Issues Vol. 168 >
Vol. 168 No. 04 - January 28 - February 03, 2017
St John Bosco, familiarly known as Don Bosco, wanted his Congregation to be a 'family'. Don Bosco knew that the family forms an integral part of life, and is very important for the holistic growth of the individual. This is the reason that the Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, reiterates this dimension in his vision for this year's Strenna (theme) to the Salesian Family: "We are a Family: Every home, a school of Life and Love!"
When Don Bosco was ordained in 1841, Turin was in turbulence. With the Industrial Revolution making headway in Piedmont, many young people migrated from the impoverished countryside to the industrialised Turin, in the hope of finding employment and a better life. They lived on the streets, and were exploited by the industrialists; many ended up in prison. Don Bosco decided to work for these youngsters.
Not everyone approved of the idea of a priest working with street children. Don Bosco was forced to make a choice: to be a priest within the Church establishment, or with the boys living in poverty. He made the option for the poor. This was not an easy decision; it left him without housing, without promotion prospects, without an income and not much of a future.
The core of his work was in the Oratory. It started as a kind of Sunday school, where Don Bosco met the boys from the street for worship, catechesis, recreation and breakfast. Gradually, it developed into a youth centre, which was a combination of a home, a school, a playground and a parish. This combination ensured that the young received an all-round formation: human and emotional (home), intellectual (school), social and recreational (playground), and spiritual (parish). Don Bosco envisaged that every Salesian work would be this combination, and above all, a family!
An elderly woman expressed her loneliness within her church: "I sit in the pew next to a warm body every week, but I feel no heat. I'm in the faith, but I draw no active love. I sing the hymns with those next to me, but I hear only my voice. When the service is finished, I leave as I came in—hungry for someone to tell me that I'm a person worth something to somebody. Just a smile would do it, or perhaps some gesture, some sign that I am not a stranger."
I daresay she is not alone in her "loneliness". We have many friends in the virtual world, but very few companions in the real world. And yet, we need real relationships; we need warmth and love; we need signs that we are not strangers. We need the presence of people in our lives. God never intended for us to be alone; He created us relational.
No wonder, an important aspect in Don Bosco's spirituality and pedagogy is 'presence'. In the Salesian tradition, 'presence' is being with the people entrusted to our care. It is a physical, active and animating 'being with'. It means having their best interests and welfare at heart; it implies establishing relationships with them based on love, mutual respect, equality and cooperation, rather than fear and superiority. Presence demands that we love what people love, so that they can learn to love what we love. It is a sharing in their lives: listening and speaking, playing and praying, laughing and crying, encouraging and challenging, correcting and guiding. Through sharing our lives and ourselves, we communicate the presence of God's life-giving love to His people.
For everyone, Don Bosco is a gift from heaven: for the Church, for the Salesian Family, for the countless boys he knew personally, and for the millions with whom his sons and daughters interact. For his Salesian Family, Don Bosco is the model, the father and the teacher to the faithful following of Jesus. Even though the actual circumstances in which we live are very different, Don Bosco's spirituality and his project have a striking relevance in our world. May he continue to inspire us to be a 'family', where life and love abide and grow!
Fr Godfrey D'Souza SDB, Provincial of the Salesian Province of Mumbai
WE ARE FAMILY! And we are born as a family!
The ecclesial events that we have experienced after two synods and the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL) of Pope Francis, demand– gladly for us as Salesian Family–that we focus our educational and pastoral attention on the family.
One becomes a person living in a family, growing, usually with one's parents, breathing the warmth of the home, and it is in the family and the home that we are given a name, and therefore a dignity; we experience affection; we cherish the intimacy of this family, and we learn to ask for permission, for forgiveness and express our gratitude.
Besides this, the Strenna is directed to the members of the Salesian Family which, through its strong tradition, is growing as a FAMILY. That is why we, as members of the Salesian Family, see it as a duty not only to look inward, but to love in another direction, in the direction of the Universal Church in which we are strongly involved under the leadership of Pope Francis, whose duty it is to give the Church its direction.
An invitation to a calm, open reading with a ready heart
I make first of all an invitation to a calm and open reading, with the heart ready for dialogue and encounter with what the apostolic exhortation says, so that it may help us as Salesian Family to discover what the document offers.
The document is a service to humanity from the perspective of Catholic belief, and a true spiritual and pastoral treasure. And we get involved in it from the awareness that "we are a Salesian Family."
The Pope himself says, "We need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times … we have proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families. (AL n. 36).
A synthesis of the content of the Pope's exhortation: to discover our duty as a Salesian Family with families
The text contains the already known characteristics of the magisterium of Pope Francis; it is a realistic, close, direct and suggestive text. It is not a document that speaks of the family in an abstract way, but one that touches life, to give a word of encouragement to many people who need it.
