Volume XXVII, Issue 5, Feb-March 2010

Editorial: A Plea for better Systems

Savio Silveira

It’s Chapter time again!

The final countdown for PC2010 has already begun and in just a few days we will be huddled together in the hallowed halls of Lonavla, solemnly charting out the future of our province.

So what phrase should we use to define this triennial exercise that whips up enormous amounts of intellectual and emotional energy, and swallows up inordinate amounts of time and resources? The Dickensian ‘Great Expectations’ or the Shakespearian ‘Much Ado About Nothing’? But we can decide that later.

As I look at the pile of PC2010 documents on my table which were presented to us by the Moderator at a recent meeting, my mind drifts back to PC2004, the Chapter I had the responsibility of steering. Those were exhilarating days! The PSP process had reached a crescendo; its findings were meticulously dissected and debated at endless Commission meetings and then painstakingly crafted into precise and persuasive documents. And after these documents had been reviewed, revised and redrafted by the Chapter, they were put to vote, article by article, section by section. Voilà...we heaved a collective sigh of relief, patted our backs on a task well accomplished, and jubilantly broke out into a song of gratitude. The province had been placed on the definite path to progress!

In an attempt to relive those poignant moments, I pulled out the province ‘Handy Kit’ from the shelf that carefully preserves those precious documents. As I eagerly leafed through the pages, I suddenly experienced a sinking feeling. All that fervour and frenzy of PC2004, those great expectations....was it just much ado about nothing?

Take the Madhya Maharashtra region for example. Our Salesians working there are constantly complaining that it is a neglected region, that the province has no plan for its growth, that it has witnessed no expansion beyond the borders of the Ahmednagar district. But the astonishing truth is that the documents contain a detailed plan for its development. And the Young at Risk sector, we keep lamenting that this sector is limping, with the province at large refusing to engage in it. And yet those same documents declare that every urban Salesian community will assess the situation of street and slum kids in their vicinity, and draw up an action plan to address it by July 2004. The Gujarat region... an Institute of Professional Education at Amodar, a Youth Hostel at Banswada...

The issue is not that we have failed to fulfil these commitments, but that we don’t even remember that we actually drew up these plans!

The reason for this sorry scenario, I would believe, is the absolute lack of good accountability systems. And yes, the non existence of sanctions. In any other place, heads would roll, pay cheques would take a cut, or at least a warning letter would be issued. But within the sacred space of our religious life, accountability and follow-up systems are yet to gain importance.

So could PC2010 please put in place a serious accountability system? Or is this too much to ask for?

Beginning a New Chapter

Michael Fernandes sdb

In just a short time we will be having our Provincial Chapter based on the theme: Return to Don Bosco with a Planning Mentality. Many of us will have many expectations from the chapter and will look forward to push some of our ideas on the floor of the chapter. We have met in communities and discussed issues and responded to the questionnaires sent to us. These have now been formulated into working documents for the chapter.

What would I expect from this chapter? In the first place I wish that we really return to Don Bosco. Both on the personal and community level we need to be faithful to our vows, moments of prayer and life in communities. This would involve following our personal plans, the community plans, the giornos, active participation in meetings, being present with the young, and a personal renewal of our lives. We have to come close to Jesus the Don Bosco way, by attending renewal and updating courses, retreats and taking responsibility for our personal growth.

Secondly, we have been talking of expansions in areas of the province. Two areas where we need to expand and give a good thrust are: firstly, moving into the Marathwada region that boarders Ahmednagar; and secondly, the YaR apostolate. For nearly twenty-five years we have worked in the Ahmednagar region and not moved to the equally poor areas of Aurangabad, Pharbani, Jalna, Beed etc. These districts figure on the list of the 100 poorest districts in the country and its literacy rate is the lowest in the State. BGVK has initiated some work in a few of the villages of Beed district, but the land we have since 1983 (Parbhani) and 1992 (Aurangabad) has been left unattended all these years. On the YaR front, the work has to be given a greater push, with more small centres coming up to attend to the growing needs and the various categories of the marginalized. Positive interventions should be made in the lives of the disadvantaged using the rights based approach.

Thirdly, I would envisage a good financial plan for self sufficiency in the houses and contributing to the needs of the province. Each house should work out ways and means of being self sufficient. The houses must optimize the use of their classrooms, buildings, playgrounds, halls, etc. There are volunteers, local benefactors, past pupils, companies and other donors who would like to help us if we present good projects. These need to be tapped. We cannot depend on the province for our needs most of the time. Proper budgeting, overseeing the works we do, looking for government funding, having recourse to agencies, projects for sponsors, justifiable spending, will help us manage our resources well.

Fourthly, we need to train the lay collaborators and members of the Salesian Family to assist us. Involving them as the animating nucleus will help us carry on our works in the years to come. These lay people should be trained in one of our centres and be conversant with the spirit, principles, methods and procedures we have in our institutions. Eventually they can collaborate with us more actively and even run some of our works. In some centres of higher learning, technical education and in social communications, they are already helping in a big way.

I do not know what turn the Provincial Chapter will take. It will largely depend on how well we discuss issues, accept suggestions, take up responsibilities, and be willing to carry out the projects owning responsibility for them. If we think wisely, discuss concretely and deliberate constructively, we will be able to see things happen in the coming years that will make our confreres and province revive and grow.

