“The vocation to consecrated life,” - Cardinal Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State says , “came about when I was in school at Valdocco, with the Salesians. I was fourteen and I was thinking about starting Sixth Form studies. The path seemed clear. Having finished Fifth Year studies I would go into the Sixth Form and then specialise in modern languages.”
Replying to journalists waiting for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI last Sunday to Romano Canavese, his home town, Cardinal Bertone told the story of his childhood and of his vocation. Giacomo Galeazzi, from the daily “La Stampa”, after giving an outline of the events of the visit, gives a short account of the life and vocation of the Secretary of State.
It was the Salesian Fr Alessandro Ghisolfi who suggested to the young Tarcisio the idea of consecrating his life: “Would you like to be like these Salesians who devote their lives to the young? Haven’t you been happy here?” A three-day vocational meeting followed. “We spoke about the vocation to the priesthood, about Don Bosco,” the Cardinal recalls, “and I liked the idea. I went back home to tell my parents: that I wanted to go to the Salesian novitiate. It was the evening of 3 May 1949, the day after the plane with the Turin football team crashed into the hill of Superga”. “If the Lord wants you to take this path, then go,” – my parents said. We were all in tears, but the choice was now made.”
“I began on 16 August 1949. But after a few months when I got to know that I would have to prolong the novitiate until I reached sixteen, I wasn’t so sure. It seemed to me a rather oppressive atmosphere. I wrote home saying I wanted to leave but they didn’t come to collect me, so I phoned.” It was his mother who kept faith in the boy’s first decision telling him: “It was you who wanted to enter the novitiate and you should stay there until the end. Once the year is over decide whether you want to stay or not, but it’s not right for you to leave half way.”
“Today I can say that it was the right decision,” concluded Cardinal Bertone who, as the journalist Galeazzi observes, has always put after his signature “SDB”, Salesian of Don Bosco.