EAO Good Night Talk (75)
Ho Chi Minh City, 02 June 2020
Dear confreres and members of the Salesian Family,
For more than 3 months, the Pandemic Covid 19 has caused severe impact upon all the countries where Salesian works are present. Governments and agencies have made great efforts to keep under control the spread of this disease as well as to fix the damages it has caused to human lives, economy and works. At the same time, with great and prudent efforts, people have to get back to their work so that their life would not collapse. In particular, the life of the young whose future depends very much on constructive factors like education, jobs, social relationships.
Together with all of you, I pray to God that this plague will be overcome soon and the Salesian Family can continue its contribution to the re-building of our communities in accord with our respective competence. Indeed, let us continue to pray together and do whatever we can for this re-building.
And yet, I would like to ask myself together with my Salesians of Don Bosco: If Don Bosco had lived in this volatile period of pandemic, what could he have done?
One idea comes to my mind and probably to yours also. Our founder did live through many hardships which were not very dissimilar to ours. We probably recall the days he was operating his oratories/schools when the Kingdom of Savoy went into the Crimea War, putting its young people to the frontiers of the battle!
Financial resources were very limited for charitable works. Meanwhile, the founding of a new religious congregation with its expanding educational and pastoral as well as missionaries works, all needed huge supports, otherwise, they stopped or collapsed! Besides, we have to take into account the anti-ecclesial atmosphere of his time!
Yet, for me, Don Bosco left us precious lessons that I would like to point out:
Understandingly, the most fragile yet the most promising part of the society was always the young themselves. They need to be fed, to be educated, to have safe environment to grow, to learn to become protagonists to build up their life and the society. Don Bosco was not paralyzed in facing the difficulties of his time. He worked harder and harder, creatively looking for ways to serve the young, the abandoned ones, looking for people, old and young, who could give a hand, with little or large sum of donation! It is evident that we, members of Salesian family are doing the same thing. Just to remind you, 35 to 40 yeas ago, Cambodia, a member of our EAO region, fell into such a dramatic situation. Our Salesians from Thailand did venture to serve the young in refugee camps, never minding the political factions they belonged to. They operated short term technical training programs to prepare the future rebuilders of the post-war Cambodia society, in spite of political tendencies. Like Don Bosco, let us continue to be convinced in the necessity of our charismatic mission in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.
Secondly, Don Bosco has a deep conviction in the solidarity among humans. He himself, together with his spiritual family, prepared the young to live that profound reality. We are learning this lesson in a negative approach with the spread of the virus Covid-19. Never in human history have human communities experienced such a speed of contagion, no one is left intact, directly or indirectly. We are so connected with one another, for good as well as for bad. Here the revealed truth is verified: “no one dies for himself and no one lives for himself either!”
But looking at a more positive perspective, for the last few months, we have witnessed how wonderful the spirit of solidarity has been expressed. From the very early days of the pandemic, as I know, the Province of Korea immediately shared its financial resources to other provinces in our Region. Confreres in formation house sat down and discussed how to help the poor by cutting down their expenses.
Communities and Salesian parishes, together with other charitable agencies launched food-aid programs to save the unemployed, poor families in the neighborhood, thousands and maybe hundred thousand people did receive those helps. Non-Christians expressed their surprise how the Christian churches and communities took quick action of charity with such a great generosity.
I believe and pray that our Salesians and members of the Salesian Family continue to engage themselves more to serve our young people where we are. My conviction is that what we are doing in these days are guaranteed premises for the continuation of our services once the Pandemic is over, regardless of all our limited resources in any aspect.