Challenges for Youth Ministry

Ajoy Fernandes sdb

The Youth Pastoral scene of our province is complex. We work in different settings in urban and rural areas: colleges, schools, technical institutes, boardings and hostels, shelters, parishes, youth centers and oratories. Further, there are different dimensions to youth ministry: education and culture, evangelization and catechesis, groups and movements, and vocation ministry. This Provincial Chapter aims at drawing up a structural plan that will indicate a thrust for our province over the next six years. Based on consultations with Salesians in various forums, I propose four areas of focus that might help operationalize the dimensions of our apostolate amidst concrete opportunities or challenges in our settings.

Educating the Marginalized to Life and Livelihood
DB-Tech India has helped access government schemes for training and obtaining employment for rural and urban youth who live below the poverty line. The challenge consists in creating backward linkages to youth in villages and slums; motivating them to access our training programs; scouting for areas of employment that are currently in demand in community, industrial and corporate settings; creating modules to match these skills together with life-coping skills; and fostering employment linkages.

Rural Catechesis and Evangelization in Urban Contexts
Many rural Catholic children in Maharashtra and Gujarat live far from their parish, attend government schools, and have limited access to a Catholic upbringing. The challenge is to create basic catechetical modules in the vernacular and impart them during the course of periodically scheduled camps, with follow-up in the villages. In the urban sector, evangelization could focus on creating among our school and college students an awareness of the needs of marginalized populations; and fostering outreach programs. Such initiatives would hopefully enable our students to think and act in socially responsible ways amidst the neighbourhood and future work situations.

Animating Groups and Movements with the Salesian Youth Spirituality (SYS)
We have groups such as altar servers, choirs, youth groups, sodalities, scouts, past pupils etc., functioning in various settings. We need to animate these groups across the province in a phased, organized and consistent manner by disseminating the SYS among i) Salesians, ii) collaborators and youth animators, and iii) youth groups; organizing regular meets; and camps and rallies at the local, regional and provincial levels to initiate a Salesian Youth Movement.

Fostering and Accompanying Vocation Candidates
A shift from vocation recruitment to vocation promotion and accompaniment consists in: identifying boys and collaborators amidst our various groups and outreaches who display a liking for our spirituality; inviting them to participate in our programs; accompanying them and their families through a discernment; and animating them together with other interested candidates before inserting them into our aspirantate or formation structures.

The challenge for the next six years consists in enhancing initiatives undertaken in the areas mentioned above by setting up adequate mechanisms; and establishing concrete targets and time-frames towards achieving our goals. Finally, we need to mold our systematic efforts into a movement in the service of youth, the Church and our Nation, in the Don Bosco Way.

Formation of Formators

Ivo Coelho sdb

The editor has asked me to put down my expectations of PC2010 on a single topic, such as that of formation.

My expectations are simple: I think the province should take seriously one master line of action in formation: formation of formators.

True, the Department of Formation in Rome has issued a letter on this topic, and has also conducted a longish course for select formators quite recently in Kolkata. However, it is also true that, when it comes to specifics, my impression is that the main issue tends to be skirted, or at least not dealt with at the depth that it deserves.

What I mean to say is that formation of formators is not so much a matter of attending more courses supplying an intellectual output. It has to take the shape of a practical experience, a therapy, and skills training.

By 'practical experience' and 'therapy' I mean probably the same thing: the first step in formation of formators is 'personal growth,' cleaning up one's own basement, undergoing therapy for oneself, becoming aware of one's own problems, tendencies, characteristics, personal history, owning it, and doing what one can to move towards healing. This may also require that formators access spiritual direction for themselves.

By 'skills training' I refer to training basically in personal counselling, formation skills, and spiritual direction. Training in counselling involves learning to listen (not only to words but also to what is not said, to feelings), give feedback, and so on. Training in what I am calling 'formation skills' would involve learning the art of 'participatory formation,' personalization, helping formees own the aims and processes of formation. Training in spiritual direction will build on these skills, but has a quite different finality: that of helping a person discover and follow God's will in his or her life; or, put differently, helping a person to put on the mind of Christ.

And by 'formators' I mean not only those confreres residing in places like Pune and Nashik, but also each Rector, and why not, each future Rector. We need to keep reminding ourselves that 'formation' includes not only 'initial' formation but also 'ongoing' formation.

But I think we should not also bite off more than we can chew.

So I would be happy if PC2010 can work out some system to ensure that a certain number of confreres receive preparation for the specific work of formation.

And there are excellent resources available in our own country: I am thinking of places like Atma Darshan, Patna; Atma Darshan, Andheri - Mumbai; Sadhana, Lonavla; NVSC, Pune; perhaps our own Don Bosco Renewal Centre, Bangalore; and so on.
Inviting someone like Selvaratnam, OMI from Sri Lanka to conduct courses for formators (and not merely lectures) would be a very good idea; and if he is unable to come to India, why not, we could think of sending people to him in Sri Lanka. It would be a worthwhile investment. Or again, there are people like Sr Cynthia Gonsalves, FMM, who I think has either finished or should be finishing her term of office as General Councillor of her congregation. Cynthia used to be a valued resource person at the then DBYP, Bangalore, and I remember she gave us an excellent 10 day formation of formators course in Hyderabad.

