic minorities. We also acknowledge the expectations of young people who are spiritually and culturally poor, and who ask us to be involved: young people who have lost meaning in life, lack affection because of family instability, those left disillusioned and empty by the consumerist mentality, the religiously indifferent, those lacking motivation because of permissiveness, ethical relativism, the widespread culture of death.

Don Bosco felt he was sent by God to respond to the cry of poor young people and understood that if it was important to give an immediate response to their difficulties, it was even more important to prevent their causes. Following his example, we want to meet up with them, convinced that the best way to respond to their poverty is, in fact, through preventive action. Therefore we see the need to study his educative system in order to spell out the tasks involved in overcoming the problems of the young and their marginalisation: education to ethics, fostering the dignity of the human being, social and political involvement, the exercise of active citizenship, the defence of the rights of juveniles, the struggle against injustice and the building of peace. Recognising that we find openness and availability to the Gospel in poor young people, we courageously proclaim Jesus Christ to them and offer them journeys of faith.

99.

Other priorities: family, social communication, Europe

Special attention needs to be given to the current situation of the family, originally responsible for education and the first place for evangelisation. The entire Church has become aware of the serious difficulties the family finds itself in and warns of the need to offer extraordinary assistance for its formation, development and the responsible exercising of its educative role. This is why we are also called to act in such a way that youth ministry is ever more open to family ministry.

We also feel questioned by the new technologies of social communication and the educational challenges they pose. Today's communication opportunities have become an habitual way for young people to meet, exchange ideas, and get involved quickly and with great mobility, but also in an impersonal and virtual way. The culture of personal media can compromise one's ability to mature in personal relationships and exposes young people especially to the danger of very negative encounters and dependencies; this is the “playground” where we need to be present in order to listen, enlighten, guide.

We share the Church's concern for the future of the Gospel in the Western world, and especially in Europe. There is a constant weakening of reference to the Christian roots which have contributed to the identity of the Continent, inspired thought, customs and art, guided the history of its peoples, enriched the Church with splendid figures of holiness, and for centuries nurtured a missionary zeal throughout the world. Given the interdependence of peoples, Europe's destiny involves the entire world and becomes the concern of the universal Church. This opens up a new frontier with respect to the past; for us Salesians it is an invitation to “give greater attention to the training of young people in the faith” (Ecclesia in Europa n. 61).

100.

New models for managing works

Attention to new frontiers involves us in the renewal of our mentality, in cultivating shared responsibility in projects which are never those of the individual but of the Salesian community, the Educative and Pastoral Community. The new needs of the young demand personal detachment from roles, situations and bonds which threaten real readiness to change, and also demand the apostolic courage which disposes us to rethink initiatives and works in order to respond better to their questions.

A new model for managing works requires that we guarantee the consistency in number and quality of the community; real shared responsibility amongst confrères and lay people; availability of the Rector for his primary duty; the fostering of new kinds of more flexible presence; common planning with the Salesian Family and networking with other educative organisations and agencies in harmony with the local Church and society. This will permit us to give life to “new presences”, that is, to hitherto unknown projects in response to emerging needs, or the renewal of existing works and proposals which can make them “new forms of presences”, that is, more effectively oriented towards the mission.

 

SITUATION


101.

Main priority: poor young people

There is widespread attention given to so many forms of poverty in today's world especially those which threaten the present and the future of the young. The Congregation is strongly committed to fostering social growth and human development in areas where poverty is most evident. Young people are brought into our Houses without discrimination and our educative and pastoral service is offered to all. The settings where we prepare young people for the world of work are especially effective, offering accompaniment and professionalism.

Positive experiences which respond to emerging forms of poverty have come about in provinces. Networking is developing in collaboration with the Salesian family, educators and volunteers in educative and pastoral communities, people of the Church, society and community groups, non-government organisations. Positive aspects encouraging an openness to new frontiers include the increased capacity to think up and work with projects, the trust and availability of private and political institutions, a commitment to investing in formation which enables Salesians and lay people to give adequate responses.

On the other hand there is a certain resistance to renewal, re-qualification, change in our way of thinking. Formation of Salesians and lay people in knowing how to read the signs of the times and overcome the danger of growing away from the young, is weak. This conjures up the danger that we grow distant from the young. As a result our educative involvement sometimes does not reach those beyond the boundaries of where we are. To respond to new forms of poverty, provinces often trust in the initiative of some confrère who is sensitive to the situation, but have not put planned common initiatives in place.

102.

Altre priorità: famiglia, comunicazione sociale, Europa

The circumstances of the family are a particular concern in almost every context. The family is threatened not only by widespread ethical relativism, but also by the passing of unjust laws which do not support it as an institution. It has come to the point where families fall apart and other kinds of union are recognised, bringing serious consequences at the educational level such as abandoned children, forced cohabitation, violence within families. This is why attention has grown in provinces to the family which is the essential point of reference for education, but the efforts we have made so far are still insufficient.

Sensitivity to and involvement on the part of the Congregation in Social Communications has grown. Signs of this are, for example, the setting up of the Faculty of Communication Sciences at the UPS, the putting into place of various projects of education to critical use of media, the growing presence of our websites on the internet, the greater familiarity we have with computer networks whether for personal exchanges or for distance education, and the new arrangements for the Department of Social Communication. We are nevertheless aware that there are very many virtual worlds inhabited by the young and that we are not always capable of sharing and animating them because of our lack of formation, time and sensitivity.

