Tomorrow, we start the "Great Days of Advent." Whether you pray the Liturgy of the Hours or sing the Christmas Novena that has been passed down to us, with the hymn, the prophecy, the O antiphon, and the Magnificat or join in the Posadas or use some other devotional prayers, this is a privileged time to imitate Mary. She joined attentive silence together with joyful charity.
I remember how the Rector Major, in his recent visit to our province, strongly encouraged the FMAs to pray with the young. During these last days of Advent and throughout the Christmas season, we can find creative ways to invite young adults to join us in prayer or pray with them where they are. About a month ago, I recommended that each community live-stream their Christmas Novena, allowing our colleagues, the young, and their families to share in the spiritual richness of these days. That would be one way to follow Fr. Ángel’s recommendation of praying with the young.
I was privileged to travel with Fr. Ángel and Fr. Hugo while they visited the SUE Province (SUE) in November. In addition to Salesians praying with young adults, another message that Fr. Ángel repeated in several Salesian presences was the richness of the diversity of our religious communities and works. He connected our diversity to the universality of the Church and the internationality of the Salesian Family. It is not a surprise that he encouraged young people who are immigrants or children of immigrants to proudly share their cultural heritage while showing appreciation for this country that welcomes them and gives them the opportunity for a better life. His message was in line with the 125th anniversary of the presence of SDBs in Canada and the USA. Salesian missionaries first came here to work with Italian immigrants. It wasn’t long before Salesian missionaries were also serving the Portuguese, Mexicans, Polish, etc. It has been the living history of our countries and Salesian provinces to benefit from the rich diversity of immigrants in our neighborhoods and our Salesian works. In fact, SDBs offer pastoral ministry on a regular basis in 13 languages in our province today!
The Rector Major also acknowledged the diversity of our religious communities. There are 152 men, including those in initial formation, associated with SUE. Almost one-third were not born in Canada or the USA. We represent 23 different nationalities. About 15 percent of the men (23) have transferred temporarily to SUE to help us, especially in ethnic or non-English ministries. Twelve of our province's 15 communities have at least one confrere born outside of Canada or the USA. We are a culturally, linguistically, and ethnically diverse province. This could be a source of division and misunderstanding, as sometimes happens in society, or it can be a witness to our unity in the Spirit of Christ, to the internationality of the Congregation, and to our commitment to the one Salesian mission.
The Rector Major warned against closing in on ourselves as a province or as a country. For example, we see the value of living some phases of initial formation in other provinces. The diversity in our history, our day-to-day experience of diverse communities, and our current mission moves us to be open to learning new languages and to new experiences in other countries.
In these Great Days of Advent, we can consider the diverse ways cultures celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and how the Church is enriched by this diversity. We can also recognize our rich diversity in our Salesian religious communities and works as an expression of the abundant gifts we have to offer in the service of the newborn King.
Fr. Tim Zak