Part of being human is forgetting something. The world today is filled with many distractions that can totally disengage us from our focus. The night before Jesus died Jesus had to institutionalize the Eucharist so that in celebrating the Anamnesis we may always ‘remember’ and not forget. Invoking the spirit (epiclesis) we are empowered to make present what we have remembered.
The welcome of the PGS Vice Province was warm and very fraternal. The venue in the Provincial House and Emmaus Conference Centre under the shadows of the Archdiocesan Shrine of Mary Help of Christians was very conducive to sharing and discussions. Indeed, participating in the EAO Regional Meeting of the PDMAs in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea last August 16-20, 2023, made me realize and appreciate more the crucial role of the PDMA in every Province so that we do not allow ourselves to be distracted and, consequently, steered away from the way of life of the Gospel traced out for us by Don Bosco.
Being faithful to the charism of our founder will only be possible if we live out the missionary spirit that Don Bosco bequeathed to the Salesians, and to the whole Salesian Family, propelled by nothing else than the passion to evangelize particularly the young; the passion to save souls with the oratorian heart, and the generous availability to go wherever the Superior sends us (‘Ci vado io!’) - all synthesized in our motto: Da mihi Animas Coetera Tolle!
And just as every Salesians and every Salesian community is called to live the missionary spirit, an essential element of Don Bosco’s charism, God also calls some Salesians “each one by name” to a more radical and generous commitment in his vineyard, be this in familiar or unfamiliar lands, in languages and cultures both endearing and disconcerting.
Every Salesian, therefore, needs to sincerely discern God’s call for each and everyone within our common Salesian vocation. The same world that now has a lot of distractions can also create a lot of confusion that can complicate discernment. We really need the Holy Spirit to come down (epiclesis) and help us become what the Lord wants us to become for the young today (identity).
Now we realize how important formation really is. Just as teachers are formed to be teachers or engineers are formed to be engineers, so too we Salesians need to be formed and informed on living Don Bosco’s missionary spirit wherever we are in a school, in a parish, in a training center, in an urban setting or in a rural context, in our country or in a foreign mission. Wherever we are, we ought to live the Da Mihi Animas with missionary passion, if we are to be faithful to Don Bosco’s charism.
A significant realization that I got during these days of our PDMA regional meeting, is the nurturing and caring aspect of the work of the PDMA. In general, people see the need for nurturing and caring for missionary spirit but what's everybody’s business in general, is nobody’s business in particular. Only a vibrant missionary spirit among the confreres and EPCs of our Province will revitalize Don Bosco charism and even give birth to missionary vocations. There cannot be any shortcuts!
Finally, we realize that a continual focus on our charismatic identity and missionary spirit can keep us on course. It is in fact, as various Church documents insist especially after Vatican II, the starting point for any renewal in the Church (in the Congregation and in our Province). The Popes have been inviting us to ask: “What does God want us to do.… Where does he want us to go.… Are we doing what God wants us to do…. Are we what God wants us to be?”
The EAO Regional meeting of PDMAs was truly enlightening, encouraging, and inspiring. All the participants went back with a ‘new lease on life.’ May our newfound enthusiasm, pathways, and significance bear fruit in our different Provinces as we prepare for the coming 150th anniversary of the first missionary expedition in 2025!