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The Provincial, Rev. Fr. Jose Kochamkunnel SDB welcomed the gathering in which he said that this occasion was indeed a very momentous one for us all in INM. He then briefed the gathering about the various portfolios which V. Rev. Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime SDB had held prior to becoming the Rector Major five years ago and then warmly invited him to address the Salesians.
The Rector Major began his talk by sincerely thanking the Salesians for being present and he acknowledged that he was very much delighted to be in our midst. He said that till date, he had visited 98 countries, 84 Provinces and Vice Provinces. He agreed that he was happy to gain knowledge of the Provinces through knowing the confreres.
The Rector Major then posed his first question to the Salesians by asking “How well do we know our Congregation?”. He presented brief statistics of our Congregation, in which he said that despite our shortcomings we are doing well and this shows the maturity of the Provinces. He believes that the Lord had indeed guided the Congregation in spite of him not having been even a member of the General Council before becoming Rector Major and having many new Council Members in his tenure! He said that he shared a very good personal rapport with Pope Francis while they were in Argentina and this rapport continues even till today. In his last meeting with the Pope a few months ago, Pope Francis had xpressed that he was very happy and was reminded of the Salesians on every occasion he sees young people. The Pope was also pleased that our Salesian Congregation offers its service in almost every corner of the world!
The Rector Major reasserted that the smooth sail of the Congregation is due to the fidelity to the Spirit of Don Bosco which brings abundant blessing from Lord. This is the secret of our blessing and this is seen in the number of the Salesians these past years. Of course, there were moments of sorrow and serenity during as well, but still there is stability and growth. He said that in December 2017 we were 14,736 Salesians; in December 2018 we were 14,320; and at the end of this year 2019 we would probably be around 14,300. Though we have would have lost around 500 confreres, mainly due to the many irregular situations which are on record for quite a number of years, still the vocations that God provides us with every year are proof of his love for us! Therefore, there is numerical stability in the Salesian Congregation and for this we are very grateful to the Almighty.
The second part of the Rector Major’s talk dealt on various challenges which we as a Congregation face, practically in every part of the world. These are problems related to consecrated life, community life and mission. He said that sometimes we Salesians are known for our work but not as men of God! Hence, he said that we need to make place in our heart for the mystery of God in our life.
Once we develop a strong spiritual foundation, we then need to be innovative in our reaching out to the poorest of the poor and to be in the vanguard of progress for their social upliftment.
The Conference concluded at 6.45 p.m. with the Vote of Thanks by Fr. John Christy SDB and with a hymn to Don Bosco.