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Follow up of the Rector Major's visit to Vietnam

February 20-27, 2017

(VIE provincial circular)


ENGLISH version: 

VIE-provincial circular 2017-March.docx

VIE-provincial circular 2017-March.pdf 3 (12).JPG


VIETNAMESE version: 

Thơ GT 1 (March 24, 2017).pdf


                                                                                         Ho Chi Minh City, March 24 2017

Dear members of the Provincial Council,

Dear Rectors, Leader of Salesian presences

Dear confreres, Priests and Salesian Brothers

 

Greetings to you all in the love of Our Lord Jesus the Good Shepherd. May grace and peace of God the Father and of His Son be with you all.

This is the first Provincial Letter in 2017. May God unite us in this great Salesian Family to accomplish the mission entrusted to us through Don Bosco, being all to all, making us more radically committed to live with the young, for the young as Our beloved Don Bosco did.


In this letter, together with all of you, I would like to thank God, Mary Help of Christians and Don Bosco, for all his blessings in the few first months of 2017.


First of all, He blessed us with the Visit of Fr. Rector Major Fernandez Artime which lasted from 20 to 27 of February, 2017.  It has left an impressive and affectionate impact upon us. In those days, Fr. Angel represented the figure of Don Bosco when he approached each confrere, each young person and other members of the Salesian Family. He enjoyed the happiness to be with the young and with all of us. He left us, the Salesians, the message of loving kindness, cheerfulness, friendliness, joyful approachability, familiarity, and also, transparency in facing various problems. He has left so much lovely impacts upon us and also he carried with himself with those affections. Meeting me personally, he repeated not a few times: “Vietnam, how beautiful [very good]!”  In addition, he left specific instructions to our Province as well as other groups of the Salesian Family. He also thanked them for all their hospitality and love shown to him.


We owe all these precious and lovely days to the spirit and affection we carry in our heart dedicated to Don Bosco. We have made great effort to express our best sentiments to the Successor of Don Bosco. Personally, I give thanks to all of you, in particular, those of the organizing committee in the three regions of Saigon, Lam Dong and the North. A special thanks to Bishop Peter, our beloved senior brother, and the Diocese of Thai Binh, with all his generous sacrifices and contribution to this memorable occasion. May God bless and reward bountifully Him and his whole diocese.

 

 

The second event was the sessannial Team Visit of 2017. The Rector Major and his Council came to meet with all the Provincials and their respective councils in our EAO Region. The meeting was held in Hua Hin, Thailand, from 7-10 of March. In this Team Visit, the Rector Major and his Councilors exchanged their reflections, inputs, instructions upon various aspects of our life: religious disciplines, re-designing [reshaping] of our communities and presences, formation, youth ministry, missions, collaborative solidarity among provinces, Social communication, Salesian Family, administration of goods and transparency of financial transaction and report. The Seminar deepened those major issues of our consecrated life, the fidelity to our Salesian charism, mission and identity, in particular:


-   Consecrated life requires each confrere to renew and to go back to the Salesian charism and identity. Before asking other people to reform, each one of us has to do it first; never justifying our going astray and never looking at others to blame the mistakes. Each us should look deeply into his own heart to be converted.

- Reshaping our works to assure the numerical consistency and quality of community life, in line with our plan to serve the youth, to work together [team working], and to share responsibility. Those places/works which do not show evidence of our clear objectives to serve the young and the needy, which do not draw up appropriate plans of services and team work, should be abandoned or re-grouped. Any work that does not serve the young and the poor is not Salesian!

- Re-identifying the way of animation and governance in all communities, presences and works with vision, specific plans so that our services reach to the young with full of initiatives and efficiency. It is not acceptable to restrict our ministries to provide liturgical services and practices of religious piety and then enjoy oneself for the rest of the day in leisure with hesitation to reach out to the young.

- Each work should/must have a vision, specific and practical plans, assuring that our services reach to the targeted groups [the young and the poor]. These plans should be periodically evaluated with factual/quantified evidences in figures and statistics.

