Dili - Comoro, Timor Leste, 21 October 2019 -- Ten days, 1000 kilometers on the dusty and construction busy roads, eleven local Salesian communities, two province level meetings and three Salesian Family-related encounters with many talks, sharing, good nights – this is the account of the 2019 annual animation visit to Timor Leste. Ten days of discerning with the eyes of hope amidst the many external challenges of this young country.
The landscape of East Timor is slowly transforming with the main highway from Dili to Los Palos coming to completion soon and all around the country new houses are being built usually thanks to the revenues coming from the young population working overseas. The comparative social stability despite the fragmentation of political parties is bringing the steadfast social, economic and cultural progress of the young nation. Meanwhile, the Catholic community will remember the anniversary of St. John Paul II visit to Timor Leste on October 30 in the most difficult time of their history (1989).
During this year the funeral of Fr. Joao de Deus, one of the 'pillars of the Salesian family' in Timor, inspired movement by the Alumni. The approaching Centenary of the SDB arrival in Timor Leste in 1927, with Saint Callisto Caravario, is also an important inspiration for the whole Salesian family.
There are still many structural challenges persisting, including the backward developing education system with its lack of budget, unclear curriculum, insufficientlyqualified teachers or just a superficial focus on the number of graduates. In spite of these challenges the Salesians of Don Bosco are doing their best at educating 15,000 young people entrusted to our care in various schools, training centres or boarding houses. Education is the best answer to all the external challenges facing the country, from the eroding of traditional values, materialism, and youth attracted by SNS and martial arts groups.
However there are many hope-filled signs of the young viceprovince, including the steadfast vocation flow with another 19 novices heading towards their first profession on 8 December. The twenty prenovices and some 20-25 possible candidates for next year's prenovitiate are indeed a blessing. This great gift of vocations requires closer accompaniment of our candidates and young confreres, less formal but deeper, without 'human respect' and being able to call call all the concrete obstacles on their vocation journey by name.
The most inspiring are the occasions of sharing with young people, our candidates or with the Salesians (community, rectors, provincial council) or with Salesian family members. At this moment of history the Salesians in Timor Leste need a lot of hope, wisdom in facing the future. The interest in the open question of GC28 ‘What kind of Salesians for the young people of Timor Leste?’ echoes the family spirit and involvement of the young in the Salesian mission.