Guatemala – Fr Coelho: "Learning to live and grow as consecrated Salesians in a totally digital world is a formidable challenge"

13 October 2021

(ANS - Guatemala City) - Fr Ivo Coelho, General Councilor for Formation, visited the formation houses of the Central American Province (CAM) in the past few weeks. On the occasion, he gave an interview to the local Salesian Bulletin, in which he spoke not only of his views on the reality of Salesian formation in the CAM Province, but also on topics of general interest, such as the formation of formators, the challenges of initial formation today, the importance of forming the young salesians in communication, and the beauty of the Salesian vocation.

What impression did you get of the Salesian formation houses in Guatemala?

Together with Fr Francisco Santos, I visited the Theologate, the Postnovitiate, the Pre-novitiate and the CRESCO, and I now leave with a good impression, full of hope. God has blessed us with good young people in formation. I found a positive atmosphere, and our dialogues were extremely interesting, open and honest. I was especially struck by the quality of the young people of the Pre-novitiate, who have chosen to discern the Salesian vocation.

We also talked with the formators of the various houses and with the Provincial and his Council, and on these occasions, we thanked the formators and those responsible for the formation ministry, and we also gave our impressions and recommendations.

What is the main challenge of these formation houses?

The main challenge is the formation of the formators. It was interesting to see that this aspect was requested both by the young people in initial formation and by the formators themselves. In general, the Salesian Congregation has learned to prepare teachers, educators, but it is still learning to prepare its formators. And yet, this service - that of being formation guides - is truly delicate! It is true that we have always found good formators, "born" formators, as they say. But it is also true that those born with a gift for mathematics, or art, or football, can only improve exponentially with the right training. And this is also true in the field of Formation. We have before us - and this is true not only for the CAM Province, but for the whole Congregation - the great and delicate task of preparing formation guides, and it is not just a matter of theory, but also of experiential learning of skills and necessary attitudes, and above all the will to grow as persons and as Salesians.

In general, what do you think of the Salesian environment in this Province?

I was impressed by the hospitality and friendliness we experienced everywhere. Traveling the world and meeting confreres everywhere, what could be more beautiful than this? And Salesian fraternity is not something marginal: it is in the very heart of our faith, because when we say "Our Father" we are at the same time proclaiming that all of us, his children, are brothers and sisters.

What are the challenges of initial Salesian formation in this age when young people have new models of communication?

Learning to live and grow as consecrated Salesians in a totally digital world is a formidable challenge. Literally, the world is now within reach, and we must learn to live and be disciples and apostles in this world. And this learning cannot be the result of rules and controls imposed from the outside, but rather the fruit of education, of formation in the best sense of the word. Formators must master the art of reaching the heart, of gaining trust, of creating that space in which young people in formation dare to open their hearts. Only in this way, when the level of beliefs, attitudes and motivations is reached, can true growth take place. And that's where we hear the voice of the Lord, that's where we also experience the push and tug of everything around us.

What message do you have for young Salesians in formation and for those young people who experience vocational restlessness?

It is wonderful to see how, in our secularized and digitalized world, the Lord continues to work silently and to touch the hearts of young people, calling them to Salesian consecrated life. To our candidates and young Salesians, I wish them much joy in discovering and following their call, and I wish them much joy in giving their life and all that they have at the service of poor young people. Never forget that we were born to be servants of poor and youth-at-risk! Don't lose your initial enthusiasm, keep the flame alive! And believe that the Lord is truly always present and active in all experiences of life: in the beautiful ones and also in those that at first sight do not seem either good or useful. I can only conclude with those beautiful words of Don Bosco: “For you I study, for you I work, for you I live, for you I am also ready to give my life!”

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