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3/12/2012 - RMG - PE: Evaluation and future directions: the Rector Major’s report
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(ANS – Rome) – The Rector Major opened the work of the 4th European Provincials Conference by presenting some of the data which shows what has been achieved thus far in Project Europe, and offered some direction for the future. It was not just a case of data but an interpretation of how Salesians have perceived, accepted and are putting PE into practice.

The data from the questionnaires which the Provincials and Provincial Councils in Europe filled out point to the fact that PE, in general, has succeeded, at least from the fact that the governing bodies, the Provincials and their councils, have taken it up somewhat more than the individual Salesians have.

The processes that provinces have put in place for inward renewal – the first and the most delicate core theme of PE – are almost unanimously seen as helping people regain an understanding of Don Bosco and his spirituality, thanks to a much greater attention to community life through planning and the need to form and accompany Rectors. a return to more explicit evangelisation of the young through personal accompaniment, concern for a culture of vocation and a more convinced effort with lay mission partners. The most important obstacle to emerge has been the question of the individual Salesian who either because of age or loss of vocational motivation, no longer understands the cultural situation in society and the way young people are today. The spread of individualism and weak community leadership could be saying that the situation in Salesian communities today is a cultural one.

The majority of provinces have put in place a mechanism for reshaping their provinces – the second of PE's core issues – even though this reshaping might not have been either profound or courageous. Not all Salesians even understand that there is a problem of the kind that the governing bodies in the province are aware of. So the Rector Major hoped that “the next General Chapter would establish principles to help provinces and regions to be better placed in terms of serving the youth in their immediate locality”.

As for the third key issue – Europe as mission territory – the focus has been on sending and receiving missionaries. Linguistic and cultural difficulties exist not only for the missionaries themselves but also for the communities accepting them. But there has been praiseworthy progress made by provinces in gradually allowing Salesians from other contexts to fit in in social and cultural terms.

The Rector Major adopted a more analytical and a deeper approach regarding the future of PE.

Fr Chávez indicated some clear points for the future. “We are not 'on stage' just acting, but dealing with someone with whom we have to enter into dialogue”. So from this point of view “New Evangelisation for the transmission of the Christian Faith is asked to respond to man's major needs today by communicating God's love as revealed in Jesus Christ”. Economic, political circumstances, the predominance of science, media ambivalence and religion's rather fluid ethics have all contributed to a kind of 'spiritual desertification' which Benedict XVI has deplored: it needs men and women of faith. Consecrated Life, then, is ever more valid and needed.

The Church-World relationship was the first direction he indicated – it has to be based on the authenticity and radical nature of the Gospel. “Today we need a more convinced approach on the Church's part to new evangelisation, to rediscover the joy of believing and enthusiasm in communicating the faith. In fact Faith grows when it is experienced as love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy”.

The second guideline comes from the threefold core issues in PE:

  • revitalisation of the charism from within, based on personal conversion by every Salesian who is called to be a witness of the living God, because he has seen, and not just because he has heard someone talking about it;
  • restructuring of works and personal conversion which can offer these same works and projects, along with people who can give guidance and direction in a period of crisis which he called 'entropic' inasmuch as the sense of direction and meaning has been lost;
  • sending and receiving missionaries which, along with the challenges already indicated, has resulted in a fine movement of confreres who are bearing and will continue to bear fruit.

The third direction is the collaboration taking place amongst the various provinces in Europe: networking amongst all Salesians and their work and involving lay people. “but we are not starting from zero”, Fr Chávez said, reminding us that “Don Bosco felt that he needed everyone to help”.

The Rector Major's text will soon be available in the PE section of in Italian and English.

Published 03/12/2012

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