Why the Provincial ‘Chapter’ does not make it to Book form

Adolph Furtado sdb

There certainly is a logical flow to the whole business, but is there any logic left in what we do? We open a chapter, but then we cannot conclude it. Here is a synopsis of the book that might have been.

The Provincial convokes the eagerly awaited Chapter.

The Council seriously deliberates on the appointment of the Moderator, and sometimes, when they see the need, a deputy too.

Rectors at their annual meeting debate the thrust of the Chapter with great earnestness.

A Preparatory Commission for the Chapter is constituted, with just the right mix of youth and experience, not forgetting the equations of regional balance. Commissions create series of documents for debate and deliberations.

Local communities get into gear, ensuring that grass roots consultation is strictly adhered too. Delegates are elected, creating invisible but palpable degrees of acceptance and rejection among Confreres.

Finally, all the members of the Provincial Chapter assemble together - mostly with great enthusiasm. This is often accompanied by some with an air of self-importance that seems at times disproportionate to the fact that some members were elected after multiple attempts, in a very tired ballot.

The Chapter gets underway. Inside the hall, a series of debates take centre stage, in turn, seriously heated and seriously humorous. There certainly are equal amounts of hot air and cold stares. Everyone stays assuredly focused on the topic at hand. Syntaxes and nuances are assiduously deliberated upon…

Much paperwork gets accomplished and many passions are aroused as the voting comes closer.

Everybody that is anybody elaborates on his experience and expresses his knowledge with great élan.

The feeling that a new era is dawning reverberates in the air: it rejuvenates and almost re-founds the province, if not the congregation.

At the end, most members are most enthusiastic about having achieving the desired goals.

The much needed ‘feel good factor’ has been eminently achieved.

Everyone goes home with good feelings.

And when they reach home, they do exactly as they please.

The End.

Are we willing to change?

Ashley Miranda sdb

GC26 has invited us Salesians to return back to Don Bosco. Now, returning back to Don Bosco to rediscover who he was is a commendable thing. Celebrating the person of Don Bosco, feeling proud of his achievements and that of his Salesian congregation over these last 150 years since its founding is perfectly legitimate. But we need to remember that we want to go back in order to be able to go forward with new enthusiasm and energy; in the words of Khalil Gibran, we seek to rediscover our roots in order to find our wings. Returning back to the back is a common sense strategy, remaining there is sentimentalism.

GC26 challenges us to trust the power of Providence as deeply as Don Bosco did and launch out exploring new frontiers in the service of the young, those at risk, the Church and the world at large. It suggests to us that we need to focus not only on what we do but how we do it. Specifically this means viewing the young not merely as beneficiaries of our work but as partners in their own development and growth. It means moving from the welfare model in our apostolate with the poor and the marginalised to one that focuses on their basic rights as human persons. GC 26 invites us to prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead by taking personal responsibility for our own formation, paying special attention to the formation of our young confreres, strengthening our bonds as community especially through an attitude of openness to the word of God, a commitment to community prayer and the joyful celebration of the Eucharist, and seeking to make the Salesian family not just a collection of like minded persons sharing the same sympathies, but a vast movement of persons committed to the integral welfare of the young.

The province of Mumbai had its first session of its Provincial Chapter 2010 on October 1st, 2009. The second session is scheduled for February 22nd to February 27th, 2010. In the intervening time the various commissions set up during the first session met a number of times to work together and formulate documents containing objectives and lines of actions connected with various aspects of our life and apostolate as Salesians of the Province of Mumbai. Working drafts of these documents have come in and the first impression one gets is that a good amount of serious work has gone into their formulation. During the second session of the chapter we hope to put these documents together into one cohesive whole and come up with an Overall Provincial Plan for the province to guide its life and action over the next six years. The chances are that we will put together a fairly decent document that will give us much satisfaction.

The question is what happens after the Overall Provincial Plan is formulated and put in place? The real yardstick to judge the success or failure of PC2010 will not be how smoothly the discussion went or how elegant our document was. Instead what we do after the chapter will determine whether PC2010 was time well spent or just an unethical waste of precious time, paper and resources. The question we need to ask ourselves now before the second session of PC2010 and surely after it as well is do we feel the need for change? What is it we are willing to change? Are we willing to make the sacrifices necessary and pay the price, if any, of change? Going forward, discovering new frontiers, exploring new horizons demands first of all an openness of mind and heart, the courage and the discipline to accept the challenges that these new frontiers place before us.

Hopefully PC2010 will not merely give us another document that occupies a quite space in our offices or becomes one more addition to the volumes in our libraries. Instead may PC2010 be an expression of our desire to rediscover the spirit of Don Bosco in our own day and our courageous willingness to reinterpret His charism anew for the young and the marginalized.

