Dear Salesians Cooperators, dear Delegates FMA and SDB,
Today, the Association of Salesians Cooperators celebrates 144 years since its foundation on 9 May 1876.
The Preface to the Project of Apostolic Life reads:
“From the very start, Don Bosco thought about organizing the “co-helpers” of his work. He invited lay people, men and women, and members of the diocesan clergy, to” cooperate “in his mission of salvation of young, especially of those who are poor and abandoned. In 1876, he clearly defined their project of life in the “Regulations for the Salesian Cooperators” which he himself wrote and which were then approved by the Church. Today Salesians Cooperators are spread throughout the world and work at that level.”
Our father Don Bosco thought of us as Salesians who could carry out their mission of salvation for young people outside the (Salesian) works in the secular world, according to their own living conditions.
It has been 144 years that we have embodied the “outgoing Church” that Pope Francis is constantly asking to be today.
Like every anniversary, it is the time to remember the long journey made in this almost one and half century.
In these years, the Association has changed because the ages it has gone through have been different.
The event that has marked a new era for our Association was the advent of Vatican Council II, in which the laity took an important role in the life of the Church.
In the following years, a process of renewal began which led, in 1986, to the approval of the Regulations of Apostolic Life (RVA), keeping the Association firmly anchored in the original idea of Don Bosco, but placing itself with impetus towards the challenges of society of those years.
We have grown in numbers and presences in the world, but no less importantly, awareness of our vocation as responsible lay people in the Church, capable of carrying out significant pastoral action, is growing.
From the 90s onwards the world changes rapidly in politics, in the social, with new technologies, scientific research and the Salesian Cooperators cannot lag behind, therefore there is a need to study a new regulation that can be outfit with a modality, which allows an agile adaptability to epochal changes.
In 2013 the Project of Apostolic Life (PAL) of the Association of Salesians Cooperators was definitively approved, which brings with it two substantial innovations that characterize our Association in this century.
The first one: we are no longer Salesian Cooperators but “Salesians Cooperators”, it is not just a lexical change but above all a change of substance, the vocational peculiarity of being Salesians is highlighted.
The second one: it is a “Life Project”, not a set of norms but a guide to keep the whole Association within the track traced out by Don Bosco 144 years ago, offering for the Salesians Cooperators a point of reference from which to draw always new lymph for one’s life and mission as Salesians.
Looking at today, we are celebrating our anniversary at a particular moment that the whole world is experiencing.
We are in the midst of a Coronavirus pandemic, which is strongly affecting our personal, family and associative lives.
Many of us are working in terms of both economic and material solidarity, caring about who is in need in these difficult times.
As Salesians, we are called to give a testimony of hope for all situations in our realities.
Many took action by exploiting the new communication technologies to keep relationships alive with the greater number of Salesians Cooperators.
Let us unleash our Salesian creativity in order to reach the Salesians Cooperators of our Centers in every way.
The look to the future starts from the end of the 5th World Congress in October 2018 in which we had identified the priority challenge:
“Walking together with young people towards a new more Christian and human society that is often marked by the lack of a sense of life, human dignity, family crises, socio-economic situations and new technologies.”
The pandemic will pass and returning to everyday life this challenge will be more valid than ever for the further changes that contemporary society will have undergone due to this emergency.
But these challenges will represent growth opportunities for each of us and for the whole Association, to the extent that we know how to work in a network.
We will have to share experiences, raise awareness of the Association’s global dimension, to increase the sense of belonging.
To feel a wide dimension on a global scale gives tranquility and trust.
In this difficult moment, we celebrate our 144 years with a loud cry of hope asking Mary Help of Christians, the Lady of difficult times, to support us being sure that She will not miss her help.
Let us go forward with courage and humility, together we can do it.