Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 12 July 2020 -- Amidst the corona virus pandemic, confreres of the Salesian Vice-Province of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands gathered for their annual retreat at the Provincial House, Boroko, Port Moresby. The retreat commenced on the 5th July and concluded on 11th July 2020.
This special time of grace with restrictions on travel, prevented the attendance of conferees from Solomon Islands and from the communities of Kumgi and Vunabosco. These communities will organize their own annual retreat. Twelve confreres from the different houses of Port Moresby and Araimiri were present for the retreat. They were priests, brothers and practical trainees who are missionaries from eight countries and four continents – a plurality of languages, cultures and formations, in a land that is perhaps one of the most diverse in the world. This unique retreat had a special format that gave each confrere an occasion to pray, listen and share.
The retreatants spent the days in silence. They were guided to reflect on the recent 28th General Chapter, the message of the Holy Father Pope Francis to the members of the chapter, Lectio Divina, celebration of the sacraments and deep reflective sharing. It was a special time of active listening and inspiration as we journeyed with the members of the chapter.
“This year’s annual retreat has helped me a lot in self-introspection. The Salesian echo enabled me to reflect on my Salesian vocation and mission among the young,” said Fr Roger Miranda who was the facilitator of the Retreat.
The starting point of the retreat was to reconnect with God. “The Salesians have the beautiful role of a joyful craftsman, full of faith in the Risen Lord, filled with hope and love for the young people entrusted to their care. As radical witnesses of the Gospel, we are attentive to the signs of the times, learn the dialect of the mission land and reach out to the young people where they are”, said Br Reto Wanner.
The sharing at the Eucharist, good nights and in groups gave every participant the opportunity to share his experience, struggles, joys and dreams for the mission. The reflections have deepened our love for the young, our orientation towards the poor, our generous response amidst the multiplicity of tasks, our commitment to our Salesian Identity and our fidelity to Don Bosco.
“The ‘Valdocco option’ of Pope Francis is strongly pedagogical and pastoral. It is a loud call for us to dig deep roots, leave the comforts of our institutions and venture into our neighbourhood to encounter the many young people waiting for our response,” said Fr Ambrose Pereira.
“The retreat has awakened in us a desire to open our eyes and respond to the reality of the situation of the poor around our institutions. It is now up to each one of us to spend time, deepen these reflections and see how we can put it into practice”, said Fr Eduardo Revilla.
The last two sessions dealt with dreams and challenges. It is our dreams that express our love for our vocation. It is this that will sustain our work and open us to the cry of the poor, the marginalized and the abandoned be they prisoners, drug addicts, refugees or migrants. The retreatants challenged each other to be witness and live credible lives that will invite collaboration from lay people, who wish to join in the mission as they see us engaged in the lives of the young and the poor. “It is by the witness of our lives that we will invite and encourage vocations to priestly and religious life,” said Fr Gilbert Pano.
The ‘Salesian Sacrament of Presence’ is a challenge that reminds us to constantly return to Don Bosco and be evangelizers of the young. “With every additional task and added responsibility, we are withdrawing further away from our contact with the young. The assignments and numerous tasks leave us exhausted with the danger of reduced or little or no contact with the young”, reflected Br Reto Wanner.
“The sharing during the retreat has given me the opportunity to listen to the struggles of our confreres in Araimiri. It is up to each one of us to make our communities a reflection of Valdocco today,” said Cl Francis Mallol.
Renewed and refreshed we are ready to generously commit ourselves to the young and the poor who are involved in a terrible poverty of violence and abuse. “For sure, the journey is not at its end. Apart from this wonderful time of fraternity and deep sharing, I wish that this virus will not only affect the 12 participants, but as well spread to all the people we meet in our Educative Pastoral Communities”, stated Br Reto Wanner. “May this virus of deep sharing and fraternity that we have all been infected with, spread to all we meet in our Educative Pastoral Communities,” he concluded.