The ‘Right’ Approach to Development

Greg Almeida sdb

In earlier times there seemed to be close to no connection between Human Rights and Development programmes. However, today, this has clearly changed. We realize that, both, Human Rights and Development programmes aim at promoting well being and freedom, based on the inherent dignity and equality of all people. In fact, this close connection between the two has led to the emergence of the Rights Based Approach to development. The Rights Based Approach is fast becoming the most preferred method to development work since it is people centred, it has large scale impacts and is sustainable.

A key element in this approach is Empowerment and Participation. Looking back at our development works in Gujarat and M.P, one notices that we only met with a limited amount of success during the past years. For example, the SHG programme had a very narrow focus: saving and lending. The group members were busy with their petty affairs and hence the groups did not make any significant impact on their villages.

It was only after we took up the ‘Governance Project’ in June 2009, that we have begun to see new life and energy in these groups. There is now much stress on the Empowerment and Participation of people in Panchayati Raj Institutions, especially in the Gram Sabhas. The Governance Project aims at empowering rural communities to participate fully in local self governance and thereby access the institutions and policies that are meant to serve them. Several steps have been taken during these past months to ensure the proper implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the villages where we are working. The next challenge is to make the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan function in these villages.

Thanks to the Governance Project, we have started moving away from the Charity model and towards the Empowerment model of development work. With the people getting empowered, village leaders and government officials like the Sarpanch and the Talatis are now realizing that they have to perform their duties and also become accountable. The Social Audits that were recently carried out in many of our villages have been a wake up call, both, to the people and the leaders. Even school children have been made aware of their rights and have begun participating in the Gram Sabhas and other village meetings.

The time has definitely come to make the Rights Based Approach the ‘official method’ of all the development works taken up in our province and the forthcoming Provincial Chapter would be a good time to deliberate on this issue. It is only when people are truly empowered to participate fully in local governance that our villages and our country will be on the sure path to development.

Value Education In Youth Ministry

Isaac Arackaparambil sdb

On the eve of New Year 2010, I was in Pransla, a remote village about 65 kms away from Porbandhar. The Universal Solidarity Movement of Value Education for Peace (USM) of Fr. Varghese Alengaden and team had invited me to give a talk at their 41st KNIT INDIA programme. It is an annual national meet where schools all over the country which are associated with USM send their students for a USM family live-in, and it serves as a follow-up to the activities initiated by this movement in these schools. There were 11 schools that came from places like Nanital, Uttarakhand, Allahabad, Agra, Secundra, Lucknow, Ujjain, Raisen, Vidharba, Ahwah and Jolikot. It was a beautiful experience where I witnessed first hand the fruits of USM ministry with youngsters. They were students from 7 to11 standards belonging to diverse faith traditions of India. What impressed me most was the enthusiasm, the maturity, the motivation, and the focus of these school going youngsters. The entire programme was geared towards inspiring enlightened leadership and responsible citizenship. The students reciprocated our inputs with openness and eagerness to make a difference. They were concrete in their resolutions for self-transformation with a dream to transform the world. Their own testimonies of personal transformation in the process of cultivating the spirituality of this movement ever since it was initiated in their schools, served as great inspirational value for all the participants.

I have been actively involved in the ministry of value education since the last three years in my capacity as director of our animation centre Amrut Dhara in Gujarat. My humble assessment of the receptivity that I experience from the students and teachers of our own schools is that they tend to be very distracted and unfocused. It would be unfair to blame them for this, and is an invitation for us to do a little soul searching. My observation is that we do, and we get our teachers to do a lot of activities with our youngsters (sports, drama, music, tuitions, coaching, homilies, good morning and good night talks, value education classes, etc) but they often end up as activities with no clear focus. The students may pick up skills that help them become confident and expressive, but it does not necessarily determine whether they are able to articulate a vision for life. Value education is treated as one more academic subject for which exams are conducted. After conducting value education seminars, and teacher training seminars, I keep wondering what the effect is on our own students and teachers. I often get the feeling that our own students and teachers, unlike others, do not really value the programmes but go through the movements as though one more programme was organized, one more good morning or good night talk was delivered, and ‘we had to sit through it’.

What we need in our province, is to clarify our vision by which we have a clear cut agenda as to where we want to take our youngsters, in this case those who are schooling in our institutions. The same can be said of all kinds of ministry. We need to create systems of follow up specially in regard to value education or other training seminars, something like the KNIT INDIA programme. We have been tying up with companies as a follow up to the training we give in the technical sector of our work. We have roped in experts to guide us while going through the PSP-PRA process. These are bold and valuable initiatives and are bearing very good fruits. The need of the hour in my opinion is to tie up with people who already have follow-up systems in place when it comes to the domain of vision orientation and value education. One such partner I would like to suggest is the Universal Solidarity Movement of Value Education for Peace. Since our PC 2010 intends to draw up the structural plan for the province for the next 5 years, a good initiative would be to invite the USM to animate us at all levels: confreres, teachers and students. The province of Calcutta has already moved in this direction. What’s stopping us?

