12 Sep 2018
Rector Major Visit: Fr. Angel Fernandez in Montreal
by Fr. Richard Authier, SDB
(Montreal – September 9) – When we first heard that the Rector Major would not be able to visit the USA, we were saddened for our confreres and the Salesian Family. When we heard that the Rector Major would be coming to Montreal, we were filled with joy.
Truly, JOY was the highlight of Fr. Angel’s visit on September 7-8. Upon his arrival on Friday afternoon, we took him to the most famous of all Canadian restaurants, Tim Horton’s, for a quick sandwich lunch. Then he was off to do an interview with Sel & Lumière, the French-speaking branch of Salt and Light. Even the interviewer was impressed with Fr. Angel’s humility, joy, and straightforwardness on youth and faith issues.
Saturday morning’s first important moment was a two-hour gathering with the Salesians of Sherbrooke and Montreal. Fr. Angel shared with us his conviction that presently the Salesian Congregation is in a very good place. Communities and confreres are in general very serene and committed. The Congregation worldwide is greatly appreciated for all we do for the young, especially the neediest, in so many dreadful places of suffering. He also spoke very openly about some of our challenges. Many of these challenges are those shared by all consecrated life in today’s Church.
After lunch, Fr. Angel met with the Salesian sisters of Montreal, Que., and Cornwall, Ont. Their joy and enthusiasm were contagious. The final event of the visit was a 4:00 p.m. encounter with youths, lay collaborators, and Salesian Family members. We succeeded in a very short time in bringing together about 150 people. This session began with a mime done by youths of the Don Bosco Youth Leadership Centre. Then followed a talk by Fr. Angel, the celebration of the Eucharist in three languages, and a light buffet supper. Before and during supper, Fr. Angel was an “angel of patience” in letting so many take personal pictures with him!
Fr. Angel shared a lot of his impressions from his visit to Aleppo, Syria, and how this Salesian presence in a warzone represents the best of who we Salesians are. [Ed. note: It seems to have been this pastoral visit to Syria in April that caused the U.S. departments of State and Homeland Security to deny the Rector Major authorization to visit.] He also encouraged all not to be “complainers” but “doers of good,” no matter how hopeless a situation may seem. In his homily at Mass, Fr. Angel asked everyone the following question: “Do you really believe that God comes to save you, and do you open your sometimes-broken heart to Him?”
The Salesian Family of Quebec (and Cornwall) is very grateful to Fr. Angel for his visit. As Don Bosco’s tenth successor, he is really filled with our Founder’s spirit and heart. The Salesians are grateful to the young people and Salesian Family members for showing up with so much joy and energy, as well as to the “last minute team” that helped put together the wonderful day of September 8. “Viva Don Bosco!”
Photos.Credit Fr. Alain Leonard