- A reform is needed in terms of our relationship to one another. We should relate to one another as Don Bosco did, with kindness, openness and sincerity, with charity and positive improvement in view. Let us avoid all forms of negative judgment and rushed accusation. Only in this respectful relationship that we express our mutual care, to our community and the Province.

- At any level in the province, even the simplest work, should assure the transparency in our vow of poverty and in financial reports. Our vow of poverty does not permit any Salesian to make decision in financial matters at his own will without asking permission and clear reporting.  Let us examine our conscience to see how we live up to a transparent lifestyle as consecrated persons.


   With the instructions and guidelines given by the Rector Major in his Visit to our Province and the guidelines of the Team Visit 2017, I would like to present you, dear Rectors and confreres, a number of specific guidelines to be implemented in our Province, starting from September, 2017. These will be evaluated in my canonical visitation to each community during this academic year.


1.    “1. Are you happy?”

This was the central question raised by our Rector Major to the young and also to us in the meetings. Am I really happy in my consecration? Do I consider my community as my own home and the confreres as my genuine brothers in the family? Or my life is simply one to be pitifully dragged on without any direction/sense/meaning? More than once, the confrere requested to change his religious vocation as he felt unhappy in his whole Salesian life. Then, what was his first motivation in joining the Salesian congregation? Is his life an authentic? Or a self-deceiving one as a consecrated person with double personality combined with some hidden goals? Evidently, it was not, and has never been a lifestyle of a mature person as one is dragging his own life in the Congregation until some opportunities offer themselves; then, his true identity is expressed to be a life without any commitment, or with some hidden agenda of self-compensation.

It is a regretful situation in our Province that the Rector Major reminds us. He asks us to be vigilant, courageous to acknowledge the matter and to reform ourselves. Let us not blame the others for what is happening. Instead, let us examine ourselves, humbly acknowledge our failures to be converted.

In such a way, we could get back our equilibrium and serenity for our consecrated life. Let us not tolerate any form of dragging on, unhappy and pitiful lifestyle as described above.


2- “In communion”

This is the second term repeated frequently by the Rector Major as he met us. This is affirmed in our Constitutions (3; 11): unity in vocation, in communion with the confreres in spirit and action. Community life is one integral factor in our Salesian consecrated life that we pledge with our profession in the presence of our brothers (C 24).

Nevertheless, the modern and consumerist life of today pulls us to somehow a selfish, individualistic one, more caring for oneself with an easy and comfort life, being difficult to reach out to the young. Individualism detaches oneself from community life, dropping community activities at any pretext, to the point of being absent from community prayer moments as prescribed explicitly in our Constitutions and Regulations.

Moreover, there were some confreres who went out of community without any proper and previous understanding with the one-in charge, going to “self-interested places” [addresses], to “self-invited gathering for party”. This way of life is usually covered with a self-righteous appearance, yet, in reality, an act of justification of one’s behavior.

I plead you to go back to the community life, being strongly aware of my total belonging to the community, committing to build up my community, fighting against individualistic temptations that certainly terminate the validity of my Salesian consecrated life. If it is regrettably the way I behave, how can I assess my life in the presence of God?

The Rector Major judges that the living up to “the sense of belonging” is an actual challenge to our Province; to live a life of belonging to the community and to live up to the demands of community life is vital! In particular, to those confreres who are doing their ministries in parochial settings, in case they are impacted by a diocesan lifestyle, I plead you to be courageous and humble to purify yourselves.


3- “Have a Vision”

This is the third term reminded by the Rector Major to our province. The GC 27 insists that the province, local communities and presences should have their respective vision. Each confrere, local community, presence and work should have the planning mentality which is expressed with their strategic, operational plans for the growth and development to the person, community and the whole province. These should be followed up with monitoring and evaluation plans in accordance with clear and specific indicators. These should begin in September, 2017.

In the last months, the Province, each department, each sector and the majority of local communities and presences, works, have submitted their respective plans, strategic and operational ones. Let us now implement them with specific actions which will be assessed in later years. Those which have not succeeded in making their plans, please do not hesitate to ask for help from the Planning Assistance Group.

