Today is the Feast of St. Luigi Versiglia and St. Callistus Caravario, Salesian missionaries and martyrs in China. It is a good occasion to reflect on the missionary dimension of our Salesian vocation.
At the General Chapter last year, the Hong Kong province gave everyone a postcard with the images of Versiglia and Caravario on one side, and on the other, these recommendations, which Bishop Versiglia wrote to missionaries in 1920:
- The missionary who fails to keep united with God is like a channel detached from the spring of water.
- The missionary who prays much will achieve much.
- Love souls dearly; such love will teach you ways and means to do good to them.
- In all things always aim high, but then be content with whatever you accomplish.
- Without Mary Help of Christians, we Salesians are nothing.
These recommendations still are relevant to us in the Salesian mission in Canada and the USA. The heroic witness of Versiglia and Caravario encourages us to live this moment of generosity in the Congregation and especially in the province, as the Rector Major challenges us in Proposal 7 of the Action Program after GC28.
The Congregation provides a number of excellent resources that we can use in our religious communities and in our works to cultivate the missionary dimension of the Salesian charism. I mention just a few here, with the hope that each Salesian will feel a great fervor to promote the Salesian missions.
- Cagliero 11. All the confreres receive this monthly bulletin. It helps us stay aware of the Salesian missions. It can be shared with our colleagues and volunteers.
- The annual Salesian Mission Day (SMD), which is usually celebrated in November by the Salesian Family and works. I highly recommend us to become familiar with the pamphlet prepared for the SMD. It can be the basis for several good mornings with the school communities. The brief articles are informative and formative, especially for the mission clubs in our presences.
- Prayer for the missions. The pamphlet mentioned above includes a Lectio Divina, which I recommend for the young adult groups that the SDBs accompany. On the 11th of each month, we keep the Salesian missions in our prayers within our communities and works in a more conscious way.
- The witness of the missionary vocation. The stories of Salesians—lay, religious, children, young people, and adults—responding with missionary zeal to the urgent needs of their brothers and sisters can kindle greater apostolic charity in each of us. Our province has benefited, and still benefits, from Salesian missionaries. I feel it is a blessing when a man in initial formation expresses an interest in offering himself to the Rector Major to be a missionary ad gentes.
- If you go to the Salesian Missions website, you’ll find a page entitled, “Fund a Project.” It is incredible to see the diversity of works requesting financial support. If you scroll down on the page, you’ll find many projects that have been fully funded by generous benefactors. The particular project of the Salesian Mission Day 2021 is the Don Bosco Health Center in Gumbo, South Sudan. Maybe the mission clubs in our Salesian presences could commit to contributing to this project.
- Experiences in the Salesian mission. Some of our works offer week-long mission experiences like Gospel Roads or mission trips to Mexico, Nicaragua, Haiti, etc. These experiences can be life-changing for the young, especially when there is the opportunity to reflect on and share their experience when they return. Young adults from Canada and the USA have dedicated a few months to a few years to serve in the Salesian missions through the SLM and VIDES programs. It is important for our confreres to promote these missionary experiences and also be open to receiving young missionaries in our communities.
Coming out of the pandemic, we are going to need the great missionary zeal that Sts. Versiglia and Caravario showed in their time. In some places, we will need Salesians, religious and lay, ready to make the initial proclamation of the Gospel, even here in Canada and the USA. Let’s work together on the points outlined above to follow Don Bosco’s genius and cultivate the missionary dimension of the Salesian vocation.
It has been 11 months since the coronavirus pandemic caused a lockdown in much of life. We would like to dedicate the March 11 edition of Salesian News to the response of our Salesian presences to the pandemic. I invite each SDB community to send to Julia St. Clair two to four sentences briefly recounting: 1.) What the Salesian presence did to continue the Salesian mission during the pandemic; 2.) What life lessons you have learned during this time; 3.) What God is asking of the Salesian presence going forward. By sharing our experiences, we will see the great things God has done for us.
Fr. Tim Zak