We finished our 2022 Provincial Chapter on Friday, July 15, with the celebration of the Eucharist and a banquet. I repeat what many expressed during the closing evaluation last Friday: thanks to everyone involved. Thanks to Fr. Mike Mendl and the preparatory commission, the colleagues who joined us, the local community and staff of Stony Point, the secretaries, the moderators, those who sponsored the socials, and those who were praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit during the chapter. As Fr. Mike Mendl acknowledged in his closing remarks, thanks especially to all the chapter members. May this experience bear much fruit. Chapter members are invited to send their written evaluation form (available in the Google Drive) to Fr. Mike Mendl.
We began on Monday morning with reflections on synodality by Bishop Bonicci. I believe our experience at the chapter in many ways was living "synodality," a journey we made together, listening and dialoguing about our Salesian life and mission. Pope Francis has written, "It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium."
By journeying together and reflecting together on our experiences, the Province strengthens our communion, welcomes participation, and becomes even more generous in the Salesian mission, witnessing to God’s love, especially to the young. Synodality is the way of being the Church, and is expressed in our ordinary way of living and working as God’s People. Bishop Bonicci put it this way: listen, learn, love.
During the Provincial Chapter, we spent many hours listening to each other, to our colleagues, to the voices of the confreres who spoke through the work they had done in preparation for the chapter, and (we pray) listening to the Holy Spirit. We learned about the reality of our province from an overview of the statistics, each Salesian presence in our small group discussion, and our relations with colleagues through their honest interventions. We also learned how to better use modern technology. We expressed our love for our consecrated vocation by identifying this as a priority for each confrere as we move forward (in line with the Proposal One of the Action Program of the Congregation). We shared fraternal affection in the moments of relaxation and socializing. We recall that "love is patient, love is kind...," which allowed everyone to express themselves freely without becoming defensive or taking offense. This same practical synodal process now gets carried out in our day-to-day lives in community and ministry. Moving forward from the Provincial Chapter, each confrere, SDB community, and Salesian presence can renew the Salesian charism in the practical ways in which we listen, learn, and love.
The provincial council will pick up the themes of the chapter and make them the primary content of our days of prayer and planning next week, Sunday, July 24, through Saturday, July 30. We will review the three key points of GC28 and the Rector Major’s eight proposals as the chapter summarized the discussions in one-page documents. This will become the basis for the updating of the province strategic plan and then the action plans for each province department. We are dedicating some time to our own on-going formation, becoming more familiar with documents on the Salesian mission to the young, published by the Congregation in the past few years. We will once again look over our province handbook. Please keep the provincial council in your prayers as we strive to make even more specific all that was shared at the Provincial Chapter.
As our summer apostolates continue in some of our Salesian presences, I ask you to give intentional attention to the young adults involved, not just as employees or volunteers, but as young people waiting for our accompaniment. I repeat the words of Fr. Ángel at the end of GC27: give priority to "...personal accompaniment, proposing bold challenges for the discernment of their life choices with equally bold proposals for every king of vocation in the Church, including the Salesian vocation in its various forms..."
Fr. Tim Zak