These strategic and operational plans of the Provincial community, local ones, presences, departments, sectors and works should be specific, practical to serve the young, in particular, the poorer ones. Any plan that does not respond to this goal needs to be revised, since the Rector Major constantly recalls us the requirements of our Salesian charism, mission and identity.

In that sense, the Salesian parishes should not restrict themselves with regular activities like those in other non-Salesian parishes. The diocese entrusts parishes to the Province with the clear expectation that we actualize our charism, mission and identity in the parish. Hence, any parish that does not have specific plan to serve the young and the needy, is not a Salesian one! And according to the Rector Major’s instruction, any Salesian parish priest [pastor] who does not accept this line of action [primarily to serve the young], neglecting youth ministry, needs to be replaced by another one.

In addition, the Rector Major recommends us not to hesitate in inviting lay people to share our mission and services. Let us learn to work with them as co-partners, with co-responsibility, and not as hired employees. Particularly, in the modern world, lay people have their irreplaceable roles.

To assist to plan our youth ministries, the Congregation has offered the Frame of Reference, a masterpiece of the Department of Youth Ministry and the Vietnamese text has been already published. Let us appreciate and study it to master the ways of actualizing our youth ministry, and implement it into our educative and pastoral plans.


4. “Clericalism”

This term is frequently repeated with explicit anxiety by the Rector Major in all meetings with the Salesians, in particular, in the recent Team Visit 2017.

He recalls the Pope’s meeting with General Superiors in April, 2016 in which the Pope raised a warning for the Church of today; it is a warning against a distressing situation in the Church life: Clericalism. This is the tendency or option to raise the clerical [priestly] status to a high class in the society, to seek for power and to run after money. This is in fact a lifestyle that causes great damages to the Church; yet, unfortunately it is gradually spreading with various forms.

If a Salesian has or opts for such a mentality/tendency and actualize it into daily life, he certainly leads to a life with full independence, self-deciding in financial transactions and governance, prestige hunger and power holding, unwilling to “belong” to and depending on the community, being one-man handling in everything. This is in fact a real danger which causes damages to our Salesian consecration, reducing the motive of vocation fidelity.


The Rector Major also attends to our process of integral formation with some guidelines. Let us remember that we do not form our candidates into “seminarians” in the sense that they would lead an easy life with comfort, fame-seeking, but, into Salesian educators and pastors as Don Bosco expected, that is, those who dedicate their whole life and energy to serve the young. We cannot tolerate and admit those candidates who are reluctant in self-sacrifice, who desire to dress and eat well, and those who don’t approach the young in difficulty, those whose heart is not with the young. According to the Rector Major’s instruction, we should direct them to other way of life and not to the Salesian one; let us not allow them to keep their breath only to cross the river and enjoy their comfort life afterwards. Sooner or later, they would change their vocation anyway.

In addition, for the clear visibility of only one Salesian vocation, we should not tolerate any form or signs of inequality or discrimination of vocation in formation houses. We should be aware that primarily and first of all, we are consecrated Salesians; let us be faithful to our vocation and form others in such a way.


Dear Superiors and confreres, Priests and Salesian Brothers,

I would like to end this letter in gratitude to many graces recently bestowed upon our Province. These graces are encouraging our province and each of us, and at the same time, inviting us to return to our charism and identity. We wish to have a constant renewal in our life to become mystics in the Holy Spirit, building up the Provincial and local communities to become prophets of fraternal love and communion, and servants who love and serve the poor youth.


I pray that each of us become Salesian as Don Bosco wish through the words of his Successor Fr. Angel.


I wish all superiors, and confreres, priests and lay brothers to live this Lent devoutly as the time of purification; let us die for our old human being, and wear the new man created in the Risen Lord. The Rector Major encourages us to return to our charism and identity with this purification so that each member and the whole Congregation be renewed and more transparent.


May Jesus Christ grant us a pastoral heart like that of Don Bosco! May Mary Help of Christians be our Mother and Teacher, who taught and guided Don Bosco how to dedicate his life to the young, in particular, the poorest one!


Yours sincerely in Don Bosco, 

Joseph Nguyen Van Quang SDB                

Provincial




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