New Frontiers in Vocation Ministry

Brian Moras sdb

‘Vocation ministry’ aims at enabling every young person understand what God wants him/her to do in his/her life. Within this broader spectrum, our vocation ministry focuses more specifically on helping young people understand if God is calling them to the Religious or Salesian way of life. Today, responding to this ‘Call’ has become challenging for a variety of reasons: for example, the families are generally getting smaller with just one or two children, especially in the cities. But in spite of this, we believe that God is still calling people to religious life. We are also looking for quality vocations in a time of scarcity. In my experience, we need to focus more on the following approaches to be effective in this ministry:

Community Service, Volunteer Movements
Religious life by itself is service oriented. We will need to give our youngsters an experience of service, generosity and sacrifice. This would help them to reflect on a deeper level and discern God’s call for them. They could be made to help out as Volunteers for a week at least, in-service ventures, examples of these could be: the evening study classes/ following up the studies of the weaker boarders/ helping out with street children/ volunteering for a month in the rural areas of Ahmednagar or Gujarat. The key is to guide them during these processes and help them to reflect on these experiences together with the group.

When a youngster has this meaningful experience, the chances are that he may discover a liking to this ministry and possibly discern God’s call to this way of life. This would work wonderfully with senior youngsters (post X and working youth).

‘Each one, get one’
We need youngsters from our own parishes and institutes to join us. For this we need to help them discern God’s plan in their lives. For the last six years our track record has been poor; just one or a maximum of two youngsters joining the Aspirantate at Lonavla, and that too from just a few of our Parishes and Institutes.

We have heard it so often, “Every Salesian is a Vocation Promoter”. The good thing about this is, ‘it is true’, and our Vocation by itself has this dimension. I have been reminding my confreres in the Provincial House. “Follow up at least one probable vocation for the year”, and they have promised to do their bit!

It would be ideal if we could be spiritual guides to these youngsters, without using this terminology. We need to meet them for a meaningful chat every month and check on their progress, i.e., apart from meeting them in class, on the corridors and on the playground. A visit to their family would complete the process. The Rectors would need to remind the community members about this obligation.

A Community member responsible for Vocations
It would be very important to have a member of the community (need not necessarily be the Rector) who scouts for vocations in the locality . Studies show that congregations who work for Vocations, get the maximum numbers. We would also need to keep in mind that God calls the unqualified and qualifies them for the mission. Jesus had a preferential love for the simple and the unqualified. Most of his followers were ordinary fishermen. Today too, the best youngsters rarely join us; it is usually the simple and the average youngsters who do. In this ministry focus more on the simpler youngster and empower him.

At the National Level, for some years now, we have been having Inter Provincial vocation camps, wherein Vocation Promoters from other provinces can come to the guest province (with due permission from the guest province provincial) and scout for vocations. This phenomenon is not known to most in our province. At the ‘National Vocation Promoters and Directors Meeting’ at Chennai in November 2009, we had a discussion about these camps and the protocol that needs to be followed.

We have also realized that there is a possibility of getting post X and XII vocation probables from the Trichy and Chennai Provinces (Two attempts had been made earlier by our Province, but have failed to bear fruit due to various reasons). The good news is that the Vocation Directors of these Provinces are open to this possibility, though they have some recommendations.

I believe it would be healthy to recruit good youngsters from these regions. If they fit in well, they could enrich the group with their commitment and enthusiasm. A mixture of cultures in the one common mission is always healthy. We are also fortunate to have confreres in our Province, who are willing to try recruiting youngsters from the Chennai and Trichy provinces. This would imply that we need to be open to accommodate these youngsters at Lonavla.

As scripture says,
How will they know unless they hear,
How will they hear unless someone tells them?
It’s time to move more daringly in challenging youngsters to answer God’s Call.
As history shows us that we either ‘Evolve or we Erode’.

PC 2010 @ Don Bosco.org

Ronald Menezes sdb

Come February and we shall be having our Provincial Chapter. Our focus this time will be “Going back to Don Bosco”. A fitting theme indeed as we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the founding of our Congregation. As I look forward to the forthcoming Chapter and the decisions that would effect us for the next six years, it is my earnest desire that this Chapter would help me and all of us in the province truly to “Celebrate Don Bosco”. I would like to, “Celebrate Don Bosco in his Prayer, Celebrate Don Bosco in his vision and mission, Celebrate Don Bosco in his love for youth”.

In this article however, I would like to focus on “Celebrating Don Bosco the Internet Way”. A reflection on the Social Communication Ministry in our province.

Article 6 of our Constitutions lays emphasis on the fact that, ‘Social Communication is one of the priority fields for the Salesian Mission’. Don Bosco realized that a consecrated Salesian life would be useless if it could not be communicated and proposed to others. He used the means that were available at his time viz., the print media to provide valid means of knowledge and formation, for realizing at the same time an effective process of education and evangelization, and for involving young people themselves as apostles in the spreading of good books.

Forty years ago, Len Kleinrock, UCLA, who sent the first message on September 2, 1969, wrote: “I am not surprised that the Internet provides anyone the ability to connect….I am surprised at how far the Internet has penetrated every fabric of our lives and society”.

A mission tool that we have today in this area of Communication is the Internet. Given the possibilities it offers and its efficacy, not to engage in proclamation using the Internet would be a grave loss. Not only do we speak of being the message but also carrying forward the message to as many as possible in the most effective and powerful manner as possible. However, this entails that we as communicators are convinced ourselves of the message that we are “communicating”. Or else there will be no difference between a non-Christian operating the Internet and us, Salesians doing the same.

