Argentina – Third day of Team Visit to South Cone America: discovering origins of Salesian presence in America

24 March 2023

(ANS - Pilar) - On Thursday, March 23, the third day of the Team Visit to the Southern Cone America region took place. It was a day that had a special feature compared to the others: it included, in the afternoon, a visit to Buenos Aires, to the Salesian houses where the first Salesians sent by Don Bosco arrived in 1875.

After Morning Lauds and a greeting to the assembly by Fr. Justo Piccinini, Provincial of Brazil São Paulo and moderator of the day, the session opened early in the morning with a talk by Fr. Miguel Angel García Morcuende, General Councilor for Youth Ministry, on "Vocational Animation and Youth Ministry as the Inspiring Principle and Goal of Salesian Youth Ministry." The possible scenarios in which vocational animation can be found in each province were presented and the need to strengthen vocational culture was insisted upon, to achieve a pastoral care that brings young people to attunement with God's desire for their lives. Three moments of a process were highlighted: announcement, proposal, and vocational discernment. The councilor concluded the presentation of the three ways of vocational culture: praying, living and acting, which involve various initiatives for Provinces, religious communities, and Pastoral Educational Communities (CEPs).

Next, Fr. Alfred Maravilla, General Councilor for Missions, spoke to the assembly on the theme "Toward the 150th Anniversary of the First Missionary Expedition and Beyond." The main objective of the reflection was to understand how to take advantage of the missionary reality of this region, on the threshold of the 150th anniversary (1875-2025) of the arrival of the first missionaries sent by Don Bosco to those lands, and also how volunteerism and the missionary dimension can be an opportunity for vocational ministry.

He spoke about the fact that the missionary spirit is a constitutive Salesian element and an essential part of the "Da mihi animas..." that every Salesian must live. He explained that the essential function of missionary animation is to keep the missionary spirit alive in every confrere, Salesian community, CEP, and Province; and that missionary animation is linked to vocation animation that is accomplished with all young people.

Further, he clarified that the Salesian missionary vocation is a call from the Lord within the common Salesian vocation, to which God calls some Salesians. The contribution of Salesian missionary volunteers, which is animated together with the Youth Ministry, should also be valued; and he invited to take into account the challenge to which the Provinces must respond on account of the appeals made by the Church at the continental level, especially from Aparecida.

Finally, he presented the Congregation's path for the 150th anniversary of the First Salesian Missionary Expedition, which will focus on "thanking, rethinking, reviving the missionary spirit," which aims to keep alive the missionary spirit of every Salesian (the being), not just missionary activities (the acting, doing).

Afterward, the Rector Major, Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, and all the participants left for Buenos Aires. The first stop was the Salesian parish and house "San Juan Evangelista" in La Boca. The Rector Major and all the guests were welcomed with great enthusiasm by the students of the school and the Director and Pastor, Fr. Alejandro León. The latter then led the tour of the church, which was started in 1872 and entrusted to the Salesians in Argentina in 1877.

"We are in a very significant place for the Salesians. Not far from here is the place where the first Sons of Don Bosco landed. This is the history, the origins, that encourage us to remain faithful," the Rector Major commented, after laying flowers under the statue of Mary Help of Christians. "Thank you for your beautiful and meaningful presence. Without the children, youth, and educators, it would just be a tourist visit. The walls have value, but you give them life," he added.

Finally, he recalled the example of St. Artemide Zatti. "God continues to bless his people and his world, and he does so by simple means; like a simple Salesian coadjutor, who lived his life in the service of the sick and frail. It is an invitation to the Provinces to continue to understand that holiness comes through a profound 'feeling' of the God of life from which service is then produced, in this simple way, as Zatti lived it."

In the afternoon, the Rector Major and the delegation of Salesians went to the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in the Almagro neighborhood of Buenos Aires. "This is the pilgrim church, here we come as pilgrims to our life of faith. We come to meet God and the arms of our Mother. Here every visitor can feel like a child, loved and blessed," said Salesian Cooperator Graciela Bordín welcoming them.

She then invited those present to visit the basilica, starting with the Chapel of the Virgin, then following with the Baptistery and finally the Crypt, where she thanked the Rector Major for his visit, "Thank you, Don Ángel, for being Don Bosco among us."

To conclude the afternoon visit, at the Provincial House, Fr. León invited everyone to visit the new premises of the Buenos Aires branch of the Salesian Historical Archives, made possible thanks to the collaboration of the Rector Major.

The last stop on this tour was the Mater Misericordiae Public Church and the Salesian House in the Congreso neighborhood. The participants were divided into four groups so that they could more comfortably visit the Historical Museum adjacent to the church. The visit to the museum ended in the church, where, before Mass, a map of the arrival of the first Salesians and the expansion of Don Bosco's work in Argentina was shown.

During the homily, the Rector Major manifested, "The whole American continent, from Ushuaia to Vancouver, from Montreal to Punta Arenas, is full of Salesian presences. And truly this does not respond to a human program, a strategic plan... It is God who is behind this great dream."

He concluded, "What a powerful symbolism, which I hope our communicators will be able to convey to the whole world, that we are together, the General Council with the Provincials and the confreres of the Council of all the Provinces of South Cone America... Quite simply, we are celebrating the life of this dream that, with God's help, we want to continue: with the same enthusiasm and passion as so many others before us. May the Lord bless us, may Don Bosco continue to watch over his Congregation and his Salesian Family."


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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