Thursday, December 3, 2020

Message of the Rector Major for December

Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime

Greetings, dear friends and readers. On the eve of Christmas, I want to share with you a dialog between a grandmother and her granddaughter. This is a grandmother who knows and understands the human heart from the wealth of experience she has gained from walking the road of life.

“Grandma, if you were my Fairy Godmother, what gift would you give me?” asked the little girl.

“If I were your Fairy Godmother, I wouldn’t give you dresses or a carriage,” said the old woman as she smiled at her granddaughter. “Instead, I’d you give the gift of KNOWING HOW TO LIVE WITH HOPE. With this knowledge, you’d understand from the earliest days of your youth that time passes quickly and, once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. You’d know never to spend the time you have on anything but a full and meaningful life with those whom you desire, whom you love, and who need you the most.

“You’d gradually come to understand how to bury the weapons of your internal struggles so that your life would produce peace, for you’ll see things that you’d like to change until the day you die. You’d learn how to dance with the winds and tides of change while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground, rooted in your intention, your dream, and your desire to be very human and very divine at the same time. This way, you’ll never turn against that huge heart within you that’s capable of receiving everything that has life and everyone who comes to you.

“That’s what I would give you, little one—but you already have a “Fairy Godmother”! It’s the very LIFE and LOVE THAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU.”

Dear friends, even amid the tears of this year, 2020—one so difficult, strange, hard, and painful for us and, above all, for so many families and elderly persons—it still makes sense to look forward with hope. The life and the light that the Lord of Life continues to hold out to us is where we must ground this hope.

Even though poverty has gripped the lives of so many people this year, it’s been accompanied by the generosity of many others. Even though people have had to look on silently, “saying” painful goodbyes to loved ones and “embracing” them only with their gaze, it still makes perfect sense for us to wish each other a life built daily on smiles, dreams, and hope amid these tears and fatigue. This is what the grandmother taught her granddaughter.

A stranger in the night

The feast of Christmas returns laden with light and with hope. Even in this year, one most unfavorable to gathering for celebrations thanks to this COVID-19, which doesn’t seem to want to leave us, the crib in Bethlehem appears before our eyes and our memory with all the essentials of our humanity. Thanks to the suggestion of a passer-by, whose name has remained hidden for all the ages, Mary and Joseph find a cave which was being used as a stable where they could spend their last night of vigil, awaiting the Lord’s birth. It’s here that Jesus was born in such absolute poverty.

Artistic iconography has surrounded this holy family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph with angels and stars. Yet how many fears and how much trepidation were also present! Today, magazine photos show us children alone and abandoned in their innocence, helplessness, and weakness. Christmas places before each of us the eternal values brought by this Incarnate Child to a hungering humanity, sometimes sick with illness and devoid of attainable goals and perhaps even seemingly devoid of a compass that gives direction to life. It’s a humanity that feels more fragile and powerless during a pandemic. It’s one that needs hope, a hope that is born in the depths of our humanity, for it’s made in the image and likeness of the God who is Love.

COVID has forced us to slow the growth of our relationships, locking ourselves in, while the Baby Jesus invites us to open up, to give our life, or part of it, to others. His is a light that’s combined with love. For this reason, the feast of Christmas also helps us to live amid precariousness, limitations, and illness and helps us to start over each morning with faith and with hope.

For the Christmas greetings that I composed to send to some friends, I chose a very brief and profound text from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Spe Salvi (“In hope we were saved.” Rom. 8:24).

I share these words now with you, for they tell us precisely how life is a journey and a goal and what traveling on the ocean of history is like: sometimes lived amid storms that bear the name of “COVID Pandemic” or some other “pandemic” that we endure every day, and how much damage they can do. This is a journey guided by true stars: the people who radiate light and hope until we reach the One Who IS the light par excellence, Jesus the Lord, the Son of God and son of Mary, who pitched his tent among us on that very first Christmas night.

This is the greeting; these are the beautiful words:

Human life is a journey.
Toward what destination? How do we find the way?
Life is like a voyage on the sea of history,
often dark and stormy,
a voyage in which we watch for the stars
that indicate the route.
The true stars of our life are the people
who have lived good lives.
They are lights of hope.
Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light,
the Sun that has risen above all the shadows of history.
But to reach him we also need lights close by—
people who shine with his light
and so guide us along our way.
Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us?
With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself;
she became the living Ark of the Covenant,
in whom God took flesh, became one of us,
and pitched his tent among us. (cf. John 1:14)
(Spe Salvi, no. 49)

And so, I wish every family, each of you, and especially those who feel alone and abandoned and yet moved by hope, a very “Merry Christmas.”

