Happy Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. We recall how this was an occasion for the young people, Salesians, collaborators, and past pupils to express their gratitude to Don Bosco. We continue that tradition by praying for the 10th successor of Don Bosco, Fr. Ángel Fernandez Artime. We also remember that St. John the Baptist is a patron of Puerto Rico. Like St. John the Baptist, may we recognize Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
One of the memorable experiences of GC28 was meeting the leaders of the Congregation, present and past members of the General Council, in a more personal way. Fr. Mike Conway and I had the good fortune of sitting in the second-to-last row in the general assembly hall, right in front of Fr. Pascal Chavez, the ninth successor of Don Bosco. We were able to greet him whenever we gathered in the theater. He also joined in the InterAmerica region meetings. It was impressive to see Fr. Chavez, Rector Major Emeritus, interacting as a brother among brothers. He led the Chapter in a very meaningful and challenging reflection on Don Bosco’s Letter from Rome of 1884. With his many years of experience as regional and rector major, he continues to serve both the Church and Congregation by his example and preaching, helping us all live the Salesian charism with enthusiasm today.
Fr. Chavez preached the annual retreat to the Salesian community in Jerusalem this past January. Because of the pandemic, it had to be virtual. At the (online) curatorium meeting, Fr. Stan, the director of the community, mentioned that Fr. Chavez was willing to share the printed version of his conferences with the confreres, so I asked for a copy. The theme of the retreat was “Called to Give back Hope to the World.” How appropriate, considering the Strenna for 2021 and this time of pandemic. Fr. Chavez weaves together the Word of God, our Salesian charism, recent Papal magisterium (Gaudete et Exsultate, Evangelii Gaudium), and the themes of GC28. He guides the Salesians to commit themselves to live their vocation with authenticity and generosity. At the end, he quotes the Message of Pope Francis to GC28, “Neither pessimistic nor optimistic, the Salesian of the 21st century is a man full of hope because he knows that his center is in the Lord, able to make all things new” (cf. Rev. 21:5).
The Salesian vocation is to live Don Bosco’s missionary project as apostles of the young in the Church. We respond to our vocation “by committing ourselves to an adequate ongoing formation for which the Lord daily gives us his grace” (Const. 96). In other words, we daily renew our “yes” to follow Jesus, and so also need to continue our formation. The retreat conferences of Fr. Chavez are a useful resource for us to be Salesians today and give back hope to the world. I will send digital copies of the conferences to the directors. They can make them available to the confreres as they best see fit. During these summer months, when we may have a little more time for spiritual reading, I recommend the works of Fr. Pascual Chavez.
This Saturday, June 26, the Salesian Family will gather in Port Chester for the priestly ordinations of Lenny Carlino and Steve DeMaio and the deacon ordination of Ky Nguyen. I hope you can join us in person or online to witness our brothers being configured to the image of Christ the High Priest in the manner of Don Bosco. Craig Spence will be ordained on Saturday, July 31 in Marrero. We pray for them and their families, and we pray that many young people will respond to the call of the Lord to give themselves generously to the Salesian mission.
Fr. Tim Zak