Rector Major among the Salesian Brothers at Valdocco
Valdocco, Turin, 20 February 2020 -- Already on the fifth day of the General Chapter, the 21 Salesian Brothers present in the GC28 have invited the Rector Major for a photo-souvenir in front of the Altar of Saint Joseph in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians. This powerful sign of visibility does not happen by accident. One Vietnamese Salesian Brother invited all the other Brother - participants of the GC28 by email to take this meaningful photo with Fr. Angel after the Eucharist on 20 February.
According to the statistics there are now 1589 Brothers in the Salesian Congregation and they represent 11.2% of the total number of our confreres. Their numbers are diminishing. According to GC25 (2002) there were 2317 Brothers, GC26 (2008) there were 2092 and GC27 (2014) there were 1758. But the numbers do not tell the whole reality: there is great improvement of specific formation for Salesian Brothers, there is major attention to these 'two forms of one Salesian consecrated vocation - Priest and Brother' from the initial vocation discernment and with one Salesian Brother - member of the General Council (since 2008) also the institutional visibility improved.
But the Rector Major in his 'Global Vision' Report to the GC28 dedicated no fewer than two of the 30 pages to the Salesian Brothers with a clear focus to point at the root cause of the dynamics and indicate the way forward:
".... while in some regions there is strong decline in the Salesian Brother vocation, in other regions and provinces instead, there has always been a very clear option made by the government [of the province] to foster both vocations. The most significant example is Vietnam: that province today has more than 68 Salesian brothers, mostly young men in formation. Even before considering solely the needs of its own territory, Vietnam made a very clear choice in favour of the mission ad gentes. In fact, there were sent more than 138 Vietnamese Salesian missionaries in the world today.
I am giving this example to point out to you that the “face” and the “cross” of a vocation coexist within one and the same reality [translator’s note: the same vocation of the Salesian Brother is both flourishing and struggling within the same geographical context]; this fact confirms that there is no crisis of the vocation of the brother, but a crisis of models and a strong tendency favouring only the vocation to the priesthood..."
With this significant presence of Salesian Brother in the GC28 another step on the journey will take place to make our Salesian consecrated vocation in two forms more visible! We pray especially for our three EAO Salesian Brothers at Valdocco: Br. Marcal Lopes (TLS), Br. Ed Villordon (FIS) and Br. Dominic Nam (VIE). Yes, we need each other - without the complementary presence of Salesian Brother and Priest we can't imagine true Salesian community and mission. We may ask: Good Lord, what kind of Salesian Brothers and Priests do you want for the young people of today?