Fr. Angel

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Blessed Philip Rinaldi Memorial, December 5

Blessed Philip Rinaldi Memorial, December 5

By Bishop Enrico dal Covolo, SDB, and Father Giorgio Mocci, SDB*

Philip Rinaldi was born at Lu Monferrato in the Alessandria province of Piedmont on May 28, 1856. He was the eighth of nine children, and as a child he met Don Bosco when he came to Lu on one of his autumn outings with the boys of the Oratory.

When he was ten, his father enrolled him in the Salesian school at Mirabello, which he left a few months later by his own choice. Don Bosco wrote to him, trying to induce him to return. But Philip would not be moved.

In 1874 Don Bosco went to Lu to try to convince him to come with him to Turin, but he failed. Three years later he finally succeeded in persuading him and, at age 21, Philip began the program at Sampierdarena for adult vocations. After his novitiate, in 1880 he pronounced perpetual vows into Don Bosco’s hands.

Thanks to the Founder’s holy insistence, Philip answered the Lord’s call and in December 1882 was ordained. A short while after, Don Bosco named him director of the house at Mathi, a school for adult vocations that was then moved to Turin. A few days before the saint of the young died, Fr. Rinaldi went to confess to him. Before absolving him, by then not having much strength, Don Bosco spoke just one word to him: “Meditation.”

In 1889 Fr. Rua named him director at Barcelona: “You’ll have to patch up some rather delicate matters,” he said. In three years, with prayer, gentleness, and an inspiring, fatherly presence among the boys and in the Salesian community, he rescued the work.

He was appointed provincial of Spain and Portugal. In nine years, thanks to the financial assistance of Ven. Dorothy Chopitea, Fr. Rinaldi founded sixteen new houses. After a visit to Spain, Fr. Rua was so impressed that he nominated him prefect general of the Congregation. In this new responsibility, Fr. Rinaldi continued to work zealously, never forgoing his priestly ministry. He carried out his governing task with prudence, charity, and intelligence.

After Fr. Rua’s death in 1910, the general chapter confirmed him as prefect general and vicar of Fr. Paul Albera. In 1921, following Fr. Albera’s death, he was elected Don Bosco’s third successor. He gave the missions enormous thrust, founding missionary works, magazines, and associations. During his rectorate, more than 1,800 Salesians departed for all parts of the world.

Fr. Rinaldi carried out numerous trips in Italy and the rest of Europe. He founded the Past Pupils Association and the secular institute of the Don Bosco Volunteers. From Pope Pius XI he obtained the indulgence for sanctified work.

A master of the spiritual life, he reinvigorated the interior life of the Salesians, showing an absolute confidence in God and an enlightened trust in Mary Help of Christians. The great Salesian Fr. John Baptist Francesia said of him, “Fr. Rinaldi lacks only the voice of Don Bosco.”

On December 5, 1931, he died silently while he was reading the life of Fr. Rua. He was declared Venerable on January 3, 1987, and beatified by St. John Paul II on April 29, 1990.

    *Santi nella Famiglia Salesiana, 2d ed. (Turin: LDC, 2009), pp. 32-33.

Memorial Prayer Service for Fr. Jack Trisolini

 Memorial Prayer Service 

for Fr. Jack Trisolini (1937-2010)

(ANS – Seoul – November 26, 2020)
 – Ten years have passed since Fr. John Trisolini (1937-2010) went to heaven on November 22, 2010. So the Salesian Cooperators Center in Seoul held a memorial prayer moment and Mass for him in SDB provincial house at Seoul with some Salesians and 20 Salesian Cooperators, amid the precautions of the 2nd COVID19 wave.

Fr. Trisolini (Korean name: Do-Yohan) is considered one of the godfathers of the second generation of Korean Salesian Cooperators, formed since 1976. He used to invite the Catholic faithful to meet on Thursdays in Seoul’s Catholic Cathedral of Myongdong, although he had never known them before.

Some of them accepted his invitation for the Salesian Cooperator aspirants meeting. In this way many from the Seoul City Center started their own vocation journey.

Many of the members give a similar testimony: “At first, we didn’t know what Salesian Cooperators were all about, and also our Catholic faith was too weak. But Fr. John awakened us, opened our eyes to the Salesian spirit and Cooperator identity. He made us strong to live in the world with the heart of Jesus’ disciples like Don Bosco. As our center delegate, Fr. Trisolini was always with us when we were exhausted in our daily life and had some family or faith problems.”

