Today we begin a new month! The assignments for roles of leadership announced toward the end of January now officially take effect. The early announcement was intended to give sufficient time for a smooth transition. Even after these five months, confreres will still need to adjust to the new environment, to settle into their new roles, to get to know the confreres to build up the community and discover their service in the mission. As brothers, sensitive to the emotional impact of change, we welcome the new members of our community and commit ourselves to patience and fraternal support.
In the first video presentation on the book The Ministry of the Salesian Rector, Fr. Ángel compares this resource to a compass. A compass gives the traveler direction; it is a reliable point of reference. In contrast to a GPS, which presents a step-by-step map to get to a certain location, the compass points the way but does not indicate the specific path. The Rector Major goes on to say that this book is a valuable tool, but the Salesians will also need deep faith, shared responsibility and communion, and an attitude of discernment. Making good use of the tool will help Salesians be Don Bosco for the young today.
The analogy of a compass that Fr. Ángel uses for The Ministry of the Salesian Rector can also be applied to our province plans. The province strategic plan (or organic plan of the province, OPP) and province Salesian educational pastoral plan (SEPP) are like the compass, points of reference that give direction. They are necessary tools, especially when used with deep faith in community attentive to God’s will. The province strategic plan and the province SEPP do not dictate the specific steps that need to be taken on the journey. That is left to the local SDB communities and local EPC councils to decide. To continue the comparison, the local community plan of life and the local educational-pastoral plan are the GPS.
I would like to make a few comments on the community plan of life. It is a concrete way to strengthen our ability to live and work together as Salesians in religious life. More than a written document, it is a process of discernment that recognizes the connection between the province and the specific reality of the local community. The community plan of life can be a sincere expression of our obedience, not because a province leader or document has told the confreres what they must do, but because the confreres themselves prayerfully discern what God is calling this group of men to be and do in this Salesian presence this year. The plan can help develop a sense of communion, a stronger unity in identity and purpose, going against the cultural trends of individualism and isolation. Considering all this, we can see that a good community plan can be valuable for our ongoing conversion.
I am drawing attention to the community plan of life at this time so all the confreres, guided by the director, can begin to reflect on their own plan for this new academic pastoral year. The confreres can review the scrutinies from the past year, the provincial visitation reports including the report of the extraordinary visitation and other means of assessment used during the year. They can bring this concern to prayer, being open to God’s will, so they are ready to contribute to the development of their community plan later in the summer.
There is no specific template for the community plan of life, however, it seems beneficial if it includes the essential elements of our Salesian religious life: 1. Sent to the young; 2. In communities; 3. Following Christ. In each of these sections, we can recognize the reality of the here and now, that is, listen to the cries of the young around us; then we seek to interpret this reality according to the criteria of the Gospel and the Salesian charism; finally, we make a few significant choices that will indicate the way forward.
The Salesians have been talking about the community plan of life for 20 years. We understand its value in helping us live our vocation. To emphasize the importance of this tool, I would like to meet with each community toward the end of August or the beginning of September, in person or by Zoom, to go over your community plan of life as we begin this new academic year. I have asked the directors to send me dates when we can have this meeting.
Wishing you all a Happy Canada Day today and a Happy Independence Day on Sunday.
Fr. Tim Zak