Father Angel Fernandez Artime, provincial superior of Salesians in southern Argentina, was elected rector major of the worldwide order March 25. The Spanish-born priest, 53, was elected at the Salesians general chapter in Rome. CNS photo/Courtesy of the Salesians

Pope Francis urges Salesians to continue caring for world's youth, vocations

By  Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
  • March 31, 2014

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis encouraged the Salesians in their work with young people, saying that religious vocations are the fruit of good pastoral youth ministry.

"Sometimes vocations to consecrated life are confused with choosing to do volunteer work, and this distorted vision does no good" to congregations and religious orders, he told more than 250 religious taking part in the Salesians' general chapter in Rome Feb. 22-April 12.

The full beauty of religious life needs to be shared with young people -- not incomplete or biased points of view, which risk promoting "fragile" vocations that are based on "weak motivations," he told them during a private audience at the Vatican March 31.

Religious vocations are "ordinarily fruit of good pastoral care of youth," he said, and people discerning a religious vocation need prayer and special attention, personalized formation, guidance and support from young people's families.

The pope, who attended a Salesian school in Buenos Aires when he was 13, said he recalls the importance of the order's motto of "Work and Temperance," joking that the school even forbade everyone from having "siesta" or an afternoon nap after lunch.

"Working for the good of souls" helps people focus on the essentials of God and his kingdom, the pope said.

He also encouraged the Salesians to continue their efforts in education and help find answers to today's "educational emergency" through increased cultural awareness and strong educational preparation.

"It's necessary to prepare young people to work in society with the spirit of the Gospel, as workers for justice and peace, and to live as protagonists in the church."

However, the pope said, while it's important to learn "new languages" with the changing times, the most important language still remains speaking "from the heart" in order to reach out and forge friendships with others.

The pope also greeted the Salesians' new rector major, Spanish Father Angel Fernandez Artime, who was elected to a six-year term on the first ballot March 25.

Born Aug. 21, 1960, in Luanco-Gozon, Spain, he was ordained in 1987. He has degrees in pastoral theology, and philosophy and pedagogy.

He served as director of youth ministry in the province of Leon, and he was provincial of Leon from 2000 to 2006.

Father Fernandez was provincial of the South Argentina province between 2009 and 2014, during which time he got to know and work with the future Pope Francis, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.

Father Fernandez had been appointed provincial of the new province of Mary Help of Christians in Spain, but will not carry out that appointment because of his election as rector major.

Addressing his fellow Salesians March 25, Father Fernandez said: "I abandon myself to the Lord. We ask Don Bosco and Mary Help of Christians to accompany us and to accompany me, with my brother Salesians and with the congregation, and I accept with faith."

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