24th UPS missionary formation course: first time in English
RMG, 25 September 2018 -- There are 19 of us here at present who have come from around the Salesian world; next week we will be joined by another 5 new missionaries belonging to the 149th expedition. Our new 'temporary missionary community' will have 24 members (+3 FMA sisters who will participate in the course as well).
On 23 September 23, after dinner at Sacro Cuore (The General House) we met for the first time with Fr Martin Lasarte (course director). It was an introduction session; the group also includes many Salesians from our EAO region: Br. Alex Abelgas (Philippines South), Fr. Albert Swear (PGS vice province), TLS East Timor vice province, MYM Myanmar and the Vietnam – Mongolia province.
Many of us are missionaries ad gentes, many are ‘missionaries’ in their own country, both priests and brothers. Some are coming to Rome for the first time in their life. The first meeting was an eye-opener. It seemed as if we had know each other for a long time. Our environment is very open, full of smiles, chatting with each other, and some confreres here in the General House said that they wanted to join with our group because there is so much joy, laughter and relaxation.
I am really very happy to be a Salesian in such a situation. It is a very different experience and atmosphere. As soon as I had arrived at Fiumicino airport and was waiting in the long immigration line, Fr Martin already called me to indicate the 'meeting point'. He was already waiting with two other senior priests! It showed a wonderful family spirit and a fraternal way to care for me!
When I arrived the General House, the Rector and the community gave me a warm welcome. Especially when I met the Rector Major, he greeted me with a warm and friendly smile, with a tender heart and he looked at me in my eyes and said to me while he touched my face: ”Welcome!”
I felt at home here, even with some elderly Salesian conferes with whom I could not communicate due to the langauge barrier, but then, when I saw how they are working, limping and walking with a stick, I felt sad! I admire them for the dedication of their long life and suffering. They led me to realise that a faithful life is more than a fruitful or successful one!
Every day we pray together in the community chapel with the St Joseph community. Here in Rome I pray a lot and pray for all of us, especially for our Mongolia delegation, for all the Salesians in our delegation. I pray for them day by day to be real Salesians of Don Bosco for the young and with the young, especially those who are entrusted to our care for their education. I pay too for our lay mission partners - that they may understood our charism and serve the young with the same heart in our mission.
After some 18 years in the mission, I have returned to the place where our founder was living (2 full years in Rome). I am reflecting at the same place where Don Bosco worked, dreamt, worked for the young and prepared the Salesians. Don Bosco also built this Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacro Cuore). I could not imagine how beautiful this basilica is. Our Father started only with a handful of coins in his hands and was crying at the altar of Mary Help of Christians, while he offered his only Eucharist there in May 1887!
I'm very proud of Don Bosco and I'm also very challenged indeed: who am I for the young nowadays? Don Bosco has done many things and he left us a rich charismatic heritage. He really expressed in his “coetere tolle” that he is ready with unlimited strength, and concern for the happiness of the young in the world and in eternal life as much as he can. He died exhausted for the young! He reallly loved the young in action, work and deed!
I just say to God: 'Thank you for giving me this opportunity to be here, to know more about Don Bosco, more about our Salesians all over the world! It is such a beautiful feeling and an experience which I could never fully express!
Please continue to pray for us in this missionary course, on our spiritual journey with Don Bosco through his life and times in order to be real Salesians for the young today!