"A Sharing of Lived Experience"

Message of the Provincial 060321

Dear Confreres,

In some presences of our province, the academic year is over, and the summer apostolates are about to start. In other parts of the province, schools are preparing for graduation, and summer camps are weeks away. As the school year concludes, I’d like to return to a province project that I presented at the beginning of the academic pastoral year. At the fall leadership meeting, I asked every SDB to be involved in small groups of young adults, accompanying them on their journey of faith and moving them toward their vocational discernment. This was not a new project. From the preparation for the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment to the in-depth study of Christus Vivit (published on March 25, 2019), we have been considering how we can be more present to and journey with young adults. At the fall leadership meeting of 2019 (pre-pandemic), we spent an entire day listening to a panel of young adults, sharing best practices for accompaniment, and making some choices about concrete ways individual SDBs and Salesian communities could move forward with accompaniment and discernment. In every visitation this year, I asked the SDB community and the EPC leadership about the ways they accompanied young adults. With these years of study, reflection, discussion, and discernment, we are well situated to enter the summer months providing meaningful accompaniment of young adults, meeting them in small groups where we can share faith and life.

For some of our Salesian presences, accompaniment in the summer will be a continuation of year-round activities, such as a young adult prayer group in a parish or a monthly online Lectio Divina. For places that have summer camp, the SDBs can offer a weekly gathering of the counselors, reflecting together on their work with kids according to the Salesian charism—less a class and more a sharing of lived experience. Everyone is encouraged to take advantage of the new resource from the province office of youth ministry, “Walking Side by Side: a Salesian Journey of Faith with Young Adults,” a program that explores Salesian Youth Spirituality. This would be perfect for past pupils returning home from college for the summer. It would also be great preparation for young adults who will be involved in ministry in the fall. The young adults themselves will be able to propose meaningful ways that the SDBs can join with them during these summer months to grow in friendship with Jesus.

Since our province has been giving attention to the project of accompanying young adults for more than a year, I invite you to share with Salesian News some of the specific programs or activities your SDB community or EPC has implemented. Even with all the restrictions of the pandemic, Salesians have found some creative ways to gather young adults, in person or online, giving them space to share their life experiences and grow in faith, reminding them they are part of a community and helping them discover God’s call. We would all benefit from hearing about the ways you “walk side by side with the young so as to lead them to the risen Lord, and so discover in him and in his Gospel the deepest meaning of their own existence, and thus grow into new men” (Const. 34).

During these next few days, several of our schools will have a baccalaureate Mass and graduation ceremony. Please send a short article and photos about these special events to Salesian News. As the students move into a new chapter in their lives, we can remind them that they belong to Don Bosco’s family, and the SDBs are committed to showing “a real interest in them and promoting opportunities for meetings, formation, and collaboration” (Reg. 39). We continue to accompany the young people, in formal and informal ways, even when they graduate or move away. Jesus walked with the disciples on the way to Emmaus and revealed himself to them in the breaking of the bread. He models for us the way we can accompany young adults on their life’s journey, guiding them to an encounter with the risen Lord.

Fr. Tim Zak

June 3, 2021 - 8:00am

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