In recent decades we have witnessed a gradual weakening of the Salesian presence in some nations in Europe. The worrying decrease in vocations has meant confrères are doing their best to maintain presences and activities by involving lay people in the management and animation of these works, redefining boundaries of provinces in order to set up joint projects to respond better to the challenges of education and evangelisation. We see the un-sustainability of this kind of effort without a courageous project on the part of the whole Congregation.

103.

New models for managing works

In our work on behalf of poor young people, some provinces have achieved good results by forming, involving and sharing responsibility with the laity. Here we are speaking of ever wider attention, but one still not adequately taken up in all our presences.

Sometimes we come across an organisational model which has not known how to renew itself according to the needs of the times: a mentality persists which has been inherited from a traditional style of management in our Houses. This shows up, for example, in the rigid way in which activities are set up, in insufficient attention paid to the rhythms of life of young people, in the slowness with which we relocate or reorganise our houses or works, in the difficulty in sharing responsibility with lay people in decision-making roles.

In order to measure up to the changed circumstances of the times we have often adopted the strategy of making the works so big as to be difficult to manage and no longer capable of responding to the new forms of poverty with the ease and urgency they demand.

 

GUIDELINE


104.

Processes required for change

In order to face up to the needs of the call and the challenges which come from the situation, and to carry out the consequent guidelines for action, it is necessary to change out mentality and modify our structures, moving from:

  • occasional attention to poor young people, to lasting and focused projects in their service;

  • a welfare mentality, to involving poor young people in being active agents of their own development and active in the social and political field;

  • intervention directed to the victims of injustice, to networking to combat the causes of injustice;

  • a youth ministry insufficiently attentive to family contexts, to one of greater investment of energies on behalf of the family;

  • a timid attitude and sporadic presence in media, to one of responsible use and a more incisive educative and evangelising animation;

  • a situation of progressive weakening of our works in some countries in Europe, to a re-launching of the charism;

  • a tendency to focus on management of works already consolidated, to one of courageous and creative flexibility; educative activity which is too self-sufficient, to networking with whoever has the needs of the young at heart.

GUIDELINE 15

Main priority: poor young people

105.

Put courageous choices into place on behalf of poor young people and those at risk.

106.

Let each community

  • face up to new forms of poverty experienced by the young in their locality, and keep alive a sensitivity to the most serious kinds;

  • express predilection for the poor by planning initiatives along with the educative and pastoral community which are explicitly dedicated to the poorest young people in the area;

  • feel particular solidarity with province works which are dedicated to the poorest;

  • seek responses to the spiritual forms of poverty of the young, offering them experiences and ways to re-awaken the religious dimension of life and help them discover Jesus as Saviour.

107.

Let each province

  • guarantee that in its Overall Provincial Plan there are works explicitly dedicated to the young people who are poorest and most at risk and prepare qualified personnel;

  • ensure that in each work's pastoral and educative project there is a proposal of education to the faith which measures up to the situation of the poorest young people;

  • take a courageous decision, where necessary, to relocate and re-dimension its works so they may serve poor young people and ordinary folk;

  • study the possibility of putting projects into place and creating opportunities to offer young people an alternative to physically and morally dangerous kinds of amusements;

  • promote the defence of the rights of juveniles and other young people and condemn violations of these rights with prophetic courage and educative sensitivity.

GUIDELINE 16

Other priorities: family, social communication, Europe

108.

Give privileged attention to the family in youth ministry; improve the educative presence in the media world; re-launch the Salesian charism in Europe.

109.

Let each community

  • involve and form parents in the educative and evangelising activity they carry out for their children;

  • develop curricula for affective education especially during adolescence and accompany young people during their time of engagement for marriage, making good use of the contribution of parents, lay people who share this responsibility and members of the Salesian Family;

  • foster new forms of evangelisation and catechesis of families and by means of families;

  • plan educative projects to help young people to a critical and responsible use of various kinds of media (mass, folk, personal, convergent etc.) and encourage their active involvement in the social communication field and in youthful and popular forms of expression;

  • use the technologies of social communication to give greater visibility to their presence in order to spread the charism.

110.

Let each province

  • coordinate and sustain the efforts of educative and pastoral communities in the affective education of the young and in accompaniment of engaged couples;

  • lay down a realistic strategy which favours a more incisive presence in the media world, as well as youthful and popular artistic expression, and prepare qualified personnel in this area;

  • foster family ministry projects together with lay people and the Salesian Family.

111.

Il Rettor Maggiore con il Consiglio

  • offer guidelines, through the Youth Ministry Department, on contents and processes for affective education of the young, in order to support the efforts of provinces and communities;

  • reflect, through the Departments for Social Communication, Formation and Youth Ministry, on the new challenges of the culture of personal media for formation of Salesians, the preparation of the laity, and to help the young;

  • define the nature and objectives of the Congregation's intervention on behalf of a renewed Salesian presence in Europe.

GUIDELINE 17

New models for managing works

112.

Review the management model of works for a more effective educative and evangelising presence.

113.

Let each province

  • reinforce the consistency in number and quality of the Salesian community and help it to identify what is its main responsibility in animating the work;

  • identify the interventions needed to set in motion “new presences” or to renew existing ones so they are better oriented towards the mission;

  • rethink the distribution of responsibilities in individual communities, assess the functioning of the councils at various levels so the Rector can carry out his primary duty;

  • reflect on the complexity of the works and identify more flexible forms of presence through the Overall Provincial Plan;

  • ask for and make good use of the contribution of the Salesian Family in view of common planning of its presence in the neighbourhood;

  • encourage networking with members of the Salesian Family, the Church and society.