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SMD 2017 Focus on America: from the EAO perspective (I)

By Fr. Natalino Venancio Freitas de Jesus, SDB
East Timorese Missionary in Argentina, ARS

    EAO, 23 June 2017 -- The Salesian Mission Day (SMD) 2017 is focused on the Initial Proclamation among the ethnic minorities in America. It's a good chance to open our eyes to the longest missionary experience of our Congregation starting with Mons. Giovanni Cagliero in Patagonia. The EAO provinces are glad to see many (15+) of our young missionaries being present in the American continent, some of them even in the Cagliero's Dream Land - Patagonia and Pampa of Argentina.

    Let's make this SMD 2017 a good opportunity to open the window to the missionary DNA of our Congregation: The basic animation materials of the SMD 2017 include the five videos available on the ANS video channel with a very attractive animation booklet (50 pages), poster and prayer. Among those who are sharing their missionary experience is also Fr. Natalino from Timor Leste:

The testimonies of the Salesian missionaries in East Timor were the roots of my missionary vocation. I thought a lot about missionary life; and after a period of discernment and dialogue with the Provincial, I expressed my desire to be a missionary in a letter sent to the Rector Major, and I was assigned to Argentina. In September 2008, I received the missionary cross in Turin and a month later came to Patagonia. I learned the language, culture and had my first experiences among the young people of the parish. It was a very beautiful experience of fraternity and apostolic life, especially with the natives of Patagonia Plateau Gangan, Trelew.

Now I am living and working in the West Pampa Region - Victorica (Argentina). On the one hand, during the week I’m working in the morning at the boarding house of Istituto San Juan Bosco, which has an enrollment of 640 students, at all levels (preschool, primary, secondary). Many of them are vulnerable due to the socio-economic reality and complex family realities that exist among the population. Then, in the afternoon I work in the day care center with vulnerable and defenseless boys and girls in Inaun Don Bosco. We provide tutoring, crafts, and an afternoon snack. These realities invite me to reflect once again on the youth situation, especially the situation of abandonment. I feel called to offer the tenderness and mercy of God the Father to those who live in situations of abandonment.

Moreover, in the mission of the West Pampeano I work together with the confreres and the Salesian Sisters, different realities, according the areas. The popular and rural settings are those that we give priority to in this missionary presence. On weekends, together with the SDBs and FMAs, we head to the west of the province to share moments of celebration, catechetical meetings, visits to rural areas, home visits, regular meetings with teenagers on Saturday night, Radio programs.

What I’m doing together with the SDB and FMA is to meet people in rural villages, home visits and sharing the Word of God in small communities. Working with indigenous peoples, especially the Mapuches, remains a fundamental option of our ARS Province. The Salesian confreres in Patagonia continue to work with the Mapuche. This missionary work in Patagonia is the proclamation of the Good News, denouncing that which offends the dignity of the Mapuche people and land, defense of the territory, proximity to the people, respect and appreciation of the culture and self-determination of peoples, seeking along with the communities’ possibilities and alternatives for a decent life. Patagonia and the area where I’m working are still mission territories. There are a lot of simple town life and young people who need support.

I am happy being a missionary in the land of the dreams of our father Don Bosco!

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