On 1st January 2006, my predecessor Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva, the Rector Major at that time introduced the yearly Strenna with a letter entitled: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years and in favour with God and man” (Lk 2,52). It was an invitation by the Rector Major to renew our commitment to the family, taking up the challenge issued by John Paul II to defend life through the family and also on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of Mamma Margaret, mamma of Don Bosco and a true mamma to the boys of the Oratory of Valdocco.
Ten years later I offer the whole Salesian Family around the world this new Strenna, which is meant to focus our attention on families in the most diverse situations in which we find ourselves. The subject has been suggested, and it could not be otherwise, by the priority that the Church wants to give to the need for ever greater and more appropriate pastoral care for families.
Pope Francis decided to devote two Synods to reflection on the « Family », following on from some of the pastoral ideas that he had proposed in the Apostolic Exhortation « Evangelii Gaudium » in 2013. There was the Extraordinary Synod in 2014 and the Ordinary one in 2015. After these Synods came the Apostolic Exhortation « Amoris Laetitia », signed by the Pope on 19 March this year 2016.
I think that this stage in the life of the Church that we are now living through demands that we the Salesian Family of Don Bosco give priority to the educative pastoral care that we need to devote to families around the Salesian world.
As is the case every year, the Strenna is addressed to each and every one of the members and of the groups of the Salesian Family, with the aim of making us more aware of our task and of our duty towards families, so that we may find practical ways of carrying out that service of accompaniment that is expected of us.
Someone might say : What does this have to do with us as the Salesian Family? It is relevant because we ourselves, as the Salesian Family of Don Bosco, are the first to whom this message is addressed, since we are well aware of the links that bind us together as a religious family. It is a family within which, while taking into account the diversity of our 31 groups (Congregations, Institutes of Consecrated Life, Societies of Apostolic life, Associations of the Faithful, etc.), the respective Constitutions, Regulations or Statutes present the family spirit and the family atmosphere as the constitutive element of our being, of our identity, and they make explicit reference to pastoral activity in the family and with families.
This helps us realise our responsibiity as the Salesian Family, a responsibility that in practical terms means that we cannot turn our gaze in a different direction to that which the Universal Church under the guidance of Pope Francis is strongly committed. It is a responsibility that demands that we as educators of boys and girls, teenagers and young people look through « Salesian eyes » at the real situation of families nowadays and in all humility offer our contribution.