Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Scouting Weekend, March 26-28

Scouting Weekend, March 26-28

More than a dozen Scouts from Troop Forty, plus a Webelo from Pack Forty, and six adult Scouters spent the weekend at Seton Scout Reservation in Greenwich, Conn.
After almost a week of real spring weather, it turned cold--well below freezing on Friday nite and around freezing on Saturday nite. Some photos will give you the daytime feeling. But we were grateful that it was dry.

Besides cooking and cleaning (in a relative sense of the term!), gathering firewood and hanging by the fires, the Scouts also did a hike. A few did some merit badge work. We celebrated the Palm Sunday liturgy, also with Troop 1 from Crestwood, but no one took pictures of that.

The lads cooking bacon, sausage, and eggs for breakfast on Saturday.

They know how to eat breakfast!
For lunch, burgers and dogs over the coals. Burgers went fast.

Some of the Scouts by one of the fires after lunch.

Assistant Scoutmaster Bill Schaffer with other Scouts by the other fire.
After Mass, Scouts Chris Brock and Sean Price get started on supper, including (leftover) ziti and garden salad.
While the boys were roughing it in lean-tos, most of the adults were cozy in this cabin: Asst. Scoutmaster Bill Schaffer, Scoutmaster Tunji Renner, Asst. Scoutmaster Anthony Jenkins. That's my lower bunk next to Bill, and my pack behind him.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
5th Sunday of Lent
March 21, 2010
Is 43: 16-11
Christian Brothers, Iona College

“Thus says the Lord: Remember not the events of the past…; see, I am doing something new” (Is 43: 18-19).

The 1st reading this evening comes from that part of the book of the prophet Isaiah known as 2d Isaiah, ch. 40-55, which contain the prophecies of an anonymous prophet who, apparently, belonged to some Isaian school or who resembled the original Isaiah closely enuf that the scribes who preserved the sacred writings linked his inspired messages with those of Isaiah.

Whereas the 1st Isaiah lived and prophesied in the 2d half of the 8th century B.C., his unknown disciple was at work at the end of the Babylonian Exile, in the mid 6th century B.C., possibly in Babylon. The great theme of his prophecies is the downfall of Babylon and the liberation of Israel. Among his texts we also find the four poems of the Suffering Servant that will form much of our reading during Holy Week.

Our passage this evening is one of those announcing Israel’s imminent redemption, using allusions to Israel’s 1st liberation, when Moses led them out of Egypt, thru the Red Sea, and into the desert of Sinai toward the Promised Land. “The Lord opens a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters” (43:16): 2d Isaiah reminds his audience of captives in Babylon of what God did for Israel when Moses lifted his staff over the sea. “The Lord leads out chariots and horsemen, a powerful army, till they lie prostrate together, never to rise, snuffed out and quenched like a wick” (43:17): God leads Pharaoh and his mighty troops into a trap to destroy those who thought to destroy Israel.

But the prophet recalls these events that forged Israel into God’s people only to tell them to forget all about them: “Remember not the events of the past; the things of long ago consider not!” (43:18). What God is about to do for his people will be something else again: “See, I am doing something new” (43:19), something almost enuf to make them forget their history. God is their savior now: “Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (43:19). If they don’t realize that their salvation from their Babylonian oppressors is at hand, they will know it very soon. The Lord will lay low another army when conquering Cyrus the Great descends upon and crushes Babylon. Soon enuf “the Lord will bring back the captives of Zion,” who for 50 years and more have only dreamed of going home to Jerusalem; and their mouths will be filled with laughter, their tongues with rejoicing, in the great things that the Lord has done for them (Ps 126:1-4),

This new redemption will resemble the old one in the defeat of Israel’s enemy and in another journey thru a desert, they Syrian desert, as they return home to Judea from Babylon: “In the desert I make a way” (43:19). But there will be no miraculous passage thru a sea, no parting of the waters; instead, God will raise up waters to ease their journey: “I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people whom I formed for myself” (43:20), even as he had enabled Moses wondrously to provide water for the people from the rocks of the Sinai.

