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10/5/2013 - RMG - Social networks: a Salesian perspective

(ANS – Roma) – Following the two formation days held at the Salesian Pontifical University on 3 and 4 May last, Fr Filiberto Gonzalez, Councillor for Social Communications, returned briefly to the topic in the online production “Vatican Insider” when he spoke about the present situation of the Salesian Family regarding the social networks. The message given by Benedict XVI for World Communications Day which will be celebrated on 12 May is relevant and applies also to Salesians as religious, as educators and evangelizers.

At what point is the Salesian Family in the field of Social Communications?
I think we have always been present in this world of Social Communications. Don Bosco was outstanding in this area. We could even say he was ambitious – in a holy way – because he wanted to win as many souls as possible for God. When he wrote his circular letter on the Spread of Good Books, he said that this was one of the apostolic priorities entrusted to him by God. I also think that sometimes in this area we have been lacking in courage, and in the creativity and pastoral-educative vision of Don Bosco.

Why should Salesians be present in the social networks? Does it make sense for them to use Facebook and Twitter in their apostolate?
If we look to the example of Don Bosco and the requirements of our Constitutions, we will find some basic criteria that apply in the new times in which we live, and the new culture and new young people. These criteria can be expressed in short phrases like: where there are young people, there also are Salesians; the Salesian is open and cordial, ready to take the first step; the Salesian welcomes the values of the world and refuses to lament the signs of the times; he accepts everything that is good, especially if it is pleasing to the young. But even that is not enough! The most important thing is missing. Who will communicate the love of God to the millions of young people who inhabit this new digital continent, and communicate among themselves in these new spaces and with a new language? I think this is the most youthful continent, and therefore the most Salesian one. The salvation of the young becomes the most important criterion for being present and living in the social networks.
Can the social networks become for many Salesians a new kind of Oratory where they can meet young people?
I am convinced the answer is yes!  There is the physical oratory, and the virtual oratory, and both are real! In both of them there are young people who are searching for something. They want to learn, to share, to dialogue, to express themselves, to find friends … What they are missing is someone to accompany them, someone who is open and authentic, without any prejudice, always ready to appreciate the new culture.  The good thing about the oratory is that it is an open space that depends on the quality of relationships, and where everyone is helped to grow. The social networks are a space where a family atmosphere can be created, with friendship, mutual education, and a search for God. In this new type of oratory, there is space for values and activities where young people are the main protagonists, accompanied in the way Don Bosco wanted and as he did himself at Valdocco.

Would Don Bosco be on Twitter today?
I am certain that Don Bosco would be on all the social networks, and not just because to happens to be the fashion. Don Bosco’s passion for God and for the salvation of young people was such that he was able to understand and make use of one of the best means available in his day of promoting culture and ideas, and Christian education, namely the printed word. He could not be physically present among young people everywhere, but he wanted it so much that he extended his “playground” as much as he could, he multiplied his presence, he enlarged his classroom and the pulpit where he evangelized. He got involved, in an intelligent and effective way, in the area of publishing and printing, which was the best means of his time. In that way he was able to multiply many times over the number of young people and others who read his books. This was his way of bringing the Gospel to them, and spreading his ideas and sentiments and convictions. He found a way to be present wherever young people and their parents and educators were present, overcoming the barriers and limits imposed by walls and timetables. This was his way of enlarging and multiplying Valdocco.

Published 10/05/2013 

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