The Church has now recognized its interactive nature in communication. The Church considers the Internet as a gift of God. Hence, we do not view the Internet only as a source of problems; we see it as a source of benefits to the human race. Some of the possibilities and parameters in cyber ministry today are:

Blogs: it has everything that you can look for in a newspaper. Sometimes, even more. Once you log into a blog site, you become a blog journalist! It is an apt forum to share your faith with others, and enrich your own in return. Faith needs to be shared and transmitted. It is active, conscious and alive.

Websites and Mobile: a website is an apt tool to communicate with people from all walks of life and reach out to a wider network in one’s ministry. We could also introduce gospel ministries through emails. There are yahoo-groups and gmail-groups available to send to a selected group of email subscribers on topics. It is an interactive forum for sharing one’s views and news on a particular topic that is fixed by the group.

SMS is an easy way to begin the SMS ministry in the cellular world. It is the world of the young today. With a little investment in the network, one can send free SMS to quite a number of mobiles realizing much good work among the young (Word Of God a day, a thought a day, food for thought etc.)

Standardized homilies with stories and incidents happening all over the world have become popular due to the Internet. The first part of these Internet homilies are useful to interpret and understand the Word of God, but to apply it to ‘this’ people, local homilies are important. The priest needs to apply the Word of God to his people here and now.

A major drawback is that the Internet is not available to all because it requires electricity, a computer and at least, a telephone connection. However, the number of Internet users is fast growing, even in India, thanks to the multiplying Internet cafes across the country. The major bulk of Internet users are young people, and this is natural given the newness and technological back up of the medium. Internet is going to be with us in a big way before long, just as TV invaded the Indian homes after the 70’s.

Our Provincial Chapter would do well to put in place what Fr. Veechi said a long time ago (AGC 370, p.24ff) viz., to put in place an adequate formation process in the area of social commu

nication; if our skills do not keep pace with the changes, sooner or later we shall be left behind. It appears as though we are already lagging. What is required therefore is:

A basic Formation: to train every Salesian of our province to be able to make good use of the new media and to be able to do so in a discerning manner.

For animators and workers in the education and pastoral fields: training not merely in the ability to use the media skillfully but imbibing a sense of inculturation, of education and pastoral action within the new culture of the media.

Formation for specialists: some confreres and lay people must be prepared in the field of social communication to provide expertise, help and guidance where needed.

I must admit that this article has a bias to the urban setting. We need to keep in mind that the medium must appeal to the audience, and if street theatre and puppet shows get the message across in a rural setting, the Internet can take a back seat, even as we enter the 2nd decade of the 21st century.

Finally all of us, and especially those involved in media apostolate, must keep in mind that possessing technologies does not make us good communicators. On the contrary they can be a hindrance to real communication. That is why it is said, ‘more the media, less the communication’. Many of us possess valuable technological gadgetry for personal use, but hardly for apostolic purposes. No technology, however brilliant, can substitute committed manpower. Education through modern technology cannot do away with basic values of truth, love, service and justice. Without a deep commitment to the cause of the people, to evangelization and proclamation of the Word of God, modern technologies can only confuse and divide.

EVOLVE or ERODE: The ‘S’ Factor

Glenn Lowe sdb

Chapters come… Chapters go. What remains after everything else has faded away will be what I call the ‘S’ factor. Every Congregation/ Organization passes through four stages of development. Through 150 years the Salesians have gone through three such stages: SEED – TREE – FOREST. Then what? What has the fourth stage in store for us?

Stage ONE is the Entrepreneurial stage and the focus is on Viability. In Salesian terms we call it the SEED stage. A dream, a passionate Johnny Bosco backed by a divine intervention and Salesian life is born.

Stage TWO is the Emerging stage and the focus is on Credibility. In Salesian terms we call it the TREE stage. Recognized by State and Church the small band of Salesians becomes ‘leaven’ in the world of the Young.

Stage THREE is the Established stage and the focus is on Stability. The thick of the FOREST is seen in our expansion across the globe. The vast movement of peoples in the Salesian Way.

Stage FOUR is EVOLVE or ERODE. The focus is on vulnerability. Return to roots and Mission or crumble. This Provincial Chapter must be a call to rise to a higher purpose or perish. It is here that the ‘S’ factor will determine our course. ‘S’ for ‘Significant Salesians’ or ‘Superficial Sons’
PC2010 must be an avenue for us as a province to make ‘S’ choices:
To shun the ‘Spectacular’ and choose the more ‘Simple’ ways of reaching out
To move out of our ‘Stagnation’ and ‘Stretch for more Surprise’.
To abandon our ‘Superficial’ activities and get started on ‘Spirited’’ apostolate
To seek less the quest for ‘Success’ and attract more ‘Significance’
To reduce the ‘Sound’ barrier and love more ‘Silence’ that leads to reflection
To realize the weakness of ‘Single’ mentality and believe in the strength of ‘Synergy’
To reorganize our ‘Support-based’ works to become ‘Sustainable’ movements of peoples
To give up our ‘Selfish’ interests and generate more ‘Stewardship’
To bask in the ‘Sunshine’ of a daring future rather than dwell in the ‘Shadow’ of our past.
To discover that amidst the ‘Secular’ we can touch the ‘Spiritual’
On a personal level, love for more ‘Sobriety’ than a ‘Superfluous’ lifestyle
And finally, ‘S’ for ‘Salesian Spirituality’ … the essence of it all.

