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26/11/2012 - Croatia - PE: Beginnings, development, difficulties and rebirth
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(ANS – Zagreb) – The ANS focus on the Salesian presence in Europe this month is dedicated to Croatia. Here, the Salesians have fulfilled their educational mission in political and social circumstances which were almost always very difficult. But almost 100 years after their arrival they are still clearly present among the youth, engaged in many projects and planning for the future.

The first Salesians, all Italians, arrived in the region at the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They arrived at Rovinj in 1913, before the outbreak of the Great War, and then in Rijeka in 1918, at the end of that war. These first houses were then integrated into the Salesian Province of Veneto.

Over time many other works were opened: the first Slovenian Salesians arrived Zagreb in 1922; the oratory and youth home were opened in Knežija in 1929; the Salesians arrived in Split in 1936; in Podsused in 1939; they opened a school in Donji Miholjac in 1940; a private senior high school and the first novitiate were opened in 1941, at Dioš Castle, with a view to looking after and fostering the early Salesian local vocations.

The growth of the Salesian presence was also accompanied by a good perception of the Congregation: the Salesians were welcomed very well by the clergy and the faithful and helped in parish Ministry, while novices and young clerics frequently organized academies and theatrical performances.

From 1941 to 1945 Croatia, like other European countries, became a battlefield. No Salesian House was destroyed and only one cleric lost his life in the conflict. But in the early post-war years everything they had built up was invalidated by the laws and decrees of the Communist revolutionary Government.

Taking advantage of the option provided by the Treaty of Paris of February 10, 1947, the Salesians of Rovinj, along with various other religious and part of the population left the town where the Croatian adventure had begun. The communities of Croatia formed a single Province with those of Slovenia: the Provincial House was in Ljubljana, and Croatia was a Delegation.

The conflict between Government and Church grew increasingly stronger. There were no more printed newspapers and magazines, or books with religious content; religious education was prohibited in schools and various decrees were issued that closed all private educational institutions, mostly religious. Of the Salesians remaining, ten were imprisoned and nobody could escape persecution by the Government because the fight was ideological rather than this or that fault committed.

Without a way to support themselves or a place to live, the Salesians had to accept parishes because only within such limits was it possible to carry out, at least in part, their mission. Before and after Catechism classes various entertainments, festive performances, altar server and choir groups were organized...

The Regime fell and Yugoslavia was broken up; an independent Croatia was born. Currently the Saint John Bosco Province Croatia, founded in 1970, has 11 regular houses, 13 parishes, 2 formation houses and 5 oratories. There are 84 professed Salesians (81 priests and 3 brothers), plus 18 clerics and 6 novices. The various pastoral projects include the Pastoral Centre for Migrants in Germany and the work with young Roma.

Published 26/11/2012

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