Melbourne, Australia, 28 April 2023 -- After a few days of quiet reflection and community life, the Rector Major, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime’s tour down under once again hit high gear on Wednesday 27 April for a full day of festivities!
Arriving at Salesian College Chadstone (situated approx. 18 km southeast of Melbourne’s CBD) the day begun with a morning tea and meet and greet with the staff of the college. They were most impressed with the Rector Major’s journey, and in turn he thanked them for all the hard work they do in maintaining the spirit of Don Bosco.
The school then shuffled into the gym for an assembly, to officially welcome the Rector Major. Student leaders from Salesian schools from around Australia were also present, creating a wonderful gathering of Salesianity – no small feat in such a big continent!
By now, the Rector Major had become something of an expert on the Australian sense of humour, and impressed the hall with his easy-going, affable speech. The musician in him shone forth too, as a guitar made its way on stage for Fr Ángel to lead all gathered in song. A plaque commemorating the centenary of Salesians in Australia had been commissioned, so he also blessed it.
After lunch, the Rector Major made his way over to the youth forum that was taking place. The student leaders from the Australian Salesian schools had gathered for a day of games, activities and reflections and were eagerly awaiting the Rector Major’s presence; evidenced by the round of applause that broke out as soon as he entered the room!
Fr Ángel then led a discussion and answered a few select questions from those young people who had gathered. He told them how much he wanted them to be happy and extolled the importance of listening to dreams; “you’ll never be happy unless you follow what your heart truly wants!”
After many photos and selfies (one might think that a rockstar was present, such was the emphasis some of the young people placed on getting their picture with the Rector Major), it was time for a break, ahead of even more festivities!
At 5:30, around 200 people from all aspects of the Salesian family in Australia gathered in the school chapel to celebrate the centenary mass together. Fr Ángel thanked all those gathered for what they have given to bring the Salesian Charism come to life over the course of their lives and stressed how momentous this occasion was: “In another 50 years” he stated, “some of the young people gathered here tonight will be grandfathers and they will be able to proudly tell their grandchildren: ‘I was there when we celebrated 100 years of Salesianity!’”
Once mass was ended, the congregation moved outdoors, where they were greeted to the sounds of gongs and the sights of some elaborately dressed people and even a dragon - this was a traditional Burmese dance taking place, right in the school courtyard. A sign of things yet to come!
The festivities then rolled over into the College gym, for a gala dinner. There was entertainment throughout the night; including traditional dances from Vietnam and Samoa, young musicians playing guitar, violin and singing and even an impromptu performance from the professed Salesians and FMAs brave enough to go up on stage! The Rector Major was very impressed, although he had one piece of tongue-in-cheek feedback “My confrere…. I think we need more rehearsals”.
Dinner was provided by Roll’d an extremely popular chain of Vietnamese restaurants that has seen rapid growth in Australia. There is a very personal connection between the company and the Salesians - the owner is an ex-student of Salesian College Chadstone and the brother of a Salesian Priest. As the night was drawing to a close it was announced that he had very generously donated the entire cost of the gala dinner meal to the ongoing works of the Salesians in the Pacific, to the rapturous applause of the Gala dinner attendees and a true sign that the centenary was only the beginning of the Salesian story in the Australia-Pacific province! on Bosco.