Italy – Summer oratory in year of Covid-19: opportunity to deepen motivations, focus on educational quality

18 June 2020

(ANS - Turin) - With the end of the school year, and the beginning of the summer holidays and the truce on some restrictions due to the health emergency, many oratories offering summer activities dedicated to children and young people are re-opening. Among these, the "Don Bosco" oratory of the "Agnelli" institute in Turin. Below, the interview by Fr Moreno Filipetto to Fr Gianmarco Pernice, parish priest of the "San Giovanni Bosco" parish in Turin-Agnelli and in charge of the oratory,  conducted in the shadow of the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Valdocco.

What was the joy of the faithful in returning to celebrate together?

After 60 days in which we were unable to see the Eucharist with the people - because of this situation that led us to review many things in our lives - it was truly a great joy! I think people really wanted to thank the Lord for this gift: when we resumed Mass with the people, in the homily I invited to participate as if it were our First Communion again, abandoning the heaviness and slowness due so many times to a habitual, routine participation. What I perceive is that now, in living our liturgies, there is indeed a greater relational quality and spiritual depth.

The Agnelli, with its summer oratory, gathers many children. But this will be a "strange" summer ...

It will be a "peculiar" summer, perhaps a unique and special occasion. Of course, with so many restrictions imposing many changes on us: during the period of social isolation we had to interrupt 70 groups, including oratory, parish, cinema and theater.

Now it is starting again, only with the summer oratory, but for us it is already a lot. Because the summer oratory means returning to give hope to the children, who at this moment really need to recover their sociability, to recover a peaceful relationship with their friends, as well as with their family.

"Young people for young people" is one of the keys to Don Bosco's Preventive System. How are the young animators of the oratory preparing themselves?

We are recovering all the aspects of the "early period". Don Bosco began in the streets, without really knowing how to move, with many people who did not understand him and therefore hindered him. The situation we are experiencing leads us to ask animators to live a mission experience. That does us so much good! It is a huge opportunity to rediscover our motivations. We know that sometimes some youngsters approach volunteering in summer oratories a bit by chance, because in summer they have more free time ... But this year there is a totally new situation, which requires an attitude really similar to the missionary attitude. And the mission is to give children a place to educate, to get closer to God, to be accompanied after this moment of disorientation. The challenge will be to guarantee an oratory quality superior to what we have always given!

Does all this materialize in special activities?

I will practically become the head of a hospital! A triage area will be created, we will have to measure the temperature at the entrance, parents will have to fill in self-certifications ... For many kids, obviously the desire to meet, to hug each other is there. With the animators we are preparing a whole series of activities, not to prevent all this, but so that they can have fun, in peace, and learn not only the health rules, but above all the respect for other people - which at the moment also passes through activities "against nature". Because it is natural and beautiful to embrace each other, it costs us effort to stay apart, but the Gospel teaching we want to transmit is that we do it for the good of the other. "I respect the rules because I care for you."

Will the summer oratory also have to make up for what the school has not been able to do despite distance learning?

Among the many "workshops" that we have imagined there are also some designed for this purpose, always maintaining the style and characteristics of the oratory. As an example: we will do a workshop in which we would translate songs from English or other languages, where the text of the song will already have an educational message, and then we will combine it with a choreography.

Further information is available on the website 

Source: Salesians Piedmont


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