Macau-2 Salesian Family encounter, Instituto Salesiano
(SDB, FMA, ASC, DB-MHC Alumni)
Macau, China, 12 August 2019 -- Note: what follows is more of a 'stream of consciousness' account ... notes taken as the RM speaks, responds to questions, and puts a few of his own.
China is the 94th nation-territory visited in the past 5 or so years years. In all visits we have met the SF and had a meeting like this. And this is an important point of the animation visit. Not only to meet the SDBs, since the SF is much bigger. I feel very much at home, welcomed, and grateful for the wonderful experience of communion.
What are the groups present here? Are there also teachers – former students of the SDB or FMA? And how many of you have your children enrolled in Salesian educational institutions? The Salesian Cooperators are as noisy as always. And what about the Bosco Youth Service Network…
Yes, we have found the SF everywhere in our visits, including leadership of Salesian works. During the past 5 years the SF has been growing around the world. And it’s our great strength! This not a comparison with others, but because the good done in Salesian works should be communicated.
Second – a great thanks to all of you as Salesian Family. Why? Because together we help each other a lot! For example, you lay people can’t imagine the enormous good your presence brings to the Salesian Family as lay people. For us SDBs to have you around us, it’s a great joy! We as consecrated individuals are a help to you as well! We enrich each other, even without being aware of it! It’s very important, because sometimes we think that the Salesian Family is just about doing something, but it’s also about experiencing unity and communion, witnessing. For example, the presence of Salesian Cooperators who are immersed in the life of society, in your nitty gritty family life, witnessing to Christian values.
What is your impression of China province?
It’s a visit I have wanted to make for a long time. I thought that China might be too far away. Not true! Oceania is even further – it takes about 35 hours to reach there. But I wanted to get know you, to see you close at hand, not just to see you as Chinese tourists or pilgrims in Rome. Here we feel at home with you in China province. It has been a wonderful welcome.
Then – we have so many motivations for living with hope. We have many opportunities to do a lot of good for young people. One of my messages – Don’t be afraid, since we know Who is sustaining us. When I see you here, for example and especially many young people – I’m sure we have so many motivations to live with hope. For sure, the young people are different in many parts of China… Ways of living are very different and I discover that our world is wonderful and diversity is beautiful. It speaks of a richness. It’s very easy to feel communion among us.
How do you face the difficulties?
Yes, we have so many motivations not to lose hope. All of us live amid some difficulties. We religious have our difficulties, the FMA have other kinds of difficulties, and the lay people have yet other kinds of difficulties. You are living a life with dedication, struggling daily with so many challenges in society. So, what can we do?
We can live without being afraid, also because we have so many reasons to live with hope! Our faith gives us strength. Dear Salesian Family our greatest strength is our faith. Each one of us knows what that means in our life. As and SDB I always tryto be positive and communicate this way. The difficulties need to be reflected on and coped with, but we should not live with a pessimistic outlook. Sometimes we as religious are easily tempted by pessimism ... e.g. saying it’s not like 50 years ago when there were 10 novices,and today only two novices! (Remember ... the youngest FMA today will one day be the mother provincial!) When we speak like this, it’s according to our human calculations but not according to God's plans. If we don’t live with the vision of faith, we can’t serve the youth as a Salesian Family. The Government can provide school services, and NGOs can do the social work ... but it’s hard to substitute our Gospel values – to stay close to others with the spirit of service. If we really believe that we are Don Bosco's Faith Family, then we always have many reasons to live with hope.
And now - one question to you? Is the Salesian Family in Macau living with optimism? Yes…! This is the way forward, to live with hope. Yes, God is with us!
What kind of sport do you like at most?
Basketball for 17 years - I like it and also like to watch tennis, I like fishing (not as sport, since I was born near the seashore). Football can be annoying. How do you keep a youthful heart?