He worked in the Labor Ministry Committee of the Seoul Archdiocese. Many of the poor and suffering workers were his good friends. He worked for their rights and interests and was a spiritual leader for them. From 1990 Fr. John held the regular lectures about the social teaching of the Catholic Church.

Fr. John Fitzgerald Trisolini (1937-2010), an American Salesian from Jersey City, spent most of his life as a missionary in Korea, where he arrived in 1959, a few years after the end of the Korean war and straight out of college. He is most remembered for this preferential love for the working youth (especially the Young Christian Workers), contribution to the formation of the first generation of Korean Salesians, and long-term ministry within the Seoul Archdiocese – first for the Korean working class, later for the numerous foreign migrant workers, with other Salesian Family members, and with diocesan clergy.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Homily for 1st Sunday of Advent

Homily for the
1st Sunday of Advent

Nov. 29, 2020
Communion Rite
Holy Name of Jesus, Valhalla, N.Y.

I once heard a preacher proclaim on this Sunday, the 1st Sunday of Advent, “Welcome to the year of Mark!”  We begin a new church year in which most of our Sunday gospels will come from the 1st of the 4 evangelists, chronologically speaking, who is, after the Holy Spirit, the major inspiration for Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels.

(source unknown)

But I’m going to preach this afternoon on a text from what we call the Ordinary of the Mass, the texts that make up our celebration of the Eucharist all the time:  “By the help of your mercy, may we be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

How many times have you heard that prayer?  If you’re a regular Mass-goer, too many times to count.  We pray it after the Our Father at every Mass.

This prayer could be prayed as a sort of expansion on the Our Father, in which we pray that God’s kingdom might come.  The coming of that kingdom is our “blessed hope,” so that we look eagerly toward its coming, i.e., its fulfillment when OLJC comes again.  The coming of that kingdom, the 2d coming of Christ, is in fact the 1st theme of this Advent season, as you can tell from the readings of last Sunday, which segue us into Advent, and from today’s readings.

Yet another possibility for our waiting expectantly for the blessed coming of our Savior is right here in the liturgy.  We make this prayer as part of our preparation for Holy Communion, for the sacramental coming of our Savior.  We pray to be kept free from sin and thus to be worthy to receive the Lord.  Then we’ll pray that the Lamb of God have mercy on us and take away our sins.  Finally, we’ll confess our unworthiness to receive the Lord:  “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” the faith statement of the Roman centurion who came to Jesus to seek healing for his slave (Matt 8:5-13); and we’ll follow our confession of unworthiness with a plea for the healing of our souls so that our sacramental Savior might come to us.

In the context of this Advent season which the Church began last nite, however, “the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior” that we’re watching for is his return, Christ’s return, which we remember in the 3d Eucharistic Prayer:  “We celebrate the memorial of the saving passion of your Son [and] his wondrous resurrection and ascension into heaven, and we look forward to his second coming….”  Likewise, the 1st of the acclamations we may use after the consecration of the bread and wine into Christ’s sacred body and precious blood states, “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come again.”

That Jesus will come again is as certain as sunrise and sunset.  Or, if you’d like to quote Ben Franklin, as certain as death and taxes.  The certainty is enshrined in our Creed:  “He will come again in glory to judge the living the dead.”  Last Sunday’s gospel pictured that coming and that judgment (Matt 25:31-46).  Our sins may make us nervous, even fearful, about his coming and his judgment.  Certainly, our sins ought to concern us. On the other hand, Jesus’ public ministry offers abundant hope to repentant sinners, and in today’s 2d reading St. Paul comforts us that by grace God “will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of OLJC” (1 Cor 1:8).

If we repent and do our best to live irreproachably, as Paul says, then we’ll do as the Collect prayed we will:  “run forth to meet Christ with righteous deeds at his coming” and then be “gathered at his right hand”—like the sheep in last week’s parable—and “be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom,” that kingdom for whose coming we pray in the Our Father.

In today’s gospel, Jesus addresses a word of caution to us about his return:  “Be watchful!  Be alert!  You don’t know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33).  We don’t want to caught sleeping (13:36), i.e., still in our unrepented sins.  Our watchfulness, then, leads us to turn to Jesus now for forgiveness, and to turn to him for daily strength and courage to stay away from sin and practice virtue:  “By the help of your mercy may we be free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Homily for Solemnity of Christ the King

Homily for the Solemnity
of Christ the King

Nov. 22, 2020
St. Pius X, Scarsdale, N.Y.

