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Rev. Fr. Jose Kochamkunnel SDB, the Provincial of Chennai Province welcomed the Salesians and said that the Rector Major was bubbling with energy in bringing the dreams of Don Bosco and invigorating the cradle of Salesian Congregation of South India. He also introduced the gathering comprising of 20 communities of the two regions along with 17 students of Philosophy of Chennai Province from The Retreat community, Yercaud (INT).
The Rector Major started his message on a casual note about being focused on the goal and not on the formalities. He stressed on the personal conviction and one’s individual journey with God. He expressed his pleasure in meeting the confreres and in knowing about them during this short visit. He requested us to continue the good work in order to obtain a sanguine future for the Congregation. God does not want anyone to be poor hence it becomes the priority for the Salesians as servants of God to work for poor young people and fostering a standard living. Seeing the Salesians around him, the Rector Major was reminded of a question a Salesian had once asked him ‘How is our Salesian Congregation and till when will it last’? Having this question in mind, the Rector Major shared that only if we are faithful to the charism of Don Bosco we will last and if we are faithful, then the Spirit will never fail us. He said that faithfulness to the Charism leads the Congregation with serenity. He stated this could be reason why our Congregation continues to be appreciated in the Church and loved by the Pope Francis.
The Rector Major said that Pope Francis is very appreciative of our Salesian Mission all over the world. In his last meeting with the Pope a few months ago, the Pope said that Salesians are doing reputable and sacrificing work all around the world. The Rector Major highlighted a note about the spirit of Salesian work which is admirable because of the special effort being made to be close with the young. He said that the Congregation as whole is ever ready to take up any peripheral parish or mission with the only condition that there be a vibrant presence of youngsters who deserve our service.
The Rector Major then went on to share some of the challenges being faced by the Salesian Congregation today. He commenced with the Irregular Situations in the Congregation and the urgent need of remedying the problem as early as possible. He then explained the difference of being a priest and being a Salesian. He also made a note that our Congregation was made up of 87% priests and 13% Salesian Brothers and cautioned that if confreres slowly start to lead a cosy and comfortable life, this could be very catastrophic for all of us.
The Rector Major stated the importance of sustaining the Salesian identity. He wanted the young confreres heart to be always in line with the heart for Don Bosco. He advised the young Salesians to be clear of the Charism of the Congregation and quoted Don Bosco’s prophetic letter from Rome to his sons written in 1884 which was still very relevant even today! The Rector Major felt that it was not right for a Salesian to keep on working without also witnessing to his consecration. Holiness is like perfume which people will automatically sense in our presence. He also asked us to be mature people which does not come just with age or by donning the cassock! He warned us about the invasion of individualism which has entered our Congregation. He quoted some recent incidents as examples for which the Congregation had suffered.
Clericalism and the thirst for power in the Congregation which was spoken about by Pope Francis is a real threat to consecrated persons. He stated that being a priest is a beautiful way of living our life but the feeling of being superior to others and demanding unlawful things is what Pope Francis meant by clericalism. It is also connected with seeking for power. If authority is used for service then it is beautiful but not otherwise. To command is good if it is done only with the heart of Don Bosco. All authority should be at the service of others. He insisted that we should not allow money and the temptation of power to affect the mission. The Rector Major asked us to be courageous, loyal and generous, and said that INM has experienced confreres and a good vision for a bright future. He said that we need to grow further in fidelity and in humility. He also encouraged us to walk always with young people and to never forget the marginalized youth.
He exhorted us once again about the missionary nature of the Congregation and he encouraged young confreres to be generous in opting for the Missions. He then thanked the confreres for their availability and ended the conference interacting with the confreres and answering their queries with elaborate detail. This was followed by the Holy Eucharist which he offered for the intentions of the INM Province and said that we will certainly face challenges in doing good, but by imitating Don Bosco and by being inspired by Pope Francis, we can continue to march ahead faithfully and successfully.