Just yesterday, we celebrated St. Philip the Apostle, the patron of our province. We are now in a month filled with inspiring witnesses of Salesian holiness —youth and adults, women and men, lay, consecrated and ordained, founders, and a martyr. Their example encourages us to live our Salesian vocation with generosity and joy.
In the Rector Major’s closing address of GC28, he presents a challenge concerning the Salesian Family. He says the Salesian Family "is an essential charismatic element, much stronger today than in Don Bosco’s times, because over 160 years there has been great development. For this reason, I invite you to continue to believe with conviction in the Salesian Family." This was a theme repeated at the team meeting in Peru. The provocative question was posed, "Do we really believe that the Salesian Family is an essential charismatic element?" In other words, do we believe that we need the Salesian Family to be whom Don Bosco wants us to be? In visiting all the Salesian presences in the province over these past 6 years, I can say that it remains a challenge for us to have an attitude toward the Salesian Family fully in line with the Congregation’s.
In Canada and the USA, as in our region, we are blessed with a good number of the groups of the Salesian Family. We must always remember that the SDBs are the first group. We also have present FMA, Salesian Cooperators, the Association of Mary Help of Christians (ADMA), SDB Past Pupils, FMA Past Pupils, Don Bosco Volunteers (DBV), Volunteers with Don Bosco (CDB), Caritas Sisters of Jesus (CSJ), Damas Salesianas, Catechist Sisters of Mary Immaculate Help of Christians (SMI), Michaelites (CSMA), Cancao Nova. The Hijas del Divino Salvador had been in Oklahoma but returned to El Salvador with the hope of once again having a presence in the USA. There are an estimated 15,000 members of official Groups of the Salesian Family in the Region! Five of the groups were founded in our region. Such a large and diverse spiritual Family can certainly help to give renewed dynamism to and guarantee our common Salesian charism.
Although there are juridical and organizational structures that govern each group and the relationship between the groups, I believe the Salesian Family is most effective when it acts as a grassroots movement at the local level. The members of the Salesian Family, including the SDBs, feel the urgency to respond to the needs of the young and their families; we know we are stronger and more effective together; we already share a common spirit and are committed to a common mission; respecting the autonomy and unique contributions of each group, we live a family spirit in a spiritual Family. We feel the force of the Spirit at work in our midst, strengthening our communion and moving us forward together with apostolic zeal. It is a dynamic experience of the Oratory, where the Salesian charism is lived with creativity and co-responsibility in our established works as well as beyond our works.
I share with you a few practical observations and recommendations that came out at the team visit regarding the Salesian Family.
- Many thanks to the delegates to the various Groups of the Salesian Family.
- The SDBs, especially the director, have a unique role in the animation of the Salesian Family, for example, in convoking the local Salesian Family Council. (Const. 5)
- We need to commit to spending time together, to get to know each other, and to celebrate together. We have valuable resources to guide us in living the Salesian charism together, especially the Charter of Charismatic Identity of the Salesian Family of Don Bosco. We can strengthen the Salesian Family by participating in gatherings organized at the provincial, regional, and worldwide levels.
- For example, the Salesian Family Festival in Ramsey, NJ, October 6- 9, 2023, and the International Congress of Mary Help of Christians in Fatima, Portugal, from August 29 to September 1, 2024. By authentically living as members of the Salesian Family, we give an example of a synodal Church, listening, dialoguing, showing mutual respect, forgiving, journeying together, etc.
- It is important that those in initial formation get to know members of the Salesian Family.
- As part of vocation animation, we boldly propose to young adults vocations in the Salesian Family. The strenna is a valuable resource to bring the members of the Salesian Family together for ongoing formation, study, prayer, and apostolic renewal.
Don Bosco envisioned a vast movement of people working together for the good of the young. We have the chance to make that dream a reality by living the Salesian charism shared with all the groups of the Salesian Family.
Please join me in wishing Br. Mike Brinkman a Happy 91st Birthday. And to Br. Reegan Ledet, a Happy 26th Birthday!
Fr. Tim Zak