of the Two American Regions
on Retreat with the Rector Major
ANS reported on March 5:
Starting March 4 and running till the weekend, the provincials of the InterAmerica and America Southern Cone regions have come together at Vila Dom Bosco, Campos do Jordão, to take part in a retreat with the Rector Major and his vicar, as well as the two regional councilors, Fr. Esteban Ortiz and Fr. Natale Vitali.
At the Lenten season, dedicated to reflection, conversion, and reaffirming our Christian identity, 23 out of a total of 25 provincials from the two regions came for the retreat. The presence of so many provincials in the one place, along with four members of the general council, also helps with informal meetings over these days and facilitates the tackling of matters of greater interest across the two American continents.
The retreat venue, Campos do Jordao, in the São Paulo Province, is at Brazil's highest location, 5,000 feet above sea level, with a continental climate and European style of architecture often described as “Brazilian Switzerland.” Besides the retreat house at Vila Dom Bosco, the Salesians also run the Santa Clara social work, which offers courses, seminars, daily meals, and cultural and free-time activities for young people from poor families.
Both U.S. provincials are there: Fr. Tom Dunne from the East (New Rochelle) and Fr. Tim Ploch from the West (San Francisco).
In the province newsletter for this week (dated March 8), Fr. Tom describes the experience (slightly edited here):
Last Saturday night, Fr. Tim Ploch and I took an overnight flight from Newark, N.J., to São Paulo, Brazil. Our journey was long (9½ hours). However, it was rather pleasant considering the length of time that we were confined in a small area. When we boarded the flight, both Fr. Tim and I were surprised that our assigned seats were right next to each other! For an aircraft holding well over 250 people, that is an amazing coincidence (and grace)!
Needless to say, the nine hours gave us plenty of time for conversation, collaborative planning, and reflection.
The Salesians in São Paulo were very kind in welcoming us with great attention. At lunch we had the joy of greeting Fr. Pascual Chavez and Fr. Adriano Bregolin, his vicar. Fr. Chavez looks quite well. He is certainly filled with the same spirit and sharp focus we’ve been used to in his role as Don Bosco’s ninth successor.
On Sunday night, the provincials from the 24 provinces in the Americas boarded a bus for a 2½-hour ride to the Don Bosco Retreat Center in Campos do Jordao. This center is a beautiful place to make a retreat!
The retreat schedule is rather full. We begin the day with Morning Prayer and a meditation by the Rector Major. These meditations are on the great friends of God: Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, and Mary. Fr. Chavez has been following the theme of the “Year of Faith.”
We have two talks per day. The Rector Major gives the morning talks on vocation and formation as a way of deepening our reflections on the theme of the 27th General Chapter (“Living the Gospel in a Radical Manner”). Fr. Bregolin gives the afternoon talks. These instructions have dealt with the spirituality and formative nature of our lives of service as province leaders. Each day we have a period of Eucharistic adoration. Evening Prayer is accompanied by a Good Night by the Rector Major.
On March 6 all of those in initial formation for the Brazilian provinces came to the retreat house to spend time with the Rector Major, his vicar, and the provincials of the Americas. The number and quality of those young men in formation were very impressive. It is evident what creating a vocational climate or culture can bring about in a province or a number of provinces!
A number of the young Salesians send their regards to their friend and confrere, Fr. Tarcisio Dos Santos, who serves so well in our province (Holy Rosary Parish in Port Chester and St. Anthony Parish in Elizabeth). I was sure to give them the good news of Fr. Tarcisio’s effective ministry with the Brazilian immigrants in our province. In the name of the province, I thanked Fr. Edson, provincial of São Paulo, for the grace of allowing Fr. Tarcisio to be with us in the St. Philip Province for these years.
On Saturday, we will visit some places around the São Paulo area. In particular, I am looking forward to going to the Aparecida to spend some time in prayer in that center of pilgrimage and renewal.
The Rector Major sends greetings, prayers, and good wishes to all in the St. Philip Province. He asked me to pass on his sentiments of gratitude for the prayers and friendship that he has received in the midst of his illness.
I look forward to returning to the province on Sunday morning. It will be good to be with the provincial chapter members on Monday morning. I will remember all of you in the province on my pilgrimage to the Aparecida.