“Almighty God, your will is to restore all things in your beloved Son…” (Collect).

Christ the King window
Holy Name of Jesus Church, New Rochelle

In the biblical picture of the universe, God created an orderly, harmonious world.  The order and harmony were shattered by sin, by the rebellion of human beings and demons against the Creator and his work.

God the Father gave his Son the mission of “restoring all things,” of freeing us from our sins, which so terribly shattered creation, and thus of enabling us to live in harmony with one another and with the universe.  So the eternal Son entered our created world with all its miseries.  He took flesh of the Virgin Mary, so that “in Christ all shall be brought to life” (1 Cor 15:22).

The Scripture readings today illustrate the Son’s restorative work.  The prophet Ezekiel (34:11-12,15-17) tells how the Lord acts like a good shepherd to care for his flock, an image reinforced by the psalm response (Ps 23).

Jesus tells a parable in which his followers are rewarded because during their lifetimes they provided the necessities of life for those lacking food, clothing, shelter, medical care, social inclusion, and freedom.  These followers have restored human dignity to the poor and abandoned, the endangered and desperate.  One of the central messages of our Holy Father during his 7 years as Pope has been this very message:  to care for our brothers and sisters in the human family.  In fact, his most recent encyclical is titled Fratelli tutti:  “We are all brothers and sisters.”

The Collect that we addressed to God the Father moments ago speaks of “the whole creation” being “set free from slavery,” i.e., from the disorder in which we see it.  The book of Genesis tells us how God ordered the world by his creative power.  Then sin introduced chaos, brutality, alienation, and murder, even alienating humanity from the rest of nature.  We see daily how alienated nature is from us:  hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, droughts, floods, and other disasters make life terrible for tens of thousands of people and kill thousands of us.  How can nature be at peace when those whom God has put in charge of his creation are themselves in rebellion against him?

God’s will is to restore all things, to make all things new, to create a new heavens and a new earth under the lordship of his Son Jesus Christ.  When Christ conquers sin and all the rot and chaos that follow from sin, then, as we prayed, “the whole creation” will be “set free from slavery.”

There have been in history, and there still are, awful forms of human slavery:  slave labor, serfdom, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking, for instance.  All of these, and our personal susceptibility to greed, laziness, lust, anger, gossip, selfishness, environmental degradation—all these are forms of slavery.

How are we—how is “the whole creation”—to be “set free from slavery”?  Only by recognizing Jesus Christ as our Lord, as our king, as the only one who guides, rules, and saves us.  An honored philosopher recently stated:  “No society can exist without a principle of community.  It is precisely what is missing in all societies, both in the U.S. and in Europe.  There is a deficit of community.  And the role of Christians is to create communion out of a community within societies.”[1]  Our communion is based on the lordship of Jesus Christ, and only this can heal our shattered society, our divisions, our hatreds, our slaveries.  This recognition of Jesus Christ as Lord may be implicit, i.e., by adherence of non-Christians to his principles, values, and truths and by the rejection of sin.  It’ll never happen, however, so long as Christians or anyone else adheres to the principle of looking out for #1, every man for himself, my way or no way—be that in family life, business, or politics.

Good Shepherd fresco from the catacombs

The Lord promises to “look after and tend” his sheep (Ezek 34:11), to “bind up the injured” and “heal the sick” (34:16), and to defeat all the enemies of God’s rule; and “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:26).  Therefore, brothers and sisters, let’s let the Lord Jesus rule us and heal us, and thru us bring about a greater sense of communion in our society—in the Church, in our country, in our culture—so that the “goodness and kindness” of the Lord our shepherd may follow us “all the days of [our] life,” and we may “dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come” (Ps 23:6), in fact, forever and ever.

    [1] Jean-Luc Marion, “Christianity Offers Best Hope for Restoration of Community…,” interview in National Catholic Register online, 11/13/20:

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Homily for Wednesday, 33d Week of Ordinary Time

Homily for Wednesday
33d Week of Ordinary Time

Nov. 19, 2020
Rev 5: 1-10
Provincial House, New Rochelle, N.Y.

