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(ANS – Ljubljana) – The Salesians in Slovenia have just celebrated 110 years of their history. Each month ANS has been presenting the Salesian situation in various European countries as a way of getting to know and understand Project Europe. This month it focusses on Slovenia, which has experienced a great social and political transformation in recent decades.
In 1901, when Blessed Michael Rua was Rector Major, the first Salesians arrived in Ljubljana, including some of Slovenian nationality. It was an historic moment, following a lengthy period of preparation. Don Bosco himself had exchanged letters with some local priests who were enthusiastic about his work and that of the Salesian Cooperators.
Over time many Salesian works of an educational or pastoral nature sprang up and developed. Professional schools were opened, as were studentates at various levels for the formation of Salesians. Salesian Social Communications made a powerful impact. Many Salesian missionaries from Slovenia contributed to the evangelisation of peoples and the growth of the Salesian charism in different parts of the world.
The second world war and the subsequent communist dictatorship tore into the Salesian community and seriously damaged its mission. Faithful to their vocations, about thirty Salesians were killed during the war and the revolution which followed. Many were forced to leave, others were tortured in various ways … Even when the violence had ended Salesian life and activity were confined within the walls of churches and sacristies.
In 1991, after the fall of the Berlin wall, a new phase of Salesian work began in Slovenia. Many buildings, confiscated during the chaotic times of regime change, were no longer appropriate for Salesian work, but they were refurbished with great efforts. In spite of the brief war of independence, the birth of the Slovenian state and the consequent situation of uncertainty, the future of the Salesian presence in Slovenia began to look brighter.
Little by little, as well as strictly pastoral work in the parishes, there began to flourish other initiatives of a scholastic and social nature, and the formation of young people in youth centres connected to the parishes. Today the festive oratory has become a place for formation, healthy recreation and growth in the Faith for youngsters in very many Slovenian parishes.
In the SERVICE section of ANS there is a report explaining the youth situation in a country which has undergone profound change, and on the webTV page of sdb.org there is a video about Salesian activity (in Italian and English) and another about the Rector Major’s visit last year to the Ss Cyril and Methodius Province of Slovenia.