Our Rector Major says, “We should never forget that young people are not a pastime for us nor a work to be done as quickly as possible and in any old way. Young people are our mission, they are our raison d'etre, our ‘theological place’ (cf SDB C. 95), they are our way of experiencing God and our sanctification, since they are part of our inheritance.” He continues, “It is about going to meet them, their needs, their aspirations, meeting up with them gladly in their daily life, being attentive to their appeals, ready to know their world, give life to their activity and involvement, awakening their sense of God, proposing to them ways to holiness according to Salesian spirituality (cf GC 26).

In the absence of these ‘S’ factor choices, the forest will soon be DE-FORESTED. Cynics tell us that the life span of any congregation is just 200 years.
Is this chapter going to be a ‘SAVE the SOCIETY’ campaign or better still can we “SPIRAL the SOCIETY” to a higher plane of living and being Salesian?
YES we CAN. ‘S’ we can … ‘S’ we can

Youth Services Today… Are We Wired?

Chris Valentino sdb

It is always a sticky situation fraught with great risk when trying to jot down a few points on a topic which is close to so many hearts, especially more so when speaking about ‘the category’ for our existence, moving and being as Salesians. However, since this opportunity has been accorded me, I willingly seize it to put forth what I perceive as the direction our youth work must now take… considering the fact that very soon the PC2010 will be officially upon us, if not already!

Thinking of the emergent developments in the world today and particularly their impact on the youngsters of today, I personally feel that it is high time we begin thinking on a possible course of action with set targets, plausible solutions and newer mindsets. A clear policy, a coordinated effort, a process of animation with appropriate settings and the inevitable outcomes need to be urgently studied and implemented. The need of the hour is to ask ourselves: What makes an effective youth worker and how could I help the young people to enjoy their life, while raising their expectations and aspirations?

The world of today is caught in a flux… youngsters are in a transition phase… traditional models of security and value are fast collapsing in a massive heap. There is a perceivable mismatch between established models of transition and the actual transition that is taking place… attitudes, characteristics, experiences are all going in for a toss! Significant socio-economic changes coupled with political unrest are throwing up increasing uncertainty, unpredictability and risk. The shaping of young minds is no longer what it used to be a few years ago. There is now a strong-emphasis on the ‘live-earn-spend-save-spend-die’ lifestyle which only adds, increase pressures and expectations. The speed at which things are happening is, well, just to use the phrase that most youngster use these days – awesome! Perhaps ‘our icebergs are melting?’

Hence, my young friends are indeed living in a changing world. It is changing for me and it is definitely changing more for them. Each new day brings newer discoveries, newer innovations, newer possibilities of living than did their parents and elders. The things that matter are career, doing well, earning money (however that may be), having a steady income, developing friendships (includes one-night stands, no compulsion-quick-fixes), and most importantly just enjoy, party, live (if not, die instantly)! Invented identities, virtual selves, online personalities… it can go on and it can only get more confusing for those among us who are not willing to catch up!

Hence, as a youth worker, as an educator I would want to create pathways, an environment where identities are respected, where there is health, well being, physical and emotional safety. I would look at a paradigm shift, a perspective shift, an intervention model that would seek to understand, empathise and ultimately help.

Perhaps our ability to bridge the gap or narrow the divide between our policy v/s our practices is the only answer. Perhaps all the while we have followed the ‘top-down’ intervention model… the time has now come to implement the ‘bottom-up’ interventional model. We can’t simply go on with our dichotomous models of functioning and educating. Or perhaps we may need to combine these models, and thereby effectively affect our youngsters while empowering, encouraging and guiding them.

In this respect, when we look at the Youth Ministry in our province it is not only or it need not only be ‘youth-fests,’ ‘altar-servers rallies’ or some type of gathering whereby we can pride ourselves or pat ourselves, feeling elated that we have achieved some success! We ought to look beyond these, far beyond mere gathering of youngsters for some game or activity. What are the processes we have evolved or what are the interventions that we have pioneered or are we just flogging some dead horse as youth work?

A few pointers would help:
§ Every institute must engage in introspection, with regard to specifics such as target group, projectible outcomes, scalable deliverables and the changing perspectives.
§ Youth Development ought to be our priority. Perhaps it needs to be completely unshackled from its confused, unclear, chaotic and oftentimes vague processes. Clear strategies and the pertinent methodologies need to be defined.
§ At some level, the young people with and for whom we work need to be taken into consideration. We have to involve our parents, teachers, etc. to create systems for implementation and education, beginning with commensurate training and processes which will include our young people right from the planning stages to the final outcome stage.
§ Eminently sustainable activities that will lead to livelihood skills and better livelihood need to be focused on.