So there will be new exodus of God’s people thru the desert, from captivity to the Promised Land, with a saving presence of water. There just might be a Lenten and Easter theme here?

Well, of course. God’s mighty works weren’t done with on the borders of Egypt, nor were they done with in Mesopotamia. They continue. God’s chosen people, all those who have received his “upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14), pass thru the water of Easter, the water of Baptism, and join Christ Jesus, who has laid low their enemies: sin and death, and the armies of Satan. In the desert of our present existence, of this world full of distractions, temptations, and dangers to our well-being (all those things that Paul considers as so much rubbish [Phil 3:8], or worse), God has marked out a safe path for us: in the desert he makes a way, the way of Jesus. God is saving those preparing for Baptism 2 weeks from this evening; God is saving us who have already been baptized and who continue to come to the Word of Jesus and his body and blood. “Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.” With the sacraments and with the Scriptures he continues to water and feed us, as if from oases.

2d Isaiah also speaks of creation’s praise of its Lord: “Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches” (43:20). But after he has set his people free once more, they are to join these creatures in “announcing his praise” (43:21). There’s the purpose in God’s coming to our assistance: to praise him in his works, to praise him for freeing us from the bondage of our sins, from the chains of death, from the doom of Satan’s grasp. Christ Jesus wants to “take possession of” us, as he did Paul (Phil 3:12), wants to give us “the supreme good of knowing” (3:8) and being known by him so that we may be with him forever in the presence of his Father. If God delights in the jackals and ostriches of the desert, how much more does he delight in the brothers and sisters of Jesus!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent

Homily for the 4th Sunday of LentMarch 14, 2010
2 Cor 5: 17-21
Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
Salesian HS Band

“We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5: 20).

If you were paying attention, you heard a reference to reconciliation at the beginning of Mass: “Jesus Christ brought mankind the gift of reconciliation.” The reading from St. Paul was an exhortation for us to be reconciled with God. The gospel reading was a parable of reconciliation that we’re all very familiar with.

We can see everywhere around us how people need reconciliation. There are wars and violence all over the world—not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but also in Pakistan, the Holy Land, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Nigeria, Cechnya, Kashmir, the Philippines, Colombia, Mexico—to give a partial list. In our own country the newspapers and radio waves are loaded every day with stories of street crime and domestic violence. In our families, how many arguments take place, how many people aren’t talking to each other!

St. Paul appeals to us to be reconciled to God—to admit our sins against one another and against God, and to come to God for pardon. But reconciliation with God has to mean also forgiving one another and accepting the forgiveness that others offer to us. For us who aren’t statesmen, diplomats, important politicians, who can’t stop al Quaeda from blowing people up or renegade soldiers in Congo from raping and murdering or abortionists from slicing up 4,000 American babies in their mothers’ wombs every day—for us, reconciliation starts in our families and neighborhoods. Whom do we have to forgive and try to get along with better? Whom are we angry at, like the older brother in Jesus’ parable (Luke 15:25-30)—who’s really angry at his father at least as much as at his brother?

When we turn to God for reconciliation, we can be sure that he accepts us, like the father in the parable (15:20-24). But we need to ask him also to help us be reconciled with the real people in our lives: our parents, our siblings, our cousins, the guys we go to school with, the peers we hang out with and the ones we have trouble getting along with, maybe the girl who used to be special to us. While we all want peace and brotherhood in Afghanistan, we also need peace and brotherhood in Westchester and the Bronx—and that’s something that more immediately affects us than does Afghanistan, something we can affect by our own words and actions.
God has already taken the 1st step toward reconciliation with us. He didn’t have to do that; he could have just left us to rot in our own hatred, alienation, sin. But, says St. Paul, God has initiated “a new creation,” brought in “new things” (1 Cor 5:17), thru Jesus Christ. God has re-created the world, opened up the possibility that creation can be the way he made it to be in the beginning before human beings thought they were smarter than God and sinned. God has “reconciled the world to himself in Christ,” who suffered the hatred, the alienation, the punishment that our sins deserve—“for our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin” (1 Cor 5:21)—while Christ embraced our human nature, our human condition; while he embraced us and made us his own brothers and sisters—“so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (5:21). On the cross he cried out to his Father, “Forgive them!” (Luke 23:34). Whom was he forgiving? His executioners--and you and me. And he practiced that forgiveness also with the criminal we commonly call the Good Thief by promising him reconciliation with God, a place in paradise, in the new creation (23:40-43).