In yesterday’s episode (Rev 4:1-11), our heroes—the 24 elders and 4 living creatures—were engaged in the heavenly liturgy before God seated in splendor on his throne.  John the Seer’s vision reflects OT imagery from Ezekiel, Isaiah, Zechariah, and Daniel; the God whom Christians adore is the same God of the earlier covenant.  The 24 elders are usually taken to represent the 12 tribes of ancient Israel and the 12 apostles of the new Israel, while the 4 living creatures represent Earth’s 4 directions—thus the whole of creation.  All of these join in worshiping God the Almighty.

That much from ch. 4, yesterday, continues in ch. 5 today.  But a new element is introduced, the 7x-sealed scroll that no one can open (vv. 1-4).  Written on both sides, it contains divine richness.  It is, in fact, God’s plan for the universe, solemnly sealed, hidden from humanity—until the triumphant lion of the tribe of Judah, the offspring of David, comes with power to open the scroll, to unfold the Almighty’s plan (v. 5).

Then the Lamb appears, endowed with supreme power and wisdom—the 7 horns and 7 eyes (v. 6)—the Lamb who triumphed (v. 5) over death after having been slain in sacrifice for the sins of the world (v. 9).  

The elders take up a new chorus of praise because the Lamb has won for God a kingdom, a priestly people whom he will lead in heavenly worship (v. 10).  This is the divine plan hidden in the secret scroll.

Many of you have probably heard the story of how the Rus, the ancestors of Russia, became Orthodox Christians.  According to the story, Vladimir, prince of Kiev, toward the end of the 10th century wanted to convert his people from paganism but was unsure which faith they should adopt.  Accordingly, he sent ambassadors to Crimea, where a Muslim people dwelt, to investigate their religion.  The envoys weren’t much impressed.  He sent other ambassadors to Germany to look at Latin Christianity and, sad to say, they weren’t much impressed either.  He sent a third delegation to Constantinople, where the ambassadors witnessed the glories of Byzantine liturgy:  beautiful vestments, majestic icons, golden vessels, incense, chanting, and all the ritual—and they were very much impressed, reporting to Vladimir, “We didn’t know whether we were in heaven or on earth.”  So Vladimir and his people converted to Eastern Christianity.

Altho our liturgy isn’t so elaborate, and very few Catholics are carried into ecstasy thru it, still, our earthly liturgy—the sacred mysteries—is our entry to the heavenly liturgy.  Yesterday’s reading began, “I had a vision of an open door to heaven” (4:1).  We are privileged to approach that door every morning, to worship the Lamb of God, and thru him, God the Almighty on his throne.

We are further privileged to unroll for God’s priestly people the sacred scroll, to open up for them, as St. Paul writes to the Ephesians “the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God, who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known thru the Church” (3:9-10).

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to break open the 7 seals, and worthy are we whom he has purchased with his blood.  Thanks be to God!

Padre Chava Refectory assists up to 2,000 people a day

 Salesian Padre Chava Refectory assists up to 2,000 people a day

(ANS – Tijuana, Mexico – November 18, 2020)
– The Salesian Padre Chava Refectory of Tijuana, directed by Fr. Agustin Novoa Leyva, SDB, has been serving meals for over 30 years, accompanying and welcoming the most vulnerable people, especially migrants. Currently, “the number of people who come to the Padre Chava Refectory has increased; usually we assist between 900 and 1,000 people daily, and with the pandemic we come to assist up to 2,000 a day,” said the coordinator, Claudia Portela. In recent days, all the staff, users, and guests of the Salesian Padre Chava Refectory have been vaccinated against the flu.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Homily for 33d Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for the
33d Sunday of Ordinary Time

Nov. 15, 2020
Prov 31: 10-31                           
Holy Name of Jesus, Valhalla, N.Y.

“When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls” (Prov 31: 10).

Our 1st reading today consists of 8 verses excerpted from a passage of 22 verses at the very end of the Book of Proverbs, a passage in praise of good wives.

The 1st readings on Sundays are chosen to go along with the gospels.  It might appear that this reading about “a worthy wife” has nothing to do with Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30).  On the contrary:  both the “worthy wife” and the “faithful” servants carry out their responsibilities diligently.

What does the “worthy wife” do?  She and her husband have bonded in a warm relationship.  He “entrusts his heart to her” (31:11), and she “brings him good all the days of her life” (31:12).  Nowadays we like to say that spouses ought to be each other’s best friend, one’s other self, one’s soulmate.  That’s akin to what Proverbs presents.  The relationship between this wife and her husband doesn’t rely upon superficialities:  “charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting” (21:30).  Rather, it has a solid basis in their mutual respect and appreciation.

