Now is the hour for General Chapter (GC) 28! This is the title of a series of short videos the Rector Major has prepared on each of the proposals in the six-year action program of the Congregation. They are easily accessible here. The most recent video was distributed last week; it is on the fourth proposal, a renewed culture of formation in the mission throughout the Congregation.
Fr. Ángel records this particular video in the St. Francis de Sales Chapel in Valdocco with some SDBs in initial formation and their formators. He points out how Don Bosco was able to form young people (Savio, Besucco, Magone) and young Salesians (Rua, Cagliero) in that place by accompanying them in real-life situations with a simple yet profound and effective spirituality, the Preventive System. The stories we hear of the early Oratory inspire us to make the “Valdocco option” today, where formation is not parallel to mission but integrated with the mission. “The mission among the people is our best school: it is starting exactly from it that we pray, reflect, study, and rest. When we isolate ourselves or distance ourselves from the people we are called to serve, our identity as consecrated persons becomes disfigured and turns into just a caricature” (Message of Pope Francis to the Participants of GC28).
Fr. Ángel describes formation as a lifelong process that is personalized without becoming individualistic. It is really the work of love, allowing the love of God to so fill our hearts that we become authentic signs and bearers of God’s love to others, especially the young. He highlights three points in this fourth video:
- The principal agent in formation is the Holy Spirit;
- Formation is less a course of studies and more a work of art entrusted to each community; and
- Cultural and linguistic diversity in the houses of initial formation reflect the internationality of the Congregation.
In this complex and divided world, the unity of a diverse community gives prophetic witness to the Kingdom of God. We show the world how to encounter, accept, respect, and appreciate the uniqueness of each person while journeying together toward greater communion.
The comments of the Rector Major in these videos on the action program of the Congregation could be a great stimulus for a community discussion. The confreres might watch a video as a good night or as part of the discussions on the implementation of GC28 in preparation for our provincial chapter. They are very useful in helping us stay connected with the Congregation throughout the world, while considering what they mean for the Salesian presences of our province. In this fourth video, Fr. Ángel notes that 25 percent of the Congregation is in some phase of initial formation. This is a tremendous gift that also carries great responsibility. In our province, we have 155 confreres from SUE or somehow associated with this province now; 10 percent are in initial formation. Almost every SDB community in the province is international, with confreres not born in Canada or the USA. It is good to pay attention to these realities as we consider how to create a renewed culture of formation in every community. How do we continue to respond to God’s love throughout life, witnessing to that love among our confreres and with those to whom we are sent? We acknowledge that the best vocation promotion is the joyful and generous witness to our Salesian vocation, lived as a response to God’s call. Let us pay attention to the words we pray daily when we renew our consecration to Salesian religious life.
This Sunday is World Mission Sunday. It is also the conclusion of the FMA General Chapter. Next week, the CYMs and community treasurers will have meetings in Stony Point, NY. Please keep these intentions in your prayers.
Fr. Tim Zak