Like the forgiving father in Jesus’ parable, Jesus opens his arm to receive us sinners. May we accept his pardon like the younger son (and the sacrament of Reconciliation gives us a wonderful opportunity to do that). May we extend God’s reconciliation to other people, especially those in our daily lives.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vatican Newspaper Calls for More Women in Church Positions

Vatican Newspaper Calls for More Women in Church Positions of Responsibility

No doubt this story will surprise a lot of folks. Veteran Catholic News Service reporter John Thavis reports from Rome:
Abuse cases show need for greater women's role, Vatican newspaper says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A greater presence of women in decision-making roles in the church might have helped remove the "veil of masculine secrecy" that covered priestly sex abuse cases, a front-page commentary in the Vatican newspaper said.

Read more: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1001020.htm

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Homily for the 3d Sunday of Lent

Homily for the
3d Sunday of LentMarch 7, 2010
Ex 3: 1-8, 13-15
Ps 103: 1-4, 6-8, 11
1 Cor 10: 1-6, 10-12
Luke 13: 1-9
Provincial House, N.R.

“I have witnessed the affliction of my people…and have heard their cry of complaint…. Therefore I have come down to rescue them…and lead them…into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3: 7-8).

Some of these words may be extra-familiar to us at this time. Not that we haven’t heard them often before; but they’re words cited by our Haitian confreres as they expressed their appreciation for the visit of the Rector Major to them last month, one month after the death and destruction of the earthquake. Representing the entire Salesian Family, Fr. Chavez came down like God himself to visit them—the Haitians explicitly said he didn’t send a “Moses” to lift them up, but he came himself—and to assure them of coming deliverance. The Rector Major then cited their words as he wrote to all of us on Feb. 25, to encourage us to remain present to our devastated brothers and sisters, to continue our work and our sacrifices to bring them, if not quite into a land flowing with milk and honey, at least into a much better situation than they’ve been in the last 2 months.

Two clear messages in the Scriptures this morning are that the Lord is very close to us, he is present among us, he is leading us to salvation; and if we choose not to heed his invitation to repent and be saved, we’re doomed.

The Lord announces to Moses that he has seen his people’s affliction in Egypt, he has heard their cry of complaint, and he knows well what they’re suffering (3:7). His knowledge isn’t pure observation, distant, uncaring, and without effect. No, he sees and hears, and he acts. “I have come down” from my lofty throne in the heavens “to rescue them…and lead them”—not point out the road, not just send them a savior, but to lead them myself—“out of that land and into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (3:8). God will be among his people, like a good military captain with his soldiers. He’ll guide Moses at each step, he’ll act thru Moses’ staff, he’ll light their way, he’ll protect them from assault.

Moses isn’t any too eager for his battlefield commission as God’s lieutenant and tries various ways to dodge it. One way is to ask God his name. You may remember that when Jacob wrestled with the angel of God at the ford of the Jabbok, on his return to Canaan from his exile in Mesopotamia, he asked the angel his name, and the angel refused to give it (Gen 32:23-31). You may also remember that Adam named all of the animals in Eden (Gen 2:18-20). To name something was to exercise power over it, to have the thing or the person at one’s command. But when Moses asks, God gives him his name (Ex 3:13-14). One commentator compares this to giving out your private phone number to someone you want to be specially close to you, or someone you want to reach you any time there’s a problem.[1] Moreover, the Lord God identifies himself as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob” (3:15). He has remained close to these friends of his, and that’s how he is to be remembered forever by his people—remembering, again, meaning being present to them in a real and active sense.

