One of the significant parts of General Chapter 28 (GC28) was the presence of young adults from every continent. They spent a week in Turin with the chapter members and joined in language group discussions, informal conversations, prayer, and meals. They also had some time to tour the Salesian holy sites and follow their own program of dialogue and discernment. Our province can be very proud that Gui Lopes was among these young adults. On their last day at the chapter, each young adult, often with deep emotion, gave personal testimonies to the general assembly. One of them read their letter to the SDBs, which has become part of chapter documents and a point of reference for the post-chapter reflection and the Rector Major’s Action Program. We hear the young adults express their love for Don Bosco and the Salesians, and we hear them cry out to be welcomed and respected, involved in meaningful dialogues about life and faith, and accompanied on life’s journey. Over the past few years, we have heard these same cries from the young adults of our works, including some of our colleagues, when they joined us for province leadership meetings and the last provincial chapter. As we continue forward with the implementation of our province's strategic plan, "do not close the windows to this background noise," that is, the cries of the young. Pope Francis reminds us in his message to GC28 that listening to the young will help us revive the gift we have received —the gift of the Salesian charism.
The Salesians are not the only ones engaged in dialogue with the young for the renewal of the Church and the world. The Catholic Bishops of Canada recently published "A Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Canada to Young People." (Oct. 12, 2022) For the past two years, during the pandemic, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) organized a number of online meetings of bishops with various age groups of young people from different parts of Canada. It was part of the synodal process of the Church in Canada. In six short sections, each section ending with some reflection questions, the Bishops write to the young in a pastoral way, acknowledging that "dialogue creates a space where the Gospel message can ignite a spark deep within our hearts and transform each of us." Toward the end of the letter, the Bishops present Mary, the Mother of Jesus; St. Kateri Tekakwitha; and Bl. Carlo Acutis as good examples of youthful holiness, and an encouragement for all young people to use their unique gifts and talent for good. The letter concludes, "Be an original! Arise and become who you are meant to be!"
I encourage all our confreres to read this pastoral letter from the Catholic Bishops of Canada to young people. We can feel some pride in recognizing how relevant Don Bosco and the Salesian charism are today. We can feel the urgency of the Salesian mission, knowing there are so many young people across Canada and the USA waiting for a friend to listen to them, guide them, pray with them, and lead them to Jesus. We can see our own Salesian saints and blesseds as great models of youthful holiness that inspire young people today to serve the Lord with joy. We can continue the process of accompaniment that Pope Francis highlighted in Christus Vivit by involving the young adults in discussions about faith and life, sharing responsibility for the Salesian mission, and living the "Salesian sacrament of presence" with them. We can repeat those famous words of St. Francis de Sales, "Be who you are, and be that well," as they do every day at Don Bosco Cristo Rey in Washington, D.C.
In just days, Fr. Ángel will be in our province. There will be some moments for him to dialogue with the young people of our works. This historic moment of the Rector Major’s visit is meant to reignite the dynamic missionary zeal of those first Salesians who came to San Francisco and New York. May we be bold in inviting young people to share in this mission.
Fr. Tim Zak