They weren't Maryknollers, however, but Salesians--candidates to become the 2010 "batch" of Salesian Lay Missioners. Having already done a fair amount of discernment and been carefully vetted by the SLM staff in New Rochelle, they were starting 4 weeks of orientation that will lead up to their commissioning on August 7 and their departure soon after for various foreign destinations, such as Bolivia, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, and Rwanda.
Their first three orientation days, July 6-8, were dedicated to bonding as a group and starting to form Salesian identity. Your humble blogger was privileged to visit each of these days to celebrate Mass and Reconciliation for them and be part of their Salesian orientation. I was impressed in those few hours by their spirit of joy and enthusiasm, their courage and sense of adventure (not without a due amount of nervousness).
The candidates are being guided by Adam Rudin, director of the SLM program (himself a former volunteer in Bolivia), Jayne Feeney, who just returned from 11 months in Ethiopia, and Meg Fraino of the province's youth ministry office. During earlier discernment weekends many of the candidates met other former SLMs, and they've also been in touch with SLMs still on-site where they'll be going.21 SLM candidates after Mass on July 8, with program director Adam Rudin (back row, left).
The SLMs' third week will be spent in the Salesian day camps at Corpus Christi and Holy Rosary parishes in Port Chester, N.Y., learning some of the practical aspects of Salesian youth work, and reflecting upon the experience.
In the fourth week (Aug. 1-7) the SLMs will be on a quasi-retreat, getting further Salesian orientation (about Don Bosco, the Salesian Family, the Preventive System...) and finishing up necessary paperwork; this week coincides with one of the Salesian summer retreats, enabling the young volunteers to get to know actual SDBs and vice versa. At the retreat's closing Mass, Fr. Tom Dunne, the provincial, will commission them in the presence of and with the support of all the SDB retreatants.
The orientation period is part of the discernment process for both the Salesians and the SLM candidates. On the 3d day, one candidate departed after deciding this wasn't the moment for him to do this. Here's hoping the other 22, and the SLM staff, will discern God calling them to continue--and prayers for their success.