Interview conducted at Sacro Cuore, Rome, 26 July 2021 --
What is really new in this 'Salesian Missionary Vocation'?
The new document presents a renewed vision of the Salesian missions. New questions have led to new missiological reflections bringing about new perspectives. Our ecclesial and socio-cultural context today is totally different from that of the first missionary expedition to Argentina in 1875, of the Salesian missionary expedition to Asia in1906 and to the context of Project Africa in 1980.
What does the RM/council (or do you) expect from these operational guidelines?
This document has the threefold purpose of motivating the confreres to respond to the missionary invitation of the Rector Major, improving the processes of discernment, formation and integration and harmonising earlier operational guidelines that are still relevant in our context today.
What lead you to coin a new term of 'missionary experience'?
The missionary vocation is a radical and complete gift of self which, by its very nature, implies total availability without any time limits. Consequently, there can be no ‘ad tempus’ missionary. By its very nature a missionary vocation is ‘ad vitam’ (for life).
However, our Congregation allows confreres to offer themselves to work temporarily in another Province, or to respond to a specific or urgent need. This is a positive experience for many Provinces. So as not to confuse it with missionary vocation, it is considered appropriate to call it ‘missionary experience’ and no longer ‘missionaries ad tempus’. This experience may be for some years but may not be longer than a total of ten years.
Why another set of Guidelines just 8 years after the 'Missionary Formation of SDB' (Missions & Formation sector)?
Although published 8 years ago, ‘The Missionary Formation of SDB' is still a very valid guide which indicates ‘contents to be emphasised’, ‘attitudes to be fostered’ and ‘experiences to be encouraged’ to ensure the missionary formation of every SDB. Instead, this new document presents a renewed understanding of the Salesian missionary vocation, a renewed profile of the Salesian missionary, the distinction and relationship of the ‘Salesian missionary spirit’ and the ‘Salesian missionary vocation’.
Who was involved in this new missionary vocation 'operational guidelines'?
The ‘operational guidelines’ is a coherent presentation of the different directives issued the past 30 years, as well as new ones. Here are some examples:
1. The Provincial who requests for missionaries is required to present to the Rector Major and his Council a concrete missionary project. The approval of the project will be the condition for sending missionaries to that Province.
2. The Province who receives a missionary needs to present to the Councillor for Missionsthe ‘Reception and Integration Plan’ for the new missionaries.
3. All Provinces who receive missionaries are required to ensure that new arrivals undergo formal language class for at least 6 months, which can be extended if the new missionary needs it.
- Missionary Formation of Salesians SDB (2013)
- Salesian Missionary Vocation (2021)
- Salesian Missionary Animation Handbook (2019)