We are halfway through the Year of Fr. Paul Albera. I would like to thank Fr. Mike Mendl for his work in our province archives, finding letters by Albera, translating them, and making them available to us. He has also been working on an English translation of a book on Albera that is being prepared in Rome. In addition to all this, Fr. Mike gave our community in New Rochelle a well-researched and interesting conference on Albera, which I am sure he would be willing to give to other Salesian communities.
We certainly do value Fr. Mike’s work in our archives and in translations; it is a concrete way for our province to participate in this Centennial of Albera. The short biographies, letters, and commentaries (and we could add all the photos of Albera that are on the Salesian Digital Library) enable us to meet Paul Albera as he grew in human, spiritual, and religious life. We accompany him from his first encounter with Don Bosco, to being a youth at the Oratory, to becoming a young man ready to commit himself by vows in the new Pious Society of St. Francis de Sales, to accepting roles of leadership that Don Bosco and Don Rua entrusted to him, to being chosen as the second successor of Don Bosco at a very difficult time in world history.
One of the things that stands out to me in Albera’s writings is his frequent reference to Don Bosco, oftentimes called “our good Father” or “our Venerable Founder.” In almost every other paragraph, Albera presents the example of Don Bosco, or one of his sayings, “as our good Father used to say…,” or a recommendation Don Bosco gave to the early Salesians. Fr. Albera writes not only from extensive research, but from his personal experience. In some ways, through Albera, we are able to also meet Don Bosco and experience life at the Oratory. With Albera, we can allow ourselves to be formed into the Salesians Don Bosco would ask us to be today.
Even as we get to know Albera better, and through him we get to know Don Bosco better, we also get an insight into the Salesian identity and mission. Salesians are to become saints, and to help the young become saints. Albera writes in the circular letter, “Don Bosco, model of the Salesian priest” (1921):
Our Venerable Father possessed this knowledge thoroughly (of Christian perfection achieved through prayer), and also had the secret of instilling it into young hearts, even if he did not call it by name. And so, he gave us a Dominic Savio, a Francis Besucco, a Michael Magone, and a whole company of holy youths and confreres. But this secret cannot be taught in words. It is a precious treasure that is found only with a diligent, attentive, and loving reading of his life, and blessed are those who dedicate themselves to it! What wonders will they be able to carry out in the field of education!
One hundred years after Albera wrote this circular letter, we can see the truth of his words in the number of saints, blesseds, and holy youth, men, and women in the Salesian Family.
Albera’s love for Don Bosco, clarity about the Salesian identity and mission, deep faith, and piety inspire us to reflect on our own Salesian vocation. We still have half a year to this Albera Centennial. Let’s take advantage of this time to become more familiar with our Salesian history, to renew our commitment to be holy Salesians, and to know and love “our Venerable Founder,” Don Bosco.
Last week, the directors and provincial counselors of the SUO and SUE provinces participated in a three-day “directors’ workshop.” Because of the pandemic, it was virtual and rather short. We were blessed with the presence of Fr. Hugo Orozco, Fr. Ivo Coelho, and Fr. Silvio Roggia. I hope your director has already given you a report about this formative experience.
Fr. Tim Zak