The responsorial psalm also celebrates the Lord’s closeness to his people. He pardons them, heals them, redeems them from destruction, crowns them with his kindness and compassion (103:3-4). He comes to the defense of the oppressed and makes his deeds known to Israel (103:6-7), i.e., lets them experience what he does for them.

Jesus is the ultimate presence of God. In him God comes down definitively from his heavenly throne to be among his people and save them. He isn’t God’s word spoken from a mysteriously burning bush that Moses mustn’t get too close to, but God’s word in human flesh with whom we can talk and share a meal, whom we can touch. He even remains with us in sacramental form and in the living word of the sacred Scriptures.

This same Jesus, however, cautions his audience against a failure to repent. In his own day various tragedies befell people and made the local news (unfortunately, we have no other historical record of the events he mentions in the gospel today). But these tragedies aren’t divine retribution for the sins of the victims, any more than earthquakes today are God’s particular punishments. Yet tragedies and disasters may serve as warnings: we have here no lasting city, as the Letter to the Hebrews says (13:14), and eventually we must perish in a physical sense. Jesus also seems to be warning his hearers that their failure to repent, their failure to change their ways of acting, could bring disaster upon them, e.g., their looking for earthly salvation might lead them to go too far in their resistance to Rome and get them crushed (“If you don’t repent, you’ll all perish as they did!”—13:5). I suppose that’s comparable to telling our contemporaries that if we don’t relent in our reliance on nuclear weapons we may wind up destroying ourselves.

St. Paul uses the example of the people whom Moses led out of Egypt as a warning to his disciples in Corinth. God took great care to deliver Israel from slavery, to feed and water them in the desert. But they didn’t give up their sins—their idolatry, their grumbling about God’s leadership—and so they perished. (1 Cor 10:1-4) If the Christians of Corinth don’t truly give themselves to Christ, but cling to some of their old pagan habits, they too may find themselves not reaching the promised land. They can’t presume that God’s salvation is complete in them until they actually reach that land: “Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (10:12).

We get those sorts of reminders regularly in our Salesian life: daily examens, opportunities for the sacrament of Reconciliation, monthly DORs, annual retreat, annual evaluations of our community and personal lives of prayer and poverty. These opportunities are like the vinedresser’s careful cultivation of the fig tree in Jesus’ parable—the efforts of the Lord to help us bear some fruit, the fruit of repentance, the fruit of discipleship, the fruit of Christian life, the fruit of the Salesian charism. We have that annual evaluation of poverty tomorrow evening—a chance to ask whether our tree bears the fruit of poverty, or the barrenness of material abundance and superfluity.

In such opportunities God comes close to us and calls to us, as if from the burning bush, as if in the words of Jesus: I’ve come to rescue you and lead you into a good and spacious land, flowing with milk and honey, to the banquet table of life. Come with me! Abide with me!

[1] Fr. Joe Robinson, Guiding Light: Feed My Soul. Cycle C (China, Ind.: Shepherd of Christ, 2009), p. 50.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Letter of Fr. Pascual Chavez to the Salesians about Haiti

Letter of Fr. Pascual Chavez
to the Salesians about Haiti

Via della Pisana 1111 - 00163 Roma

Il Rettor Maggiore
“I have seen. I have heard. I understand. I have come down…
Go, set my people free” (Exodus 3:7-8)
A letter after the Rector Major’s visit to Haiti
My Dear Confreres, Members of the Salesian Family, Friends of Don Bosco:

I would like to start this account of my visit to Haiti with the dedication which the confreres of that vice province wrote and signed in the book Haiti, the face of a country, which they gave me just as I was leaving. I consider it is not a eulogy to me but rather a sincere expression of their experience and their feelings, and at the same time, a mark of recognition of all those who have been a sign of the presence of Providence and made them feel the loving, supportive closeness of God:

