Salesians need renewed spiritual life

  • September 23, 2007

{mosimage}TORONTO - The head of the Salesians of Don Bosco made his first visit to Canada Sept. 16 to 18.

Rector Major Fr. Pascual Chavez Villanueva came from his Vatican headquarters to evaluate the work of each Salesian community in Canada and to better understand the context in which they operate.

Founded in 1874 by St. John Bosco of Turin, Italy, the Salesians focus their ministry on educating youth, providing outreach to needy youth and forming boys for the priesthood.

Villanueva urged the community to renew its spiritual life and update its apostolic ministry.

The order needs “to be much more clear signs of God and His presence in the world; that means to renew our spiritual life, but at the same time to obey our mission to be more responsive to the expectations of the youngsters,” he said.

“We are ministering to a new generation. (We need to) update our system to make it more successful for them.”

During his visit to Canada Villanueva visited the Salesian communities in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver before continuing on to the western United States.

Canada has 40 Salesian priests concentrated in Sherbrooke, Que., and Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Ont., Edmonton and Surrey, B.C.

Worldwide the community has 16,500 members making it second in number only to the Jesuits, said Villanueva. It is flourishing the most in India with 2,500 members and Vietnam boasts the most vocations with on average 35 novices per year.

While in Toronto, Villanueva celebrated Mass at Salesian-run St. Benedict’s parish in Etobicoke, held meetings with Salesian priests, sisters, lay co-operators and members of the Slovenian parish in Hamilton. In the evening youth held a rally in his honour at Don Bosco Secondary School.

Villanueva said the Salesians need to evangelize more.

“The regular transmission of faith from family and Catholic schools and parishes (to youth) are not working as they were in the past. We need to become not only educators, but also evangelizers to bring the youth to an encounter with Christ.”

The Salesians need to increase their quality of education and formation in the schools the order operates across the country, said Villanueva.

“The big challenge is not to transfer knowledge and skills, (students) can get that from a computer, the problem is who is taking on the task of forming new men and women in values and noble ideas,” he said.

Villanueva said Canadian youth live in a pluralistic society and are more prone to relativism.

“They are not always satisfied by the answers given by the church to their questions, so they tend to look at other religions — New Age — for answers.... We need to give them a good education in faith to help them mature their vocation as children of God,” he said.

Villanueva said in his interactions with Canadian youth he’s appreciated their openness.

“I was always impressed by the high human quality in them.”

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