Rector Major in Macau -first territory of China province
Macau, China, 11 August 2019 -- The CIN Provincial, Viceprovincal, Economer, one translator and 10 Macau SDB met the Rector Major on arrival.
After his arrival at Yuet Wah College on Sunday afternoon, 11 August, the 10th Successor of Don Bosco was greeted by some 100 youth, Salesians and Salesian family members.
What follows are simply notes taken from the Rector Major's comments in Macau. They are notes taken down quickly, but they very much represent the spirit of this visit:
So far, the Rector Major has visited 96 nations since GC27 in 2014, and has met some 12,200 SDBs in the process. It also means that there are still 2000 Salesians he has yet to meet, and probably 1000 of those will be met before GC28. The Rector Major's travels and visits have this special feature to them, getting to know each Salesian individually as far as possible. God willing, the RM will be able to visit all 90 provinces around the 7 regions in the world, in 134 countries, in due course.
There are some difficulties in all Salesian provinces, but everywhere we find a beautiful Salesian Congregation. And why not we speak about a beautiful Congregation? Because she is very much alive, full of life.
Europe has its own problems, only 40-50 novices. AFC (Central Africa) has 176 confreres in initial formation. The fastest growing region in the world is Africa–Madagascar, then South Asia. Also many provinces in the EAO region are growing. The Congregation is bigger than one province. Within the worldwide Congregation, the China Province has a special meaning.
The Salesian Congregation is alive due to the preferential option for poor young people, and this makes our Society beautiful. In some parts of the world we have really very meaningful Salesian presences. And after my visit today, the whole Congregation is looking up to the China province.
Pope Francis told me: When we think about the young, I think about the Salesians. You are all around the world, with your schools, parishes, oratories, and whenever I go, I find the Salesians: in Istanbul, Turkey or in Congo, in Azerbaijan... And he shared this as something very beautiful.
I would like to leave you with much hope after my visit. In a few month's time we meet with your delegates in Valdocco for the General Chapter 28 next February 2020. We have studied the reports from all 7 regions and by six sectors.
So, everything is wonderful? Yes, despite there being many challenges and difficulties around the world.
For the first time in history, the Congregation personally surveyed/interviewed 3,500 young Salesians and 500 formators with some very interesting findings – for the first time in our history. The young confreres are telling their seniors that we need to trust them a little bit more; we like to control everything ... and they offered many other points, always with great enthusiasm for the Congregation.
Some statistics tell us a lot about our life and mission. One confrere asked me: 'Dear Rector Major, when will the end of the Congregation come about?’ And this confrere was really anxious. My reply was – our Congregation always has young people and that is where the future lies.
2013 statistics showed that we were 14,800 SDBs and now in 2019 we are 14,200 SDB around the world. That means that in each 6 year period we are 600 confreres fewer. But over these years we were able to stabilise our numbers – with better personal accompaniment of young confreres, and we were able to fix up many of the irregular situations of our (530) confreres, mostly confreres who have left after years in these situations – some already married, but who are technically SDBs though living outside.
We are grateful to God for the largest number of novices in the Catholic Church at present – more than any other Congregations. Many provinces have very much improved their spiritual accompaniment. EAO has the lowest perseverance of novices in the world, while the European provinces are up to 91% perseverance.
What are our challenges?
First is the challenge of consecrated life: we are able to communicate what do we do well, but are not always able to make our consecrated life visible. At times, we are seen as workers and not as religious. This is obviously the strongest challenge facing religious worldwide. Diocesan priests do have not this issue, since they are immersed in the daily pastoral life in parishes.
Second, some confreres lack maturity from a human, affective or sexual perspective.
Third, we need to grow in fellowship among ourselves. It is not just about absence of fighting among communities. And individualism is really an ongoing challenge: let me do what I would like to do, don’t’ touch me! Without being discouraged about this, we need to work on this challenge. Are the younger generations less individualistic? Not really. But we need to work on the sense of communion.
Our future with our Lay Mission Partners – also in China province
For sure, there will be fewer SDBs than in the past. I was the ARS (Argentina South) Provincial with 166 SDBs not yet in the provincial infirmary, and the confreres began working in a different way. We cannot always have an SDB community, but we can have the Salesian mission or presence. Even the Ramos Mejia (Buenos Aires) house 30 years ago was already without an SDB resident community, since there were not enough confreres. The leadership there went to well formed lay mission partners looking after 2000 students, Salesian Family groups, a parish returned to the diocese, a youth centre and Salesian scouts. Today this house is a model – the director is a Salesian Cooperator. It’s possible, but we need to prepare our lay people.
The China province is very special. It’s beautiful in each of its very different 3 territories of Macau, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
One conviction – there is nobody eternal in this world. Only from heaven will we see something like that --- It has always been like this in history – all the empires have fallen – Roman, Spanish, British, …. 70 years is a short period of time. For us it’s a life period. … You are living a very special situation, but for this reason you don’t need to be afraid. And the Congregation is much bigger than one province.