Salesian Brother reflects on the GC28 experience
San Francisco USA, 4 April 2020 -- It has been a little over two weeks since I returned from the General Chapter and this past Sunday marked the last day of my 14-day life in quarantine. Those quiet days of seclusion allowed me to take time to unpack my experience of the Chapter and reflect. It seems so surreal that only a few weeks ago I was living at the heart of our Salesian charism and for a month I was immersed in conversations that was carrying the Salesian Congregation forward. So much has changed in the course of a few weeks— not only at the Chapter, but the whole world.
We are living in unpredictable times. In a matter of days, our schools had to adapt to a whole new way of educating. Youth ministry programs had to sort out how to minister to the young on new platforms. The daily breaking news of what is happening all over the world made this uncertainty a growing, dismal reality. As a Church we were confronted with how to still remain the Body of Christ despite not being able to gather physically to worship. This change is real and it has impacted every facet of our lives.
Yet in these changing times, one thing is for certain—God’s presence and action. This notion was very evident in our conversations at the Chapter. As we struggled to articulate how to move the congregation forward and respond to the question: what kind of Salesian for the young people today, it was clear that we have been on a journey. This process of deepening our Salesian identity and mission has been the roadmap for the past 40 years, if not more. The underlying thread in this journey is how God has been active in and through many Salesians, both professed religious and lay mission partners. More importantly, is how God has been revealed in the lives of our young people.
While there will not be an official document from General Chapter 28 like there has been in past General Chapters, there are a collection of messages, conversations, and reflections from every corner of the world, including that of the Rector Major and our Holy Father, Pope Francis. I am sure sometime in the future a compendium of all of those writings will be published and made public, but in the meantime, what comes out of GC28, at least for me, is a greater desire to live un-apologetically full of hope and a passion for Jesus Christ. Together with my brother Salesians, along with the many lay people who share our Salesian mission, and “accepting that we are immersed in a moment of change, with all the uncertainty coming along with that” as Pope Francis shared, we become for the young what we have always been called to be: signs and bearers of God’s love, and to also recognize that God awaits us in the lives of our young people.
The coming weeks and perhaps months will no doubt challenge us and we will have to discern the best ways to accompany one another, but we are encouraged to take on with greater zeal “the Valdocco option” that Pope Francis proposed to GC28. We make a greater and profound choice TO BE MORE SALESIAN by being examples of what it means to be a Eucharistic community rooted in the love and mercy of Christ, to not lose sight of our mission: keeping the young at the center of all that we do, to embody a family spirit that leads to an encounter with Christ, and to commit to educating and evangelizing a world so that mercy and hope will transform every kind of poverty, injustice, disease, and even virus.
We entrust to Mary, our Help, the needs of our young people and the world. We pray that the experience of GC28 may penetrate our hearts and inspire us to become more authentic and credible Salesians in this ever changing world.
NB: From the 'IN TOUCH' (Western province of the USA) weekly newsletter (April 2, 2020). Br. Alphonse (Al) Vu is of Vietnamese origin, current member of the Provincial Council and Youth Ministry Delegate (SUO province), elected already for the second time as General Chapter delegate (GC27 and GC28).