By Fr. Dominic Tran, SDB, Vice Provincial
“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). With those words, Jesus declares His life mission. Christ has given us God’s abundant life. This life is not for us to keep for ourselves. Jesus invites and empowers us, His followers, to be instruments of God’s abundant life to our brothers and sisters. With this mission in mind, I’d like to share with you these reflections.
Regarding moral guidelines regarding the COVID-19 vaccines, we can refer to what Pope Francis has spoken and what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), as well as the Conferences of Catholic Bishops of both Canada and the USA, have issued.
In helping us to live Christian charity in this time of the pandemic, Fr. Stefano Martoglio, the Vicar of the Rector Major, offers us some guidelines in a letter to the SDB Provincials dated September 7, 2021. His message is intended for the SDBs and the whole Salesian Family.
Fr. Stefano encouraged us to consider “the common good, looking after the confreres in the community (beginning with the elderly), [our] educational work, and living out what I expect others to live out” in discerning our choices and decisions related to the vaccine and health care practices.
We are reminded that “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health but also the duty to pursue the common good” (CDF, quoted by Fr. Martoglio). In fact, “Nobody is safe until everybody is safe” (March 2021, a group of world leaders calling for a Global Pandemic Preparedness Treaty). We need to be sensitive and do what we can “to provide access to the vaccine for the poorest population” (Fr. Martoglio). Closer to home, “none of us can forget that our personal health is also linked to the protection of the health of others” being both the people we live with and the people we encounter in society and ministries (ibid).
Living in developed countries, we have choices. Let us not forget our brothers and sisters in poorer countries who have no choice. Consequently, we are morally required to make choices to continue God’s life in our world. These include “the protection of our own health, the health of others, especially the weakest and most exposed, the smooth running of social, economic, cultural life, etc, and to collaborate with public authorities whose duty is to protect the health of their citizens” (Fr. Martoglio).
We are expected to comply fully with the requirements of the local ministry, diocese, and government authorities. This includes requirements to wear a mask covering nose and mouth, being vaccinated, or being tested regularly, etc. Fr. Martoglio also urges us to live out our virtue and vow of obedience in observing these protocols “to continue” our mission of evangelization and education.
Moreover, it is not about “passive acceptance” (Fr. Martoglio) of protocols that we might feel as imposed on us. As Salesians, we are educators. Thus, more important is the awareness and conviction that what we do and say shapes the minds and hearts of others, especially young people to whom we are privileged to be instruments of God’s abundant life.
May Mary, our Mother, help us to continue Her Son’s mission, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”