Valdocco, Turin, 17 March 2020 -- How do you feel now?
People ask me how I feel as the newly elected General Councillor for Missions. My response is: I have tried my best to avoid this election. After my service in the Missions Department I had envisioned myself returning for good to PGS. In fact, during the discernment process in view of the election of the members of the General Council, when I started to realise that something was going to happen, I explicitly turned down my nomination in the EAO Commission as Councillor for Missions because, among other reasons, our Vice Province is in serious need of personnel.
What about your vice-province of Blessed Philip Rinaldi - PNG and Solomon Islands?
The first Provincial of PGS, my predecessor, was in office only for 6 months when he was appointed bishop. So we have really just started laying foundations, structures and systems for our new Province. Unfortunately, I was nominated in 4 other regions. So at the first ballot I received 178 out of 222 votes. With this election, at an instance, all the plans and vision for our Vice Province faded on the horizon together with my wish of remaining a missionary ad vitam in this part of the world.
As my election was made public, Fr Dominic Kachira, PGS Vice Provincial, dropped me a line congratulating me and stating as well: “It’s the 2nd Provincial being taken away. I believe in the Holy Spirit and He will draw straight on a crooked and uncertain future!” Up to now I am still struggling to understand how this crooked line could ultimately become straight! What a tertiary student wrote to me encapsulates my feelings these days “I cannot understand why the Lord has to take you away from us!”
How do you look at the new task as Councilor for the Missions?
I still do not comprehend God’s designs for my own life. But my internal struggle has also made me realise again that, indeed, He is the Harvest Master, while I am nothing but just a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord. So it is He who will decide which field he will send me to work in. Now, he has sent to work in another field of his vineyard!
The words of Pope Francis powerfully resound in my heart: “The Holy Spirit works as he wills, when he wills and where he wills; we entrust ourselves without pretending to see striking results. We know only that our commitment is necessary. … Let us give him everything, allowing him to make our efforts bear fruit in his good time” (Evangelii Gaudium, 279).
This six-year period (2020-2026) will be marked by the 150th anniversary of the first Salesian missionary expedition (1875). My wish to the 1500 Salesians of our EAO region is that each one may have the courage to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts as he wills, when he wills and where he wills, so that, animated by Don Bosco’s missionary spirit, we may have the courage to get out of our comfort zones and go forth. Thanks to this missionary spirit, Don Bosco’s charism is now deeply rooted in EAO. It’s about time that every Province in EAO, rich and poor in personnel, actively participate in our Congregation’s missionary activity. Ironically, only such missionary generosity will keep our Provinces vibrantly alive to serve the poor and marginalised youth in our countries.