Dear Salesian Family,
In October 2015, the SUE province hosted the annual gathering of provincials for our Interamerica region. Besides the usual topics for discussion and times for prayer and fellowship, the provincials spent an evening at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Port Chester, NY. This parish began over 100 years ago to serve Italian immigrants. For most of its history, it has continued educating and evangelizing immigrants and the children of immigrants. In the past 50 years, the faith community has become largely Latino and more recently has welcomed Brazilian immigrants. During the visit of the provincials, several parishioners spoke of their personal experience of migrating to the USA, of finding a welcoming community among the Salesians of Port Chester, and of growing as leaders in the Church and society. It was a memorable experience that left an impression on the provincials.
Many of the Salesian presences in Canada and the USA have a similar history, reaching out to immigrant youth, living in poverty or at risk. Don Bosco would be proud. We still feel a certain urgency to be Salesian missionaries among those who have recently arrived in our countries. Pope Francis reminds us, “Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Mt 25. 35-43). (Message of his Holiness Pope Francis for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, January 14, 2018)
In his Message for the celebration of the 51st World Day of Peace (January 1, 2018) and again in the Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis focuses his reflections on four words: welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating. I would encourage everyone in the Salesian Family to read these two messages together. As Salesians, we see in these brief messages an encouragement to advance our mission to and with the young and their families, as has been our province history. I would like to highlight how the Pope acknowledges the importance of education for immigrants in building peace. “Promoting” entails supporting the integral human development of migrants and refugees. Among the many possible means of doing so, I would stress the importance of ensuring access to all levels of education for children and young people. This will enable them not only to cultivate and realize their potential but also better equip them to encounter others and to foster a spirit of dialogue rather than rejection or confrontation. (Message of his Holiness Pope Francis for the celebration of the 51st World Day of Peace, January 1, 2018)
One of the projects on behalf of migrants of the Interamerica regions is “Misión Salesianos Migrantes” (Salesian Migrant Mission). It is a collaborative effort to better understand the reality of the young migrants and propose relevant ways for the Salesian provinces to respond to this phenomenon. You can learn more about this project at www.boscomsm.com.
Since ministry to immigrants has been so much a part of our province history, and still continues to be a central focus in our presences, and since Pope Francis has put such emphasis on this issue in the Message for the World Day of Peace and the Message for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, we should not let this week go by without reflecting on our attitudes and response to immigration. As Christ teaches us, and in union with the whole Church, we want to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate migrants and refugees.
May Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, themselves immigrants to Egypt, watch over you and protect you.
Fr. Tim Zak