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12/6/2013 - Italy - Integrating immigrants: the experience of the “Latinos en Don Bosco”

(ANS – Genoa) – For about eight years now, in the area of Sampierdarena in Genoa, the local Salesian community and a small group of Latin American immigrants have been running a well planned pastoral project for the spiritual care and social integration of the big number of Latin American immigrants present in the area. The project is called “Latinos en Don Bosco”.

The idea of the Latinos of Don Bosco came as a result of a meeting held on 15 November 2005, with the slogan “Genoa, a sea which unites and a city that welcomes”.  It was organized by the Tempietto Cultural Centre to mark the 130th anniversary of the departure of Salesian Missionaries from Genoa to Argentina. Don Bosco had sent them to take care of the Italian immigrants in that country,

Little less than a month later, on 8 December 2005, the first group of Latin American immigrants was formed at the Salesian Oratory. They were a very committed group and they called themselves “Los Imaculados”. They found space in the Salesian House to run distance learning courses recognized by the University of Loja and the Josè Maria Velaz Higher School for computer studies.  This effort at integration – accepting others in order to be accepted – grew through five gatherings of young people and the liveliness of the Oratory. The students of the University and the Velaz School began to organize musical evenings, sports tournaments, Christmas celebrations, a Feast of Europe ... all aimed at cultivating in  Sampierdarena “a new community” made up of long term residents and immigrants, promoting integration especially though young people.

At the meeting in 2005, the then Provincial of Italy Ligure-Toscana, Fr Alberto Lorenzelli celebrated Mass in Spanish.  Fr Lorenzelli is himself Italo-Argentinian. However, the Latin American community needed ongoing pastoral care. They insisted more and more on the dream of having a Latin American Salesian priest to serve the new citizens of Europe. In 2007, their request was made directly to the Rector Major during one of his visits to the Salesians in Liguria.  

At first,  Mass was celebrated in Spanish one Sunday a month. Then, on 25 February 2007, the new Parish Priest Fr Peter Borelli and a number of adults started the group “Latinos en Don Bosco”.  The first leaders of that group were Marlon Gutierrez and Ricardo Rodriguez who had already started two similar communities in Genoa.

Since 2008, Mass has been celebrated in Spanish every Sunday.  The group grew gradually until eventually it became a real community. Now Sampierdarena knew the other side of the “Latinos”.  Stereotypes and prejudices towards the “newly arrived” gave way to direct acquaintance with an active group which organizes retreats, prayer meetings, and leadership courses.

This programme is still going on. At present the community of “Latinos “ is made up of more than 300 people, served by Fr Daniel Coronel, a young Peruvian Salesian priest who came to Sampierdarena as a missionary, as part of Project Europe.             Among their regular activities are the following:

  • Catechism for adults preparing for the sacraments;
  • Sunday Lectio Divina;
  • Fortnightly meetings for teenagers and young people;
  • A Bible Course;
  • Retreats twice a year;
  • Pilgrimages.

Published 12/06/2013

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