Daejon, South Korea, 24 April 2020 -- After 10 years of Salesian novitiate experience in Naeri on the western seashore of South Korea, this stage of formation returned last January to the city of Daejon, where the novitiate was first opened in 1992. Today the Daejon community (Rector Fr Peter Choi kwang-seob) ,6 Salesian priests and 4 novices (Novice director Fr Felix Wee won-seok) is entrusted with one group home (Don Bosco house), Salesian Youth Center and Novitiate formation. While the whole Salesian setting is surrounded by the beautiful green of trees and hills.
The Salesian Youth Center is a large venue for Primary and Secondary school student human growth activities during the school year and for the Catholics is a weekend or summer & winter holiday venue for recollections and retreats. Being located at the center of the country, this community is also a venue for many provincial events, celebrations and gatherings. There are also two Salesian Cooperator centers attached to this SDB community and another FMA community, 'Nazareth House', in Daejon, a city of 1.5 million people and center of the Daejon diocese with 220,000 Catholics (6% of the 3.5 million population).
What makes this formation community special is the 24/7 life experience with youth in need (Don Bosco group home) and working together with one FMA community located within the Don Bosco compound. Aside from the ordinary novitiate prayers, work, sports, conferences, talks, various subjects of Salesian consecrated and apostolic life - our Korean novices have a daily opportrunity to assist our young people during recreation time.
How are our four novices (Francis, John of the Cross, Gabriel and John) growing in their Salesian vocation? What helps their growth on their vocation journey? We are grateful for their open and frank sharing:
"Since we have always lived and worked since the aspirantate with youth in need, we learn how to accompany these youngsters. Most of them have never really experienced a caring family and parents. When I received a thank-you letter from some of them, I'm energized on my vocation journey: 'Thanks to you, Brother, I'm growing daily'.
"I have experienced some difficulties on my vocation journey, when being confronted by our difficult young people. However a simple invitation from one Dae-rim-dong boy: "I hope you will soon conclude your military service and be amongst us as soon as possible" - was a decisive push to overcome my cloud of doubts whether to continue or not... Also the family spirit and trust I have received since my high school vocation gatherings by young Salesians, keeps me growing on my vocation journey."
"During my military service holiday I was able to confirm my way of meditation learnt in the aspirantate during the 8 day retreat. Another experience also during the military service, when on the 'Choice' program, when I realized, that most of my talks is about 'Salesians'. That time I recognized that I'm already a member of the Salesians. Also the Salesian family spirit felt in our prayer moments is a strong motivation on my vocation journey."
"I can recognize various experiences of when and how my vocation is growing: When I'm able to overcome a relationship with a difficult confrere in prayer; when I'm able to overcome a difficult moment in my personal life, in prayer; when I'm able, through counselling, to recognize my past hurts and face them with calm in my prayer, finally I feel that my vocation is growing through daily meditation and daily celebration of the Eucharist."
Let's be inspired by the simplicity and open sharing of our novices. Indeed the gift of vocation needs a life-long response, to grow in our daily life. Today we may say one Hail Mary for the 430 Salesian novices worldwide and especially for the 52 novices in our EAO region.