Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Via della Pisana, 1111

Via della Pisana, 1111

Officially, that's the address of Salesian general headquarters in Rome. Or, to be technical, somewhat beyond the city limits; it's not even in the diocese of Rome.

The entrance, guarded by a large rolling steel gate (open here). The 808 bus stops inbound just to the left of the photo, and outbound on the right-hand side of the crosswalk.

Naturally, most of us think of Rome as a very old place. And it is. But the generalate or HQ is well away from downtown (about a half hour's drive from St. Peter's in normal traffic), and having been built in the early '60s is a lot newer than most of Rome! We moved our HQ here from the motherhouse in Turin (the place were Don Bosco founded the Salesian work) around 1965. It's one of about a dozen houses or communities that we have in or on the outskirts of the Holy City, including a pontifical university, schools, parishes, student residences, and the Vatican press.

When the site was chosen, we were given to understand that that the city was going to expand in this direction and there would be pastoral opportunities for the generalate staff. It's pastoral all right, but in a quite different sense! There are farms all around our property, and a sand quarry. And we have a lot of agricultural acreage of our own, cared for by some of the Salesian brothers on the generalate staff.

Some of our vegetable fields, greenhouses, and pasture land.

One of our hay fields. Via della Pisana is just beyond the trees.

Some of the non-professed (not in religious vows) members of the generalate community!

On a hill opposite the generalate buildings is a large olive grove, and beyond that a pine grove with a statue of Mary Help of Christians between the two, overlooking the house and community.
One of the old jokes about the Pisana (as Salesians usually refer to GHQ) is that the only kids to be found on the property are these two with Don Bosco:
Actually there are now signs that the rural character of the area is about to change drastically. As you head down the beltway toward the airport (DaVinci, also called Fiumacino), about 20 minutes away, you see building going on everywhere.

And there are evidently some kids now on the Pisana grounds. I don't know whether these particular ones that I observed were part of a group using the conference center or are children of some of the employees.
The building--it's all one big, monstrous interconnected labyrinth--is done in a very modern style (see photo below), all brick, marble, and cement. It's terrible to navigate, with constant turns and stairs. Except in the office corridors and those of the Salesianum (see below), you can't walk 50 feet without either having to turn a corner or go up/down a flight of stairs.
The main entrance to the generalate.
The main chapel is adjacent to the main entrance. There are about four minor chapels of varying sizes.
The grounds around the buildings are beautifully landscaped.

A driveway about a kilometer around circles the building, and at any time of the day you're likely to find Salesians or guests of the Salesianum taking a stroll.
Attached to the generalate is a large conference center called the Salesianum (its entrance and parking lot pictured below). It's used for large and small meetings by Salesians and others, for retreats, for general chapters (our own and other congregations'), as guest quarters in general (40 euros a nite, meals included). During our Bulletin editors' meeting we were billeted here, as were the province treasurers meeting at the same time. Before the meeting I was a guest in the generalate proper.
The Salesian community of the generalate numbers about 55 priests and brothers, besides the Rector Major and general council (numbering 14) and 3 priests with Congregation-wide responsibilities. The community is the immediate support staff of the RM and council and those who take care of the general running of the house--keep the food on the table and the cars running, manage the farms, handle the mail, etc.

Interior of the main chapel, where the community gathers twice a day for prayer and the sacred liturgy, and of course individuals pray at other times.
The center of the community: the tabernacle.
Its design incorporates the burning bush of Exodus, the 4 evangelists, and on the base a wheat sheaf.

There are, naturally, dozens and dozens of offices and meeting rooms in the building. This is the most important one: the Rector Major's.

Of interest to me, as the New Rochelle Province's communications officer, is the office of the Salesian News Agency (ANS). This shot thru the door shows only a very small part of it.

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