Thank you from 32000 feet
March 23,,2016 - General
To the confreres, novices and prenovices AFW
KLM seat 25 E, on my way to Amsterdam. Tomorrow around 10 am I will land in Rome.
So many thoughts and feelings during these past days…
I would like to share with you the immense sense of gratitude that filled my heart re-living in my memory these past 18 years spent in West Africa.
It is a life time, from birth to maturity, and indeed it has been so for my vocation and mission. At the end of this long day, 24th of February, I sing my MAGNIFICAT for each of you, my confreres or confreres to be, and for all the youth, for all the people I met from the 10th October 1997 onward: all artists who contributed in one way or the other to mould and shape the Silvio I’m now.
The Rector Major has asked for a temporary service in the department for formation, so I believe this is not an exodus for good but a kind of new missionary experience, like the one several AFW confreres did or are doing for few years in other Provinces. Anyway, I entrust the future with great trust and serenity into the same Hands that so beautifully have accompanied every day, every step so far.
I do so for all of us together. Our paths are like the treads of a canvass on which God is designing the greatest masterpiece of all: our partaking in his life. The eighteen generations of novices with whom I lived know that among all canvass/images on earth the dearest to the heart of Bro Paolo and myself is the one of the Holy Shroud. I do not know when I will have the opportunity to visit the cathedral of Turin, but I promise that when I go there, I will spend time to pray for each one of you before the most sacred image in the world.
The Holy Shroud, silent but extremely real and truthful witness of His death and resurrection – both and simultaneously death and resurrection -, is at the conception of the Salesian Charism: the newly married mother to be of Francis of Sales went to pray before this Holy Shroud for ‘the fruit of the womb’, and Francis was born.
Grateful for the past, I will pray for the new birth that AFW is experiencing, with Fr. Michael as Good Shepherd, supported by those who will assist him in the Council.
I’m optimistic and confident about the journey ahead for Don Bosco presence in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria. Surely the roses will not be without thorns: such roses are appearing only at the very end of Don Bosco’s dream. In the Shroud the scars left by the suffering of the passion are now the very signs that He is alive and He is risen: are the imprint of his face. In our life as local and provincial communities the sacrifices we are called to embrace, the fatigue of moving ahead in the midst of a never ending variety of challenges all this constitutes like the blood stream of the new life we are giving to thousands of young people.
As Fr. Angel witnessed during his visit: the young people we choose as our missionary field in AFW are exactly those Don Bosco’s heart preferred. In his video for the 31st January the Rector Major said that he was actually going to celebrate the feast of Don Bosco in another Valdocco, because Lungi has been and is truly so. And the same can be said for all 18 Salesian presences of AFW 2016.
This I believe is our greater guarantee that the journey ahead will be incommensurably fruitful: as far as we are faithful to the poorest and for them ‘we study, we work, we are ready to give our life’ we will grow, we will be docile tools for the Spirit and his working: this is how we ‘allow’ him to make us part and parcel of his adventure.
Better I close here; I will not ask you to keep me company for the all duration of the flight.
Purposely I avoid mentioning any name in this THANK YOU I will send tomorrow from La Pisana, because everyone, starting from the aspirants and closing with Bro John (well, his name is ‘above all names’), has been, is and will be so precious to me and I do not want to forget even a single one from the list.
I’m going to start this new chapter of my Salesian life of the feast day of Saints Luigi Versiglia and Callisto Caravario, who begun the Salesian presence in China 110 years ago, equipped only with great faith and the same heart of Don Bosco. Please, say a Hail Mary for me, that this new beginning will be as much as possible, in spite of all my limitations, something inspired by that faith and that heart. “A Salesian missionary without Mary Help of Christians is nothing” (Bishop Versiglia).
Always and forever yours