Tampa: Embracing Don Bosco Month

Tampa Don Bosco Month 2024
Young people pose with Grigo during the Don Bosco Festival.
Young people pose with Grigo
during the Don Bosco Festival.
Photo by Ms. Chioma Okoye

By Ms. Chioma Okoye, Communications Director, Mary Help of Christians Center

(Tampa, FL – February 14) – Cristo Rey Tampa Salesian High School (CRT) was the first to kick off the celebrations of the feast of St. John Bosco with Don Bosco Month. Throughout the month, students could be seen painting murals and Salesian sayings around the campus. In anticipation of Don Bosco Week, students could participate in activities to start earning points for their house. [The four houses are Blessed Laura Vicuña (blue), Blessed Michael Rua (red), St. Francis de Sales (green), and St. Dominic Savio (yellow)]. Activities included soccer, basketball, and volleyball. Students were also able to earn points by attending Mass and participating in dress-down days during Don Bosco Week.

At the center of the festivities was the feast day of St. John Bosco. Students, staff, and members of the Mary Help of Christians (Mary Help) community began the special day with Mass. The student choir sang a variety of songs to our founder and friend, Don Bosco, and Fr. Franco invited everyone to embrace and cherish their Salesian spirituality. The renewal of vows directly followed the homily. All witnessed as the professed Salesians of the Mary Help community renewed their Salesian promises and rededicated themselves to the mission of Christ through the charism of St. John Bosco.

In continuation of the feast day celebrations, CRT celebrated Friday, February 2, as Don Bosco Day. The day was filled with fun, competitions, and activities, such as obstacle course challenges, kayak races, and a video game tournament. Teachers served the students a delicious lunch, and the day ended with the annual talent show. Yet the festivities did not end there.

On Sunday, February 4, the entire Mary Help of Christians Center celebrated at the Don Bosco Festival. It started as a rainy day as all gathered for the Mass in the gym. The music, liturgy, homily, and entire community beautifully highlighted the role of Divine Providence in Don Bosco’s life and the Salesian mission today. During the homily, Fr. Franco gave the congregation a little quiz on their Salesian Family, explained the meaning of the international Salesian logo, and introduced the lesser-known Salesian members who live at the St. Philip Residence. Toward the end of the Mass, the tradition of giving the Mama Margaret Awards continued. Four motherly women were nominated and honored for their dedication to serving Mary Help over the years: Pam Brewer, Soon Kim, Susanne Hathaway, and Betsie Welch.

Taekwondo demonstration in Tampa, FL
Taekwondo demonstration at the outdoor festival
Photo by Ms. Chioma Okoye

In the theme of motherly presence, something beautiful happened at Mass. Many were worried about the weather as it was forecast to rain until the afternoon—the exact time of the outdoor festival. However, our Blessed Mother showed just how attentive she is to her children. After a gloomy morning with spells of heavy rainfall, the sun brightly shone through the windows of the gymnasium right as the homily ended. With all the prayers of so many and the goodness of our Blessed Mother, we were all able to enjoy the food, festivities, and fellowship without any rain for the entirety of the festival. The festival included international foods and carnival games, along with a flea market and live band from a local Catholic high school. It also showcased dragon boats, along with a traditional Korean musical performance and taekwondo demonstration [which included members of the Korean Catholic Mission of Tampa (KCMT), which is based at Mary Help], and the local Catholic radio station, Spirit FM, who emceed the various activities.

The following weekend, Don Bosco Gala closed out this year's celebrations. Each year, this gala serves as a fundraiser to support the many ministries and projects across Mary Help. This year, funds raised will be used to complete the renovation of the retreat center facilities in Anna Pitsch Hall. The guest of honor, Keith Goan, an alumnus of Mary Help of Christians School, urged those in attendance to give back as he gave a lovely speech on how deeply his time with the Salesian priests and brothers impacted him. He shared, that he, "was a bad kid but knowing that the Salesian priests and brothers believed in me has always stayed with me." Then, the Don Bosco Award winner, Jeff Martin, also detailed how much Mary Help and the Salesians mean to him and his family. He spoke of how his daughter first visited the farm on a field trip in 2013, which led their family to volunteer there on weekends. To this day, Jeff still volunteers and helps with field trips at the farm. Fr. Franco concluded the night with a Salesian goodnight. He asked everyone to remember who we are as Salesians and the mission we are all called: getting to heaven.

February 14, 2024 - 9:52am

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