Dear Salesian Family,
We just finished the month of October, the month of the Holy Rosary. The Holy Father had invited all the faithful of the world to pray the Rosary every day during the month, joining in communion and in penitence as the people of God, to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Michael the Archangel to protect the Church from the Devil, who always seeks to separate us from God and from each other. As Salesians, our daily practice of praying the Rosary is more than simple devotion or mere tradition; it has ecclesial and ascetical dimensions too. It connects us with all the People of God who are praying, and assists us on our path of continual conversion.
October is also Mission Month. This year the Pope’s message for World Mission Day (October 21, 2018) was “Together with young people, let us bring the Gospel to all.” It was closely connected to the theme of the Synod of Bishops going on now in Rome. Here, too, the message of the Pope confirms that our Salesian mission of educating and evangelizing young people is a participation in the mission Jesus entrusted to the Church. From the time of Don Bosco, we not only are sent to the young, but also share the mission with the young. Even though the month of October has passed, the need to live our Salesian mission with generous self-giving and share the mission with the young remains urgent.
I thought it would be interesting to know how we are actually involving the young in missionary experiences in our Salesian presences, so I called all the SDB directors to gather some information. I asked whether they had organized something for high school age youths (13-18 years old) or young adults (18-35 years old) that was six days or more in length. The mission experience was not to include cultural or language immersion trips, pilgrimages, summer camp, short-term experiences (less than six days), long-term missions programs (like VIDES or SLMs). The list appears at the end of this letter. Some youths from Salesian presences participate in mission experiences organized by other Salesian presences (for example, Gospel Roads at another Salesian site) or programs run by other organizations (for example, diocesan programs). In this case, the experience is not listed. If some of the information is inaccurate or incomplete, please contact me with the corrections.*
There are some Salesian presences that have nothing listed. This doesn’t mean that there is no mission animation going on. It means the mission experiences didn’t meet the criteria of something explicitly mission-oriented lasting six days or more. I was pleased that the directors were all open to adding this type of program, if it fit into the pastoral plan. They shared the numerous options they offer: service projects, midnight runs, overnight or weekend experiences, promotion of the mission Rosary, raising money for the missions, etc. We can be proud that all the Salesian presences throughout the province are providing some mission animation.
The list is for the SDB presences. It would also be interesting to know what the other branches of the Salesian Family are doing. Salesians seek to cultivate the missionary dimension of the Christian vocation. As we have heard many times, to be baptized is to be a missionary. Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium: “The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples.’” (EG 120) The response to live as missionary disciples is not only for adults or a select few of committed youth; it is for all.
Already on the horizon we can see “the Extraordinary Missionary Month to be celebrated in October 2019, with the aim of fostering an increased awareness of the missio ad gentes and taking up again with renewed fervor the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity.” The Missionary Month of October 2018 served as a springboard and preparation for next year. Let us take advantage of this entire year to form the young to really be missionary disciples, enabling them and “all the faithful to take to heart the proclamation of the Gospel and to help their communities grow in missionary and evangelizing zeal. May the love for the Church’s mission, which is ‘a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people,’ grow ever stronger!” (Letter of the Holy Father for the Centennial of the Promulgation of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, On the Activity of the Missionaries in the World, Oct. 22, 2017).
May Mary, the Help of Christians and Queen of the Missions, pray for us.
Fr. Tim Zak