Salesian Family Assembles at Marian Shrine

12 Sep 2018

Story and photos by Fr. Mike Mendl, SDB


Fr. Tim Plock addressing the assembly

(Haverstraw, N.Y. – September 11) – It was supposed to be a great gathering of the Salesian Family around the father of the Family, Don Bosco’s tenth successor. It didn’t turn out that way on Saturday, September 8, at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw. As is well known, Fr. Angel Fernandez couldn’t be present.

He did send a fine delegate in his place, a member of our own province of St. Philip the Apostle and a member of the general council, Fr. Tim Ploch. Fr. Tim did not disappoint. He spoke eloquently in the Rector Major’s name at the SF assembly and then at the SDBs’ jubilees Mass.

A couple hundred SF members showed up on Saturday morning:  SDBs, FMAs, Cooperators, ADMA, and past pupils from New England, the New York metro area, and Washington, joined later by a couple of DBVs. A special presence was about 35 Salesian Lay Missioners, arriving for a reunion from not only the aforementioned regions but also from the Midwest, South, and Far West.

The program was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. but began much later as attendees slowly drifted in and began to greet old friends and make new ones.

After a ten-minute prayer service and a video greeting from Fr. Angel, Fr. Tim addressed the assembly, particularly by conveying the message that the Rector Major communicated during his visits to Surrey and Toronto. He has been pointing out that the second member of group of the SF that Don Bosco founded was ADMA, specifically to remind us all that devotion to Mary Help of Christians is one of the two pillars that protect the Church in all its dangers.

Fr. Tim further cited the Rector Major by telling the assembly that, according to Don Bosco, the SF has two lungs, and these are the consecrated members and the lay members. The Rector Major maintains that the SF is the largest charismatic family in the Church, which means that it has great potential—not yet realized—for a tremendous impact on the young and the poor, especially those who are most distanced from their families and/or the Church.

To realize our potential, the Rector Major reminds us, the SF must maintain its communion. It needs a great dynamism and understanding of who we are together. Individualism, whether of persons or of groups, detracts from what we can do together.

The Rector Major cites outstanding examples of cooperative endeavors being carried out in India, Ecuador, and Bolivia. In most of the provinces of our region, the SF does actively work together.

The SF always has its doors open, says Fr. Fernandez. It doesn’t close in on itself. We don’t exist for ourselves but for the young and those in need.

He also says that we follow a dreamer, a prophet, who pushed boundaries.

In sum, the SF is (1) called by God (2) to work together (3) for the young. This is the identity of the SF.

A period for questions and comments followed. Points were made about vocations, the need for strong families, and working in cooperation with the local Church. Don Bosco’s successor defines the role of the young in parishes as bringing hope; there is no family without the young. He also says that young people can lead lives of conviction and ideals; they can be saints, and this is a contribution they bring to us who accompany them. The SF should not be waiting on someone in SDB or FMA provincial leadership to direct them; good programs can be generated from ground level and percolate up to the top.

Small group discussions, remarks by Fr. Tim Zak about where the SF goes from here, and a wrap-up session followed, lasting almost till 11:00 a.m. Then people headed to the chapel for the jubilees Mass, after which a hearty buffet lunch was served in the pavilion.