2d, she diligently does her work.  The complete, 22-verse passage presents her mostly as a well-to-do housewife, appropriate for Jewish society hundreds of years B.C.  One of the verses not included today, however, does speak of her as a businesswoman, selling her cloth and other wares to the town merchants (31:24), and another verse speaks of her “wisdom” and “kindly counsel” (31:26).  Thus she can be a model for the modern married woman who manages her household, holds a job with responsibility, and is discreet, wise, and prudent.

3d, the “worthy wife” “reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy” (31:20).  She’s not centered only on herself or her family.  She’s concerned about the people of her town who aren’t well-off—and in pre-Christian Israel that meant the vast majority of people, whether they were humble artisans or, mostly, dirt-poor peasant farmers.  She works for the common good by sharing her abundance with those less fortunate.

Finally, the clincher for this wife’s worthiness, for the praise she merits, is that she “fears the Lord” (31:30).  This is her true beauty, the source of her charm and her wisdom, the motivation for her diligence and good works.  “Fear of the Lord” in the Scriptures doesn’t mean being scared or afraid, but, rather, “a reverential and loving obedience to the will of God.”[1]  She’s not at all like the servant in Jesus’ parable who buried his master’s money “out of fear” (Matt 25:25).  She worships the Lord and keeps his commandments.  She serves him devoutly in her daily work at home, in the marketplace, in her care for the poor, and in her relationship with her husband.

All the qualities of this proverbial “worthy wife” can be practiced by women today, including single women—who, altho they don’t have husbands, ought to have close friends both male and female whom they cherish and assist—and by men too:  faithful execution of one’s responsibilities, love for spouse and family, concern for the poor, and devotion to God.  All of us can be “good and faithful servants” (Matt 25:21) who will merit the praise of our Lord Jesus Christ when he returns on the Last Day to “settle accounts” with us (25:19).

     [1] Thomas P. McCreesh, OP, “Proverbs,” in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1990), p. 455.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Salesian Solidarity Is a Network

 Salesian Solidarity Is a Network

From the U.S. to Italy in response to the pandemic

(ANS – Rome – November 12, 2020) 
– The U.S. government Agency for International Development (USAid) has decided to finance the project “Salesian Solidarity with Italy: the Emergency Response to Covid-19.” It aims to address the economic, social, and educational consequences of the pandemic. Led by the Salesian NGO International Volunteers for Development (VIS), the project also involves three other Salesian entities: Salesians for Social Aps; Salesian Missions of New Rochelle; and the Italian National Center for Salesian Works - Ongoing Vocational Training (CNOS-FAP).

The intervention program will run until October 2021 and will see 16 Italian regions involved; 24,480 people will be reached, belonging to vulnerable categories; 380 families shall receive food aid. Also, 249,000 individual protection devices (masks, gels, gloves), 7,500 educational kits, and 470 computer supports will be distributed.

The project is developed on three components:

-- digital resources, such as educational kits, online courses, videos with reading of the stories of L'orizzonte alle spalle, the book created by VIS on the stories of migrants, and educational courses for children, families, and teachers – the hashtag: #restiamoactive;

-- support for vulnerable students who have undergone a suspension of their Salesian vocational training courses, so that they can continue their studies through distance learning with the motto “FormAzione per la ripresa, FormAction for recovery”;

-- finally, continuing the #noicis(t)iamo campaign, the distribution of individual protection kits and basic necessities to families in need is foreseen – through a prepaid card with which they can shop on their own, choose what to buy, accompanied by awareness-raising actions on responsible consumption and recycling; and they will also continue to work in support measures for migrants and refugees in the centers of Sicily.

VIS was selected to lead the project. “Salesians from all over the world have mobilized, since March, to try to be close to the neediest, even in the months of the lockdown,” explains Nico Lotta, president of VIS. “We have converted our ongoing projects in the global South to try to respond to the new needs that have emerged with the pandemic. At the same time, we felt called urgently to intervene in Italy as well. This is why we joined three other Salesian entities, Salesians for Social Aps, Salesian Missions, and CNOS-FAP, in a project that could respond to the consequences of the health emergency in our country.

“According to the charism of Don John Bosco, we operate in the conviction that only through education can rights be promoted, inequalities overcome, and the causes of poverty fought at the root. For this reason, for example, even in projects that more generally concern the environment or the fight against irregular migration, there is always a component linked to formation that allows true autonomy and true development of people and the community,” Mr. Lotta said.