Who is Don Bosco for you?
Perhaps one of the defining aspects of who Don Bosco is for me is his priestly status as an educator. His generous service to the poorest boys demanded it. An educator who placed the priestly ministry where it deserves to be: at the feet of the most abandoned young people. And he also wanted his Salesians to live their ministry to the full. I admire his insistence that Salesians place their vocation there. Don Bosco's priesthood motivated his apostolic vocation. And this, in turn, stimulated him to live his priesthood more generously. That is why, for me, dedication to youth ministry is not only one of the tasks of the Salesian, but a priority inscribed in the Salesian charism of the origins and urged by the present time.
What are the characteristics of Don Bosco that you most admire?
One of the most interesting aspects is the promotion of the evangelizing dimension of his pastoral action in all the educational platforms he knew how to create, taking special care of everything that helped the good of adolescents and defenseless youth. He allowed himself to be surprised and fascinated by them. It was the poor young people who "converted" him. From that experience, with so many emerging realities of that time, he decided to focus his life on creating formative environments where joy, freedom, effort, mutual respect, and youth participation reigned. He knew how to give the oxygen of educational solutions for young people instead of the carbon dioxide of bitterness and complaints from others who did not recognize the right of young people to a future.
At the same time, I also admire his clarity of faith and courage to focus his life on daily fidelity: simple and deep prayer, careful vigilance over our personal comforts and projects, careful preparation of pastoral interventions, the strength of trust in people, and simplicity to communicate the Gospel.
In your opinion, can young people still find inspiration in Don Bosco?
Without a doubt. With Don Bosco's style, young people feel welcomed, acknowledged, and considered starting from their uniqueness. But I would also like to emphasize the way Don Bosco conceived of joy. In the world of young people, joy is sometimes a rare commodity. And this is very timely because it is an attitude that cannot be lacking in Salesian youth spirituality, whatever our situation. On extraordinary occasions, it shall be exultant. On other occasions, it is serene peace and inner fulfillment, and it is compatible with the difficulties of life. A young person knows and suffers sadness and crises, as does every adult, but Don Bosco taught us that, even in these situations, nothing and no one can or should deprive us of the joy of believing, of placing our trust in Jesus Christ, of loving Him with our hearts and actions, of feeling His presence close, of knowing that we are inhabited and sustained by the presence of His Mother, the Help of Christians. Faith offers us the fundamental trust that we are always accompanied, welcomed, and comforted by God, even in the most desperate situations.
How can Salesians be new Don Boscos for young people?
I believe that today we are asked to mature as people to serve as pastors. To gain in humanity and be less subject to pastoral anxiety. Like Don Bosco, we need to mature in our life project as persons and as consecrated persons. God, always close to man, became definitively close to us in Jesus Christ. He wanted to share the dignity and servitude of the human being from within. As evangelizers of young people, we are called to prolong in history, as Don Bosco did, this closeness of the Lord to humanity. Our Salesian charism is a friend of humanity. Therefore, a Salesian should not have a distant and suspicious reserve, but a deep empathy for the young people entrusted to his care.
Consequently, we shall be the "new Don Bosco" if we cultivate the spirituality of trust. Mistrustful pessimism is an important emotional component for those who work in the field of education. We are influenced by fear of the unknown and run the risk of becoming more sensitive to projects than to concrete people. However, to sow credible signs of hope, love, and mercy in the lives of young people, we need to be with them.
And in this discernment, we must know how to carefully distinguish what is not evangelical or is "pastorally" dead (to marginalize it pedagogically) from what is still alive. Sometimes it is difficult for us to understand Martin Buber's wise expression, "Success is not one of God's names." That is, our vocational fidelity is the love that withstands the wear and tear of time, the difficulties of our societies, or the constant challenges of the world of youth.
In what way does Don Bosco inspire your work as Youth Ministry Councilor?
First, it helps me to propose a process pastoral, based on offering a complete educational-pastoral itinerary. I admire the fact that Don Bosco's evangelization did not develop through isolated actions, but through a process whereby, little by little, he fulfilled his shared project with his collaborators and young people.
Secondly, I am guided by his pastoral pedagogy in vocational terms: vocational pastoral ministry was and is an inescapable priority because of the essentially vocational nature of all Christian life, and the goal of our educative-pastoral action is for each person to discover the vocation to which the Lord calls him.
Third, he is a model for me in the care for the formation of open, supportive, committed, and believing young people.
If you could meet Don Bosco, what would you like to say or ask him?
I would ask him to help us continue to build Educational-Pastoral Communities (EPCs) where Salesians, lay people, and young people feel united by the same objective; he tells us how to strengthen and restore the bonds of mutual acceptance and collaboration among the people and groups that make up each EPC. But I would also ask him to give me the keys to his apostolic efficiency in Valdocco: how he managed to build those small daily fidelities with a fresh and docile heart to the Lord, and how he maintained that endless chain of small "yeses" despite the many problems he had to face.