It’s a mystery, I don’t know. I live with one conviction - I give thanks to God who gave me life, I feel satisfied with my life and feel that I’m happy. And I need to recognize that as an SDB I’m a very fortunate person. I get to know many young people and this fills my heart with immense joy. And I can understand that our senior confreres can live with a youthful heart. The mystery is very simple: if you look to living with a serene heart, as time passes, you become naturally more gentle and serene. If you are get angry about little things, as time passes, it will become worse … At times some of my confreres think that the most important thing is to be in charge. Yes, they might be in charge but in the end they are alone. Some other confreres have been always in the playground and live a happy life. I invite you as a Salesian Family to live with true joy and hope! Believe me, we have so many motivations to live with hope! As we see the world and live in our hearts – it’s our energy and strength, I believe it deeply. Yes, love can heal even people with deep hurts. Even 3 minutes of brief listening to another person can change someone's life. Don Bosco and Mary Mazzarello taught us this. Our family spirit is expressed through goodness. We didn’t know each other, but we can feel at home living with friends. It’s our DNA as a Salesian family!
Where does your wisdom come from?
Common good sense. Yes, knowing the whole Salesian world helps you to understand many things and to give importance to some things while not being afraid of others.
For example – what is most important for our young people? (FMA – our Lord!)
And for those who don’t know Jesus? Wait a moment. Before the GC28 we asked young people worldwide what they expected from the SDBs around the world? Do you know what they ask? We need your presence! We want to have you in our midst! Let go of administration and management and come with us into the playground! Come with us into our youth groups! For me that is marvellous! Our FMA sisters hear this too – the girls need you. Just close your office! Put one lay staff in your office and come out to be present among the youngsters! Why do this? Yes, you would tell them that to be present among them is to share about Jesus. It’s the most beautiful treasure of the Salesian Family. Don Bosco was ready to give his blood for his boys. He died at 72 years of age, since he gave his all for the young, and Mary Mazzarello did the same. We as SDBs or Salesian Family among the young! This is our main strength! What if our youth would tell us – we don’t want to see you! That would be terrible, if they were telling us we don’t need you! But their invitation is to leave our office … to meet them!
One senior SDB (non Chinese!) asked me: When will the end of the Congregatio come about? At 90 years of age he was worried about when our Congregation will come to an end. My answer – no, it will not happen! For example the OFM already have 800 years of history. If we are with the youth, we have still hundreds of years to exist as SDBs or the Salesian Family! If we lose our sensitivity for youth, the Holy Spirit will raise up somebody else and will have no more need of us! This is what fidelity to the charism is all about, this is a wisdom!
How to make use of the social media, internet in order to connect to the young people?
SMS and internet are the means to use today. Today you can’t live without your cell phone. 40 years ago the superiors worried that some confreres were using a typewriter, right? But now we find so many youth who are excellent in the use of these tools and we adults are little bit slow in their use. Should we just look at them? Don Bosco had the best printing press in Turin with the most advanced technology. And in one famous expo he went with his printing press managed by this Brothers and boys, and got a prize for coming second! And DB was very upset (he wanted the 1st prize) and didn’t come to receive the award. He was deeply convinced about the need to use these media. The same happens today! Only that we need to be formed to use them well.
What about you, as parents – how many of you teach, form your children how to use these tools wisely? In our schools do we only teach them how to use the internet, or do we teach them to discover the goodness of the internet and the dangers? We should be present in this digital world. We need to show how to live in this digital world. They are a huge opportunity and also offer great risks. It’s important.
What about youth addiction to the SNS/internet? How can we motivate youth to follow Jesus in their vocation?
This morning at Coloane, EDLV and Macau Youth Center we entered a beautiful Youth Center with many games, including basketball, table soccer, and Fr. Domingos told me it was ‘a modern oratory’. What would Fr. Versiglia and his companions do here? They played the games they learnt at Valdocco with Don Bosco! Now we have all these modern games. In Coloane there were all these large video-game screens. Better that they play these together here and accompanied by educators than just playing alone at home on their small screens. In this way we can begin to talk about possible vocations. I can talk to these (DB Service Network) youth: Here I see a future Salesian, here I see a future FMA, or these serious youngsters will become wonderful fathers or mothers of families! All vocations should be accompanied! Today I blessed two educators who will be married in 2 months time. It’s beautiful to accompany them on their vocation journey! If some youngster shares his dream – we answer: prayer and presence! Only when we know each other, can the heart respond. Only when we know the other, can we fall in love. This is why we can’t abandon our presence among young people! This is the central point of the Salesian Family. If we as consecrated people are missing this point,we commit a great mistake. I would like to invite you all to live with courage: married couples to witness to an open family, serving others, living Christian and Salesian values. We should not be afraid!