Perhaps the positive form of our prevention system is promotion. Promotion can be the new prevention if we understand it as the effort to advance positive youth development. Can we not promote wellness, optimization of development assets? Can we not promote the essential qualities of life: bonding, resilience, life-competencies, self- determination, self-efficacy, clear positive identity, belief in future, recognize pro-social involvement, spirituality? We are called to preventive intervention, which in a newer parlance could mean promotive intervention. Why not? New forces are emerging… let us look at new beginnings, structural changes and perspective shifts. Whether it be the categorized aspects of Higher Education, Catechesis, Human Rights, Neighbourhood Apostolates and the Young-at-Risk or the broad spectrum of youth in general, we definitely need a rethink!

Formation Of Hearts And Minds

Valerian Pereira sdb

As a Province, we are very much concerned with the dearth of vocations. Naturally, the decrease in numbers has evoked a great deal of discussion, and theories abound as to why young people are not enthused by religious life. Some suggest that young people are too self-centered, too materialistic, unable to make a lifetime commitment. Others suggest that parents have failed to pass on the faith adequately, failed to encourage their children to consider vocations to religious life. To lay the blame on one or the other is rather unfair. I propose that as we prepare for the Provincial Chapter, we should engage in a little soul searching. Let us be grateful for the numbers we have and let our formative environments help them develop as mature men in service of the Church.

When I think of the term ‘formation’, what immediately comes to mind is the seeking to prepare men/women to be bridges for, not obstacles to, the spread of the Gospel. The identity to be fostered in the candidate is that he/she becomes a man/woman of communion, that is, someone who makes a gift of self and is able to receive the gift of others. Here one needs integrity and self-possession in order to make such a gift. The capacity to be fostered is the affective ability to engage in pastoral leadership with Jesus as the model Shepherd. Hence our formation and our formative environments should have the following characteristics:

Formation that Helps Personalization
Human formation programmes should begin with the assumption that the candidates have the potential to move from self-preoccupation to an openness to transcendent values and a concern for the welfare of others; a history of sound and rewarding peer relationships; an ability to be honest with themselves and with others; and an ability to trust the Church and the agents of formation. Formation should be geared to enable the candidate make sound prudential judgments; develop a sense of responsibility and personal initiative; develop a capacity for courageous and decisive leadership; an ability to establish and maintain wholesome friendships; and an ability to work in a collaborative, professional manner with men and women, forgoing self-interest in favour of collaborative efforts.

Formation towards Creating Human Communities
As religious, our mission suffers due to divisions created by us on the basis of caste and linguistic narrowness. What makes me a religious is not just the common ownership of goods, or my being unmarried. What makes me a religious is my being an agent of communion, reconciliation and forgiveness wherever I go. Can our formation work towards this aim?

Formation to Leadership
Our culture promotes ‘authority figures’ and ever so often these figures resent being challenged or criticised. Unthinkingly, we could bring into religious life paternalistic or autocratic patterns of behaviour and define obedience in terms of the “subjects” doing what the “superior wants”, rather than build a community of adults seeking to discern the common mission and fulfil it responsibly. Many superiors fear criticism and challenge, and feel threatened by persons who think differently. Religious communities often have an unwritten agenda to stay immature, in perennial adolescence, and worship mediocrity rather than excellence. Could we give an honest reflection to this task of walking with our candidates rather than directing them?

Formation to Mission
Very often we claim to know what the poor need, take decisions for them, give them what we think they need. They are generally not consulted about what we want to do for them. Don’t we assume that we know better about what is good for them? Isn’t it time to consult the poor, learn from them, treat beneficiaries as subjects of decisions rather than as objects of charity? This demands a change of perspective in us, and will lead to big changes, both personal and structural, in our works.

Formation to Justice
Our formation is devoted towards bandaging the wounds of the victims of the system, rather than to challenge and change the system. Can we reflect with our candidates on ways to network, challenge and change unjust social, political and religious structures?

Formation to Affective Maturity
Our formation should aim towards the affective maturity of the candidate. Certain habits or skills are necessary instruments on the path to effective and healthy celibate chastity, and these are to be encouraged in our formative programmes. Among these habits and skills are appropriate self- disclosure, a cultivated capacity for self-reflection, an ability to enter into peaceful solitude, vigilance over one’s impulses and drives, and a capacity to give and receive feedback.

Formation to Simplicity and Honesty
Human formation should cultivate a spirit of generosity, encouraging the candidate to become a man for others and to curb expectations of entitlement. Manifestations of undue materialism and consumerism in behaviour should be confronted and corrected. The formation programme should articulate the distinctive qualities of simplicity of life appropriate for one preparing for religious life. Simplicity and Honesty are particularly important in our own age when human needs and desires are so consciously manipulated and exploited.

In conclusion,
I believe that our candidates do have their faults, but on the whole, this generation of young adults are generous, spiritually hungry, seeking truth, and longing for community. They too desire to answer the universal call to holiness. We should also accept that our candidates are a cynical, “show me” generation, looking for the reality beyond the rhetoric, platitudes and religious jargon. They are turned off by people who ‘talk the talk’ without ‘walking the walk’. Our formation should convey the message that we are much more than just a well-intentioned social-service organization that supports the individual good works of their members. We are rather God-centered communities that enthusiastically act in the name of the Church, and promote through our works for the young the universal call to holiness.