Moderated by Hungarian past pupil Marton and Italian animator Federica Ambrogio, the event opened with welcome speeches and introductory greetings by Fr. Leonardo Mancini, Superior of the Special Circumscription of Piedmont and the Aosta Valley, and Fr. Joan Lluís Playà, Central Delegate of the Rector Major for the Secretariat for the Salesian Family.
"Salesian yeast is unique and original because that is how the Holy Spirit invented it and offered it to us. It is alive! It is made of reason, religion, and loving-kindness; it is the dust of dreams - dreams inspired by God - and concentrate of Heaven, as it comes from there. It is the instigator of extraordinary acts of charity for children and young people all over the world, and it wants to be placed within children and young people all over the world (...). Salesian yeast is not bought; it is only given, it is free. The Spirit gives it, and those who receive it are called to give it in turn, in abundance!" said Fr. Mancini with a series of evocative images.
Fr. Playá emphasized the link between this year's Strenna and the one of 2022 as this year's message identifies "one of the central strands of Francis de Sales' spirituality: the dignity of the lay vocation, a call to holiness because the Lord calls everyone to live the fullness of the Gospel." Then, continuing his reflection, he added by way of good wishes: "Seeing Don Bosco involve the laity in his educational mission and contemplating the breadth of his charismatic vision should guide us in these days of reflection."
After a moment of prayer and songs in various languages, Fr. Ivo Coelho, General Councilor for Formation, reviewed some of the highlights of the past 12 months lived under the sign of the 400th anniversary of the death of St. Francis de Sales, and then declared the year dedicated to him officially closed.
The ceremony then got into full swing with the showing of the Strenna video. Introducing it, Fr. Á.F. Artime recalled the genesis of this year's motto, which was the result of a "huge convergence" among all participants in the World Consultation of the Salesian Family last May in wanting to deepen the lay dimension of the Salesian Family.
In the video, filmed in the Teatro Grande in Valdocco, the Rector Major interacts with lay people and young people and reiterates the need for collaboration between lay people and religious for the building of the Kingdom of God, a reality that, like yeast, is apparently small, but in God's hands can do so much in the concrete reality of so many people.
As the images flowed, it became clear how the ultimate goal of Don Bosco's action - the salvation of children and transformation of society - is already happening in the Salesian Family today in many cases thanks to the work of so many lay people, such as Mexican rapper Eric Ponce, who sings for the education of street children in Ciudad Juárez; or Giovanna Bruno, Salesian Cooperator and Mayor of Andria, who has chosen "people at center court" as her motto for political engagement.
"There is a need for the outlook, the perspective, of the laity," the Rector Major recalls in the video, to sanctify the world from within; and he then cites many examples of lay sanctity: Attilio Giordani, Dorothea Chopitea, the martyrs of Poznan, Mamma Margaret, and of course Artemide Zatti, a Salesian canonized last year precisely for his lay commitment among the suffering. Accepting and transforming the present reality; being human bearers of humanity; and finally living holiness: following the three themes in the video, this is what lay people in the Salesian Family are called to.
After the video, there was still time for the Rector Major to answer some questions - which came both from around the world and from the theater hall - to explore various specific aspects of the Strenna: the global dimension of the Salesian Family at the service of the human family; the formation of the laity for socio-political engagement; the effort to "be leaven" even despite the adverse conditions in which so many times the dough pours; the possibilities of reaching people's hearts in everyday life, even without having the power of big media; and complementarity as the richness of diversity in the Salesian Family.
The first session of SFSD 2023 was, finally, closed with the presentation by the two artists - Portugal's Nuno Quaresma and Spain's Agustín de la Torre –, the designers of the two posters of the Strenna, and with the screening of a video presentation of the Salesian Family's fifth group, the Past Pupils of Don Bosco.