In a few seconds a terrifying earthquake put us on our knees.
Apocalyptic catastrophe. Ruins. Deaths. Cries. Weeping. Dismay.
Desolation. Silence. Rebellion. Darkness. Trauma. Misery. Desperation.
Hands stretched out to each other. Hands stretched out to the Lord.
“I have seen. I have heard. I understand. I have come down…
Go, set my people free” (Exodus 3:7-8)

Fr. Pascual, like the Lord, you saw and understood. THANK YOU for having understood at once. In the letter to all the Salesians, which with your father’s heart you sent us. Awareness. Response. Solidarity. Fraternity…
Fr. Chavez, before the Lord we say in confidence that the message which pleases us the most is “the open letter of yourself.” What a father’s heart! What sensitivity! Thank you, Father, for not sending us a Moses. Thank you for coming yourself. Thank you for following in the steps of Jesus and the heart of Don Bosco. For sharing with us, from the suffering for our dead and dispersed to the struggle for life taken up again, from our ruins to the refoundation, starting from personal and community conversion.
Fr. Pascual, thank you, thank you!

On February 12-15, 2010, I visited Haiti. From the very first day of the earthquake that on January 12 struck a large part of the country with devastation and death, I kept in touch with the confreres through a daily telephone call to the superior at the time, Fr. Jacques Charles, and to the one who, from the end of January, would take over as the new superior of the vice province, Fr. Sylvain Ducange. I got to work, officially involving the Antilles Province, whose provincial, Fr. Víctor Pichardo, I asked to go at once to Port-au-Prince to set up a link for aid; in addition I sent a letter to the whole Congregation, with information about the dramatic situation of our confreres, requesting the solidarity of all the houses, works, and provinces in response to the emergency situation, and likewise to the future reconstruction; finally I mobilized all the mission offices, with that of New Rochelle leading the way. I have to say that the response I received was extremely positive and exemplary, and for everything that was done I feel the need to give thanks and to bear witness.

Nevertheless, I felt it necessary, important, and significant to go personally to Haiti so that through the person of the Rector Major the closeness, fraternity, and solidarity of the Congregation could be felt. I wanted to share at close hand in the suffering and uncertainty in which the whole population is living. I really wanted to know better the situation of the Salesian houses, completely or partially destroyed, especially those in the area of Port-au-Prince, and, with the superior of the vice province and his council, to reflect together on the decisions to be made in the immediate future.

Even though, as we arrived at Port-au-Prince, the pilot of the helicopter flew over the most devastated area – which gave me the chance to have an immediate overall panoramic view from the air – it was only when driving in the car, seeing the buildings razed to the ground, then walking through the ruins that I was able to have some real idea of the dramatic effects of the quake, which struck this helpless people totally unprepared for such an event.

I was totally dismayed when faced with the extent of the destruction, at the apocalyptic landscape of death, suffering and despair. The National Palace, the symbol of pride and power, has practically fallen in on itself, with the columns sticking up in the air, and similarly the other ministry buildings. Of the cathedral the only things still standing are the facade and the side walls; the roof and the pillars have fallen to the ground. It was as though, in those 28 seconds that the major shock lasted, the city had lost its head and its heart. In fact, that it precisely what happened, since from that moment there has been a total lack of leadership, and life, immensely humbled, continues to go ahead, more by dint of inertia and by the struggle for survival than through any social organization supporting or stimulating it.

While I listened to the accounts of those who survived, especially those who managed to escape death after hours or days being trapped between floors, ceilings, and walls, and gradually as I looked at the buildings and homes destroyed, I tried to hear the voice of God which, like the blood of Abel, cried out with the voices of the thousands of the dead buried in mass graves or still under the rubble. I tried to listen to God, who was speaking through the dull sound of the thousands of people struggling to live under the tents, those distributed by the international organizations or those made of rags somehow put together. I tried to open my ears and heart to the cry of God, which could be heard in the anger and feelings of powerlessness of those who see everything that they had built up – either great or small – gone up in smoke, into nothing. It is estimated that the number without a roof over their heads is between 300,000 and 500,000.

