Message of the Provincial | November 5, 2020

05 Nov 2020

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Dear Confreres,

November 15 is World Day of the Poor. As Salesians of Don Bosco and members of the Salesian Family, let’s join the universal Church in giving this day due attention. We have all felt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic; how much more the poor in our neighborhoods have had to suffer.

At the request of the Congregation, every Salesian presence in the province completed a survey about its response to the pandemic last month. I would like to share with you some of the information gathered through that survey:

– Over $700,000 have been contributed by the SDBs and Salesian presences to response efforts to the pandemic. This does not include contributions from Salesian Missions, New Rochelle, nor government assistance (for example, the paycheck protection program).

– Over 30,000 bags of groceries have been given out.

– Over 8,000 prepared meals have been distributed.

– Over 7,000 masks, shields, hand sanitizer, etc. have been given out.

– The six high schools of the province are all open, offering increased tuition assistance.

– Many young people were able to participate in summer recreational and catechetical programs, using creative online programs and some in-person programs follow safety protocols.

– Most of the parishes and the Marian Shrine were able to offer live-streaming religious services: daily Mass, Rosary, Adoration, even catechesis, and faith-sharing groups online.

– Some Salesian presences have been able to provide more individualized spiritual and psychological guidance through on-line services.

– Throughout the province, assistance has been offered to elderly, home-bound, persons with disabilities, immigrants, persons with mental/emotional challenges, homeless, students unable to pay tuition, frontline workers (medical professionals, police, and firefighters, etc), and those employed in essential services. This list is not exhaustive of the groups of people who have been helped in Salesian presences.

How have we provided an experience of the Oratory today during this coronavirus pandemic?

A Home that Welcomes: food, clothing, medicine, rent assistance given to those in need;

A Parish that Evangelizes: many online religious programs; parishes and places of worship open for personal prayer; accompaniment of those who have been sick or lost a loved one because of the virus; Memorial Masses for those who could not have a proper funeral;

A Playground where Friends Gather: virtual summer camps and virtual recreational activities; in-person gatherings in compliance with state regulations; sports programs starting again; and

A School that Prepares for Life: in-person and distance learning; extensive precautions taken to keep students, families, faculty, and staff safe.

We have seen the generous and creative response to the pandemic from the confreres and colleagues. Great efforts have been made to care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the young and their families. New opportunities have opened that will influence ministry beyond the pandemic. There have also been tremendous challenges. Almost everyone has felt increased anxiety, separation, depression, and loss. We recognize the importance of staying connected, both in person and through the internet. Not everyone has up-to-date computers to study/work from home or equal access to reliable internet.

One of the more serious on-going challenges is funding the Salesian mission. In many places, salaries have been reduced while services have increased. You will find in this edition of Salesian News some information about the St. Philip the Apostle Foundation. Contributions to the St. Philip the Apostle Foundation help to guarantee the Salesian mission continues for many years to come.

The Message of Pope Francis for the 4th World Day of the Poor is entitled, “Stretch forth your hand to the poor.” (Sir 7.32). You can find the complete message here.

The data from the pandemic response survey show that our Salesian presences have indeed been attentive to those in great need. However, we cannot be satisfied with what has been done; the pandemic continues, and the various forms of poverty are felt deeply, so our response has to go forward. The concluding words of the Pope’s message are a beautiful encouragement for us to further Don Bosco’s outreach to the poor: “May our prayer to Mary, Mother of the Poor, unite these, her beloved children, with all those who serve them in Christ’s name. And may that prayer enable outstretched hands to become an embrace of shared and rediscovered fraternity.”

Thanks for all you are doing to respond like Don Bosco to our brothers and sisters in need.

Fr. Tim Zak

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