PGS First Provincial Chapter
Port Moresby, PNG, 13 April 2019 -- The Vice Province of Blessed Philip Rinaldi, made up of the Salesians of Don Bosco working in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands (PGS), concludes its first ever Provincial Chapter, held from 5 to 13 April, 2019, on a high note. By the time Fr. Alfred Maravilla, Provincial Superior, closes the Chapter, all the sixteen members, 13 priests and 3 lay brothers, coming from 7 nationalities, beam with pride, joy and hope. They are making history together as they give clear and definite responses to the theme of the Chapter, “What kind of Salesians for Melanesian youths of today?” Fr. Roger Miranda, Provincial Economer and Rector of the Provincial House, sums up the jubilant feeling of the assembly thus, “It’s historic! Congratulations! Let’s keep the Spirit alive!” A team of Salesians in Port Moresby prepares the ground work for this significant event, composed of Fr. Ariel Macatangay, Chapter Moderator, together with Fr. Angel Sanchez, Fr. Jorge Ormeño and Fr. Shoji Mathew.
The PGS Provincial Chapter is a gift of the Spirit not only for the Melanesian youths but to the Church, as God’s people, whom the Salesians are serving in the two Pacific nations. Three words, often repeated or realized during the 8-day meeting, can highlight the features and blessings of this chapter: listening, directions, fraternity.
Much listening takes place before and during the Chapter itself. Before the Chapter, the local communities discuss the theme of the General Chapter 28 articulated by the Rector Major, Fr. Angel Fernandez. They listen to each other and to the young people in their settings to answer questions in view of coming up with an updated Salesian profile capable of effectively carrying out their mission to young people together with the laity. Various meetings, like a forum among youths in Port Moresby and seminars with young Salesians, also take place before the Chapter to gather feedback and suggestions from these sectors. During the Chapter itself, three groups of 1) young people, 2) young confreres and 3) lay mission partners are invited to participate in three respective sessions discussing the three key topics of GC 28, namely, 1) Mission to the young, 2) Profile and formation of Salesians, and 3) Shared mission with laity.
The Salesians themselves experience the challenge, humility and joy of listening to each other throughout the Chapter. Listening and discussing on various topics in 4 sessions of an hour and a half each day, with a number of group meetings at night, can be demanding and yet fruitful. Fr. Maravilla shares, “We need to listen, discuss and decide to arrive to a shared vision which gives clear direction for the future.”
Among the most satisfying experience in the chapter is the chance to discuss, debate and agree on important concerns and chart out clear and concrete directions for the next coming years. This is what Fr. Robinson Parappilly, Rector of Don Bosco Kumgi appreciates about the Chapter, “The chapter was historical, well-organized and set guidelines for the Vice-Province of PGS.” Being the first Provincial Chapter, the PGS Salesians finalize and officially endorse for approval to Rome the following long-term plans and directives: The Over-all Province Plan, the Province Salesian Educative Pastoral Plan, and the Provincial Directory with a new Formation section. For the first time too, PGS confreres agree together on a Protocol for Salesians regarding Financial Transparency and Accountability, Appropriate Use of Social Media and Protection of Minors. The Salesians also discuss other pressing concerns in PNG and SI and formulate together directions on topics such as: priority for opening a new presence in Solomon Islands, apostolate for street children, starting an apostolic school as seedbed for vocation, creation of a unified Don Bosco educational system, and the vision of Don Bosco Technological Institute as a university with two other Salesian presences as campuses.
For Br. Jose Trigona, a long time Salesian missionary from Argentina who joined PGS in 2018, the Provincial Chapter is “a moment of fraternity and of the Spirit for the good of the youth of PNG.” Throughout the entire Chapter proceedings, from the State of the Province Address by the Provincial to the closing Mass and final meal together, a distinctly Salesian family atmosphere of brotherly exchange and communion is felt among the confreres and in the relaxed and spontaneous process of dialogue. Halfway through the Chapter, the Salesians concretely express their fraternal communion as they celebrate the birthday of Fr. Srimal Gajasinhage, Rector of Henderson, SI with a family dinner at the Provincial House. Fr. Pankaj Xalxo, Rector of Don Bosco Tetere, SI, summarizes his thoughts and experiences in this way, “I carry home with me good memories of camaraderie, love for our common mission, commitment and dedication.”
As the PGS Salesians reach a milestone in the celebration of their first Provincial Chapter, they acknowledge with gratitude the constant presence of God, the contributions of many missionaries, lay and young people and benefactors as they continue their apostolic mission. They realize that the Chapter is not an end but a fresh start in the on-going journey of listening and communion as they implement their plans following shared directions. Reflecting on the homily of Fr. Maravilla during the final Mass, Br. Reto Wanner, the Province Secretary, shares what can serve as a fitting conclusion, “We imbibe the words of Fr. Alfred during his inspiring homily: journeying with the young in an attitude of listening, humility and courage in order to take the first step – a sure way to holiness!”