Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Salesians 150th Anniversary

On December 18, 1859, Don Bosco asked 18 young men to start a congregation. They all agreed to give up their own dreams to make Don Boscos own dream come true. Thats how the Salesians were born.

The congregation started with 18 young men. Today there are more than 16,000 members spread out over 130 countries. Whats more, 26 other groups have sprung from the original Salesian congregation.

Pascual Chávez Villanueva, Rector Major of the Salesians: Today, the cultural and religious situation is very different. But Don Bosco would expect the same generosity, the same dedication, and the same enthusiasm with which those original 18 young men were able to leave behind their own ambitions that were real. They gave up their own dreams to make Don Boscos come true.

The 150th anniversary will be celebrated the 18th of December when every member of the Salesian congregation will renew their religious vows. In essence, their commitment to promote the glory of God and the good of all souls, especially those who are most in need of guidance and education. Father Chavez says, thats what Don Bosco would expect.

Villanueva: He would expect that there would be more of an awareness that we are consecrated people. Completely devoted to God our father by way of obedience, humility and chaste, and at the same time totally committed to helping our youth through education and evangelization with the same pastoral fire that burned in his heart.

With this anniversary, the leader of the Salesians has called on members to renew their convictions while looking for and promoting new vocations.

Villanueva: The more I contemplate the world and all its problems and upsets, the more Im convinced that the answer is in religious life. Which religious life? First of all, a life characterized by being a truly good life. Thats to say, that you mold your life according to your faith, thats identified by the teachings of Jesus who was obedient, humble and chastened. So then, the religious person wants to be obedient, humble, and chastened, like Jesus was.

One of the hallmarks of the Salesian spirituality is educating the youth. It doesnt strictly consist of passing on concepts, but in helping the maturity process, so as to give the most of oneself.

That was the case of one of the first young men Don Bosco reached out to: Michele Magone, leader of a dangerous band of thugs.

Villanueva: When it was time for recess he would bolt outside like a cannonball. But when the bell rang for class time or to go to church, he would get sad and Don Bosco would tell him, Why dont you learn to be happy in everything you do, not just the things you enjoy?

Father Chavez believed one way to help young people is by helping the families, especially during the initial years of marriage. When the family is healthy, its easier for vocations to come about. He knows what hes talking about, because he discovered his own religious calling thanks to his mother.

Villanueva: One day, while I was talking to her, ten days before she died suddenly, she asked me, Why dont you think about it? Ive always asked God for a priest as a son. At that moment, Im not sure why, it was very easy to say, Im that son youve asked for. She died three days later, and four days later I went to talk to my former assistant.

In short, with their 150th anniversary, the Salesian congregation will give the Catholic church a larger devotion to consecrated life while helping young people and young families. An ambitious life project not only for 16,000 Salesians, but also for friends of the Salesian family.

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