Celebrates RM’s Quick Visit
Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime, Rector Major of the Salesians, made a very short stopover visit in our province on Oct. 23-24, primarily to meet with the provincials of Interamerica at the end of their annual meeting, which our province hosted this year; secondarily, to introduce himself to the confreres of the province. Consequently, Fr. Steve Shafran, our provincial, invited as many SDBs as possible to come to the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw, N.Y., on Saturday evening for prayer, dinner, and entertainment with the Rector Major and a first acquaintance with him.
Although the invitation was directed specifically to the SDBs, the presence of two youth groups—Don Bosco Prep’s choir and Port Chester’s Amigos del Teatro—gave the gathering a greater “family” feel. In his Good Night at the end, Fr. Angel pointed appreciatively to the presence of these young people, observing that “without the young we wouldn’t be who we are.”
Fr. Fernandez, 4th from right in back, with pupils from Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey, N.J.,
with SDBs Fr. Jim Heuser (just head showing in back) and Fr. Matt DeGance (far right).
It was estimated that about 150 SDBs and youths took part in the evening’s activities, which began with an hour-long prayer service in the Shrine chapel. A social hour and buffet dinner followed in the retreat house cafeteria. Throughout, Fr. Angel was solicited for group and individual photos and happily acquiesced, and he seemed to greet personally almost everyone in the room—in some cases trying out a little bit of English.
(Among other things, he praised our province newsletter—an opinion also expressed by general councilors Fr. Filiberto Gonzalez and Guillermo Basañes and several of the visiting provincials.)
When dinner was over, Fr. Steve initiated the entertainment by presenting a special stole to Fr. Angel.
Then the Bosco Boys (Bros. Steve DeMaio and Steve Eguino) rapped out a couple of their songs and gave the Rector Major a T-shirt that he immediately donned, and a copy of their just-released CD.
|The Bosco Boys, Bro. Steve DeMaio (left) and Bro. Steve Eguino (right),|
flank the Rector Major, who holds a copy of their CD.
DBP’s choir performed two songs, one in Polish that they’d learned as part of the school’s centennial celebration and the other a light-hearted tribute to coffee. Then they got Fr. Angel to join them for a photo and gave him a DBP jacket, which he put on over the Bosco Boys shirt.
Another pair of young SDBs were the next act: Bros. Rafael Vargas and Simon Song break dancing. Although they delighted the audience, it seems that Fr. Angel wasn’t tempted to join their act.
Port Chester’s Amigos del Teatro enacted scenes from Don Bosco’s life, most of it readily understandable even in Spanish. The Rector Major posed with them as they gave him not one but two T-shirts—and a knapsack. He squeezed one shirt and the knapsack on top of the Bosco Boys shirt (he’d already handed off the Bosco jacket to his secretary). Evidently he’s had a lot of practice at this sort of thing.
Fr. Angel procured a guitar somehow, took the stage, announced a Mexican folk song, and called on all the Mexicans on hand to join him, starting with Fr. Filiberto. All of the Port Chester youngsters and the Mexican SDBs responded, as did several SDBs of Hispanic but not Mexican origin. They gave themselves and the audience a couple of rousing songs. This was the first one:
Fr. Angel wasn’t done, however. He “commanded” Fr. Steve to step up and sing “My Way” (not the first time that has happened), and to some extent he joined in, to everyone’s delight.
|Fr. Steve Shafran (right) brings his musical talent to "My Way," and Fr. Fernandez chimes in on the chorus.|
Finally, the Rector Major offered a brief Good Night, translated by Fr. Tim Ploch. He began by thanking everyone who had hosted him, his secretary, and the provincials during the week. He voiced his appreciation for this little family gathering, both SDBs and the young people.
Striking one of his familiar themes, he stated that the Salesians are one congregation extended throughout the world [not just a bunch of discrete provinces], and we all need to be aware of that. He has been very much impressed by how much the Salesians are doing for the young in all the 35 countries that he has visited in his 14 months as Rector Major, and what those who work with us are doing.
|Fr. Fernandez (right) giving the Good Night while Fr. Ploch (left) translates.|
He urged the two U.S. provinces not to be afraid of the future. There’s much to be hopeful about, he said. Although we’ve had our problems, we have many young people in formation, and that in itself is reason for hope. This evening celebration has been an expression of both joy and of hope.
He continued by calling the just-concluded bicentennial celebration a blessing and a year of grace. He invited us to be happy because we are Salesians. He prays that we may always be faithful to the Lord and present to the young, especially those who need us most. If we do this, he promised, there will be a celebration of Don Bosco’s 300th birthday in the U.S. and Canada.
Our Rector Major deeply impressed everyone at this family gathering with his ready smile, his friendliness, his accessibility, and his energy.