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By Fr Andrew Fung, SDB

Valdocco, Italy, 9 February 2019 -- The Advisory Council (aka 'Consulta') of the Missions Department guided by Fr Basanes Guillermo, the General Councillor for the Missions, was held in Valdocco, the Mother House, from 24-27 January 2019. The presence of the four members of Missions Department, the 6 Regional Coordinators for Mission Animation and 2 experts from the Pontifical Salesian University has enkindled the fire of mission in the heart again with deep reflection and sharing on several important topics, though it was 4 degree Celsius below zero outside.

Sharing among the CORAM (Regional Coordinators of Missionary Animation) on successful arrangements or animation is always enriching. This 'Consulta' was scheduled to be held before most of the Provincial Chapters and the General Chapter and in Valdocco. One of its objectives is to contribute something to the Congregation and to strengthen the missionary spirit in all Provinces.

Who is missionary? If we generalize it such that each Salesian is a missionary, there is the tendency to weaken the special calling of the missionary ad gentes. However, if we emphasize the special vocation of a missionary ad gentes, will each one of us still keep the strong passion of our mission to bring the Gospel to young people, not just remaining at the human formation level? How should we deal with such a dilemma while the words “mission”, “missions” and “missionaries” are used with their broad connotation in our Constitutions and Regulations?

Another interesting topic is the preparation in 2025 for the 150th anniversary of Don Bosco's first missionary expedition. Who could ever be as enthusiastic about the missionary expedition from Valdocco each year as those at Valdocco on that first occasion in 1875? Nowadays, what should we do in each Province to arouse once again the interest of each Salesian in the annual missionary expedition? Would the 150th anniversary be a stepping stone to enkindling the missionary fire in our hearts?

What kind of Salesians for today's youth? It seems that the deliberations of GC24 have not yet been assimilated. It is absolutely true that we are capable of providing the formation of Salesianity to lay mission partners. However, are they convinced of their Salesian Vocation? Have the Salesians been successful in helping them to discover their own Salesian vocation? While the number of Salesians is decreasing obviously in some Provinces, it is an urgent need to help our collaborators to find out their Salesian vocation and then be transformed to be authentic lay mission partners. Other than the presence of Salesians in the midst of young people, the presence of the lay mission partners among them is precious too.

The presentation offered by Fr Martin Lasarte about “Volunteer Service in the Salesian Mission. Handbook and Guidelines” was enriching. Other than suitable arrangements and accompaniment provided by Salesian communities, human and Christian formation for the Volunteers are critical in order to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. We all believe that it is one of the good ways to nurture the culture of vocation, but only if we are able to educate volunteers to offer themselves not because of personal interests but as a generous reply to God's call.

There will be another meeting of this advisory council in another two years.

We believe that our Mother in heaven, Mary Help of Christians will remain with us to the end.

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