Where did the idea of this mid-term meeting come from?
For the current six years we set ourselves two major targets, among many: to take great care of formation and of all the formation communities in the Congregation; and to accompany Provincials closely. In this context, therefore, two new initiatives were created: the new Provincial’s meeting with the Rector Major, the Vicar and the Councillors of the various sectors, just weeks after his appointment, so that when the provincial returns to his province he has a “navigation chart" for the six years; and then this meeting with the Provincials in mid-term, to offer them a spiritual experience once off so to speak, a time of spiritual and personal rest, and an important dialogue with the Vicar and with the Rector Major.
What were the results of the experience?
Certainly there was a renewal of the sense of Salesian belonging created by living together for seven days in Valdocco, in the heart of the Salesian spirit; then also the spiritual experience, enriched by a number of conferences and reflections on the Salesian spirit which were really of a very high level; and the chance to experience fraternity among themselves – twelve provincials from four continents - and the sense of communion and unity of the whole congregation. Finally, what was one of the specific objectives of the meeting - the possibility of an ample personal interview of the Provincials with the Rector Major and his Vicar. This allowed each provincial to return to his province with a clear vision of the challenges and priorities, and the way forward.
How did you find the Provincials three years after taking up office?
I found them in good health: physically, spiritually and vocationally, enthusiastic in their service and, of course, tired from the effort of coping with the difficulties in the various areas. Above all I found them with the serenity of people who see the future of the Province and of the Congregation with hope and optimism.
GC27 put fraternity at the centre. Was this felt during this meeting?
Fraternity is not only a core value of the General Chapter: it takes effect only when it is lived! This was a wonderful experience of great fraternity, in the simplicity of daily life and the time we shared. Besides, for us it is an essential element: Salesian life cannot be understood without the family spirit that Don Bosco always lived.
What do you think will be the influence of this type of meeting over time?
The Provincials insisted that it was not just a meeting, "we were called together for something important”, they said. I am convinced that in the years ahead, if we continue like this, the fruit of these events will be seen both in terms of a stronger communion between the Rector Major and his Council and each Province, through the person of the Provincial, and through precise paths of accompaniment which will mean having the whole congregation "on the same track," so to speak – one carriage after the other, but all travelling in the same direction with the same spirit and objectives.