In the apostolic exhortation, the Pope traces the biblical and theological, moral and pastoral summa concerning the family, inviting us to bring out the positive and humanising aspects of human love, which is a reflection of God's love, which is always stronger than the failures of our human plans.
SPCSA is a body, led by Rev. Fr Maria Arokiam Kanaga, Regional Councillor, which brings together 11 Provinces as one body for common orientations and initiatives in the following areas viz. Education, Youth Animation, Mission, Communication and Formation. Each of these areas functions with a Network Head. The concept of Network means the Network Head collaborates, Intra-Network as well as Inter-Network, with the various relevant constituencies. Also, the Network Heads interface with the Province Commission Heads and members to plan and implement programmes and projects within the different Provinces.
Rev. Fr Maria Arokiam Kanaga, Regional Councillor, SPCSA, appointed a Strategic Evaluation team comprising of Fr V.M. Thomas (Chairman), Fr Adolph Furtado, Fr Noel Madhichetty, Fr Thomas Pallithanam, Lourdes Baptista and Conrad Saldanha. The team was given a year to complete the Evaluation and Visioning exercise, effective February 2016.
Looking at the enormity of the exercise and its significance, a detailed proposal was drawn up. The Visioning for Salesians of Don Bosco, India would be done concurrently with the Evaluation of SPCSA.
The objectives of the Visioning exercise were to understand the necessary orientations and possible goals to be adopted in the context of the Salesian identity, for Salesian India. This would include understanding the current perceptions of who should the Salesians be serving (target group), the Services currently being offered, any new Services which would need to be offered, and whether a Change in Mindset is required to effect a greater impact.
The world, dear people, is waiting for Somebody, waiting and watching today. For Somebody to lift and strengthen their fellow beings, for Somebody to heed their tears. Somebody to shield little kids from woes, and bring a sliver of hope to the elderly. The world is waiting for Somebody, and has been waiting for years on years. Somebody to share another's sorrows and fears; Somebody to simply say, 'I Care.'
In 1997, Pope St John Paul II instituted a special Prayer for women and men in Consecrated Life. Since then, the Catholic Church celebrates the World Day of Consecrated Life, on February 2, each year. This celebration is attached to the feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is commemorated on that day. This feast is also known as 'Candlemas Day'—the day on which candles are blessed, symbolising Christ who is the Light of the World. This ideally makes it a day to praise and thank God for those men and women who discerned God's call, and willingly turned over their lives to Him as priests and religious sisters. They reflect the light of Christ to all people, as they become one with God, through the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience that they take. These vows help them to live out their Baptismal Promises, something we too are called to do. The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind, but the goodness of consecrated persons spreads in all directions. This, I believe, is possible because God sends His Angels to accompany them, to watch over them, to guide them, 24x7, 365 days of the year. The relationship of a Consecrated Person with God entails being sent out into the world as Prophets of His Word and as Witnesses of His Love.
The life of Mahatma Gandhi has been a source of inspiration for people from all over the world. Gandhi penned his Autobiography to tell the story of his numerous Experiments with Truth, especially in the spiritual field which was unknown to the people of India and the 'civilised' world. His life was so transparent that he could declare to the whole world that "My life is my message."
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 at Porbandar in Gujarat, as the youngest son of Karamchand Gandhi and Putlibai. His refusal to copy the spelling of a word from his neighbour's slate, the impact of Shravana Pitribhakti Nataka and of Harishchandra on young Mohandas show his commitment to truth at a tender age. After the completion of his matriculation examination, he went to England in 1888 to study Law. During his stay there, he came in contact with prominent people associated with London Vegetarian society, Christian missionaries and theosophists, and was introduced to major religious texts of various religions. His stay in London further strengthened the interreligious approach which he got from his family and Saurashtra's cultural environment. He passed the examinations in 1891, and sailed back home.
He started his legal practice in India, but he could not succeed in the profession. In the meantime, he got an offer from Dada Abdulla and Company, and sailed to South Africa in 1893. In South Africa, he had to face the wrath of racial discrimination. He was literally thrown out of the compartment at the Pietermaritzburg railway station in spite of having a first class ticket. After the completion of his work, he decided to return to India. But he had to stay in South Africa for 21 years to fight against racial discrimination. He established the Natal Indian Congress Indian Opinion, Phoenix Settlement and Tolstoy Farm to consolidate the Indian Community in South Africa. In the wake of the Boer war and Zulu rebellion, he organised the Ambulance Corps to nurse and serve the wounded. During his stay in South Africa, a real metamorphosis of his personality took place, and that finally paved the way to 'Mahatmaship' later. In 1906, he took the vow of Brahmacharya, and also formulated his principle of Satyagraha in the same year. He led a series of struggles on South African soil, including the Long March till the passage of the Indian Relief Bill in 1914. He returned to India in 1915.
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