It is true that an earthquake of 7.5 degrees on the Richter scale produces a shock with a devastating, incalculable force, but it is also true that in this case the destruction and the deaths are even more enormous on account of poverty in every sense of the word. In this situation one cannot rebuild a life worthy of the name, nor even houses which are safer and more resistant in the face of this kind of violent eruption of nature. Therefore the challenge for today cannot be merely to reconstruct the walls of the buildings, the houses, and the churches destroyed, but it is rather to make Haiti rise again, building it on living conditions which really are human, where rights, all rights, are for everyone and not the privilege of some.

The almost total absence of any government leaves the people stunned by the suffering, submerged in anguish and overwhelmed by despair, wandering around the streets without goal or purpose. This constant walking of the people on a pilgrimage in the struggle for life makes quite an impression. But also at church level, the death of the archbishop, the vicar general, the chancellor, 18 seminarians, and 46 religious men and women, with the collapse of houses, schools, and help centers meant a tragic loss of pastors, so extremely necessary for this people.

Unfortunately, the time has almost passed for it to be news, when Haiti was center stage of history, like a victim fallen to the ground, on which was focused the attention of the great television networks, of journalists always on the watch for events that increase sales. Today the city is in a state more chaotic than before. Certainly to be admired is the religious sentiment that leads the Haitian people to gather together in prayer, a sentiment which is now being greatly exploited by the evangelical sects; and in a similar way, one is amazed at the efforts to return to normality when basically everything has changed.

Even though the state of emergency could last for at least two months, according to what is said by those responsible for this phase, the hour has struck to roll our sleeves up and begin the rebuilding of this country, or rather, its rising from the ashes. Here, then, is the great opportunity being offered to this poor country, the former “Pearl of the Antilles.”

To make this dream come true, it is not a matter of starting from scratch, but a starting again, in the first place, by the Haitians themselves, who more than ever are being called to take the lead in this new phase of their history. They are not alone. On the contrary, it is very comforting to see so many organizations (a total of 80) seriously committed to this challenging task, together with the very many people of good will who want to sow seeds of hope and build a future for the Haitian people.

The protagonism on the part of the Haitians themselves is absolutely indispensable, in order to overcome not only a tendency to resignation which is something of a cultural feature, but to overcome also a total dependence on outside help, which could lead to the temptation of a power struggle and deprive Haiti of its sovereignty.

Therefore opening up our houses, even though seriously damaged – I’m speaking about those of the Salesians – to take in those displaced, with the effort to make them feel better, even in the midst of their tragedy, and likewise the civilian organization of these camps for refugees and the decision to live in tents like them, caused me great joy and also to feel very proud of my Salesian brothers.

May the Lord change this tragedy which has filled all the families of Haiti with mourning into hymns and dances of joy. It would not be right nor responsible to allow the death of hundreds of thousands of victims, nor the loss of everything by those who now find themselves on the streets with nothing to fall into nothingness, into the void, into sterility.

On our part we feel the need to renew our commitment to the rebirth of the country, refounding, step by step together, the Congregation with the presences which are responding to the expectations and the needs of Haitian society, the Church, and the young.

I said before that rather than simply rebuilding the walls, it is a matter of a change in the way of thinking.

The State has to change in such a way that is ensures a worthy life for all its citizens, guaranteeing all their rights and fighting against injustice, corruption, poverty, without ideologies and with expressions of genuine democracy.

But the Church, too, as part of it consecrated life, has to change, seeking more and more its identity, fidelity to the Lord Jesus, and his Gospel, properly bringing together evangelization, human development, and the transformation of culture and society.

From this point of view, I am pleased with the way the superior of the vice province and his council are managing this situation. They have organized assistance (providing tents, food, water, psychological and spiritual help) for all the thousands of refugees, the homeless who came to find shelter at Thorland, Pétion-Ville, Delmas, Cité Soleil. They have busied themselves in giving help to those employed in our communities and works. They have found places for the confreres from our no longer habitable houses: ENAM, Fleuriot, the provincial house, Gressier.

