Let's start with a routine question: why did you decide to leave for the missions?
Why leave? The answer – a partial one - that I have given myself is that the missionary dream has always been within me. At one point it simply resurfaced. I could go on doing what I've been doing all my life: it makes me happy, like an important game that is going well. But when I think about the Mission, my heart smiles: I feel that another world is opening up, another path. And that path corresponds profoundly to myself.
For a long time, before your missionary choice, you were an active member of the Salesian community in Italy, inaugurating and taking care of Day Centers, and other tasks at the service of the poorest and most marginalized. Why leave right now, after so many years? How does the missionary choice relate to your past activity?
I'm increasingly convinced that God has his time! Time in God and the time of God are completely different from the way we perceive it and live it. It is time that makes us prisoners, and that we try to imprison. For God, it is always the right time. And I have a deep feeling that right now, at my age, it is the right time for my turning point. I have a feeling that Someone was waiting for me right here. And that everything I've done in the past has been a preparation for this moment, which in no way could have come before. My path is a succession of steps that lead to the present choice, and what I've sown will return in my missionary experience.
Argentina, Patagonia: 11 November 1875, the first Salesian missionary expedition. What meaning do you attribute to this destination?
You said it too: the symbolic meaning of this destination is enormous. The sensation is to enter a mythical world, to contribute, in my small way, to a legend. It fills me with enthusiasm. But beyond this euphoric level, deep down, I find a meaning that is even greater: where Argentina is for me a spiritual place, more than a physical place. The place that Pope Francis, who was bishop in Buenos Aires, called the end of the world. Even in the in the Bible regarding the Ascension, when Jesus sends his disciples on a mission to preach the Gospel throughout the world, He takes his leave with these words: "Behold, I am with you always, even until the end of the world." (Mt 28,16-20).
What do you expect from this experience? What do you think will be the greatest sources of joy, and the greatest sources of difficulty?
I am willing to give everything, and I expect everything: nothing less than true Peace, a full Joy. Beyond the internal and external impulses, to be a person of peace that gives peace. And that it is a joy built concretely, working, living it. First of all, with my brothers, and then with the people.
The complete interview by Alice Picchiarelli is available in Italian on the ICC website.