By Fr. Louis Molinelli, SDB, Province Delegate for Youth Ministry
The Salesian Youth Ministry Frame of Reference tells us that, "The Oratory of St. Francis de Sales at Valdocco was the first established apostolate, the one that inspired all the others." Having came from Salesian presences as a boy and teenager, I can tell you that this is true. So often I remember the Salesians in my home parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Mahwah, NJ, being in the playground with us during lunch, enjoying our games and participating in them. I remember Salesians from my parish and from nearby Don Bosco Prep High School in Ramsey joining us during our Friday night youth group and animating our activities. While some were very young, others were senior Salesians who enjoyed just being with us. This extended over to us boys who were students at Don Bosco Prep as the Salesians also taught in our school and could be seen daily by us. Through these contacts, we formed close friendships with some wonderful spiritual mentors.
The Frame of Reference calls this Don Bosco’s personal touch, which can be characterized by the following:
- Presence and participation in the lives of the young with special attention to their needs, problems, and opportunities.
- A full-time home extending throughout the week through personal contacts and other activities.
- The Preventive System as the bedrock of the educational program.
- Creating a family style presence of educators in the midst of the young.
- Making the young and interpersonal relationships primary.
- Creating a missionary impulse of a youthful community open to the young.
In our contemporary society, we are able to keep more in contact with each other through social media, which has made the world smaller in terms of connecting. These have created groups of the young and collaborators working together cross culturally to build the Oratory spirit throughout the world.
What characterizes our Salesian ministries—no matter what work we are doing—is the Oratorian spirit that grounds it, which can be felt when you walk through the doors or connect on the internet.
We are in the midst of or just beginning our summer ministries. Let’s remember that, while it is important to create wonderful programs that engage youth and young adults, we must do so with the Oratory as our foundational structure.
Enjoy your summer! We are Valdocco!