A immediate plan has also been set in motion which involves the reorganization of the vice province at all levels, including that of refounding the works, revision of the pastoral approach in general, and in certain places, having always in mind in particular the needs of society, the Church, and the young.

After my “on the spot” visit, and with the information available regarding our works, it seems above all necessary to carry out an assessment of the fitness for use or not of those houses which have remained standing, and afterwards:
-- to make secure all the works, some of which have already been looted, rebuilding the security walls that collapsed;
-- to re-build the whole complex of the OPEPB, those next to ENAM and those located in Cité Soleil, which implies drawing up an overall plan for the Lakay School and a youth center;
-- to re-locate ENAM in such as way as to build a vocational training center of the highest quality, also opening a fresh page of the history of this work: however, the best place has to be chosen;
--to rebuild the Young Peoples’ Center in Thorland and the multipurpose hall;
-- to rebuild the parish in Cité Soleil and the youth center;
-- to rebuild the dormitory and classrooms of the school at Gressier;
-- to rebuild a part of the primary school at Pétion-Ville;
-- to re-think the whole of the work at Fleuriot, taking into account the needs of the house for the postnovices and the center of studies;
-- to relocate the provincial house, leaving the present house for the community of Cité Soleil;
-- to simplify the complex of works at Fort-Liberté, giving priority to the Vocational Training Center, the training school for teachers, which is of strategic importance and absolutely necessary for the training of the new kind of educators whom Haiti needs, and the school for nurses, the only one left in the country;
-- to carry out a process of discernment about the future of the Vincent Foundation Agricultural School in Cap-Haitien, situated on a property which is not ours, and consider relocating it at Tosià or at Gressier, where we have quite a large tract of land belonging to us. For the moment it should continue to function with the various educational services it offers;
-- to make a decision about Baudin (the novitiate house, which in fact has been functioning for only three years): either giving it to the Haitian Bishops’ Conference for its formation center, or selling it.

This does not mean that everything has to be done at the same time. An order of priorities for what has to be done has still to be made. We will be able to count on the readiness, already in operation, of the Italian Civil Defense service, which has expressed its intention and willingness to work closely with us, and on the donations that have already arrived from the mission offices, international organizations, the provinces, or individual houses, from bishops’ conferences and benefactors.

Looking at the present and to the future, what becomes the priority is to keep the schools and youth centers functioning where they are fit for use, and in addition to build or rebuild as soon as possible those works which have become unfit for use. The priority of the care and education of the young is absolute, all the more so since what is at stake is the creation, through a new education, of a new culture, capable of building the new Haiti.

All of this urgently requires personnel capable of coordinating the work. This would also be a good opportunity to get the Bureau de Planification et de Développement of the vice province functioning well. The one directly responsible for all the “Haiti emergency re-construction operation,” however, is – as it ought to be – the superior of the vice province, Fr. Sylvain Ducange. Fr. Mark Hyde, director of the New Rochelle Missions Office, to which the work of coordination has been entrusted, and the organizations involved in this reconstruction operation, will refer to him.

Next year the Blessed Philip Rinaldi Vice Province of Haiti will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of our presence in this country. For the Haitian confreres it will be a real jubilee, and I hope and pray that by then we may see the refoundation of the charism as a renewed gift from God for young Haitians.

A jubilee is also a time for conversion: this means acknowledging our sins, personal, community, and institutional, for not having succeeded in living to the full our identity as consecrated apostles, making of the spiritual and apostolic project of Don Bosco, codified in the Constitutions, a genuine plan of evangelical life.

While I thank the Congregation, our mission offices, the international organizations close to us, the benefactors and friends of Salesian work, for the generosity and enterprise with which they have responded to my previous letter, I invite everyone to continue with the efforts we are making to respond to the immense demands of this country in so much need.

I entrust to Mary this new phase of history. May she guide us in rising to the challenge. May she bless you all.

With affection and best wishes, in Don Bosco,
Fr. Pascual Chavez V., SDB
Rector Major
Rome, February 25, 2010