Sassone (Italy). From 1 to 5 July 2022, took place at the “the Carmel” vacation house in Sassone, Rome 12° International VIDES Congress on the theme: “VIDES culture of reciprocity. Foundations of the Common House. Young protagonists of change”.
The Congress opened on 1 July with a parade of the flags of each participating country, accompanied by the enthusiasm and joy of the young people of VIDES. The event was attended by 120 representatives of local VIDES from 32 countries around the world, and over 40 participants connected online.
With the opening greeting, the General Director, Sr. Annecie Audate, FMA, opened the event:
“We are called here to listen, discern, and live a synodal experience together, to find strength and wisdom and thus face the countless challenges that assail us in the current historical moment. We are here to defend the dignity of humanity, to promote the integral development of peoples, and to meet the material and spiritual needs of many members of our human family. We cannot carry out this mission individually, … but only by coordinating ideas, always working in unity, animated by a spirit of communion and collaboration with other associative institutions, religious congregations, groups and movements, and the great Salesian Family”.
Welcoming the participants, the President, Mr. Guido Barbera underlined that “VIDES is a concrete and visible exercise, a good practice, a testimony that the ‘human family’ is possible and is the only way to overcome every type of conflict and pandemic”.
Sr. Runita Borja, General Councilor for Youth Ministry of the FMA Institute joined the initial greetings. She highlighted the central role of young people and how each of the participants represented many people, “those of your associative group and the very numerous other people you constantly meet in the generous mission of VIDES Volunteers. During the Congress, keep those faces, those stories, those encounters, their names, their cry, their dreams in your heart and mind. You be their voice”.
There was also the greeting from Mother Chiara Cazzuola, Superior General of the FMA Institute, who said, “It is a very important moment of encounter and restarting reflection and planning to consolidate the mutual relationship between VIDES and the Institute itself, for defining the strategic and operational guidelines of the Groups, starting from the conclusions of the XXIV General Chapter. It is also significant because it takes place in the year in which we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the FMA Institute. … We are experiencing a rapid cultural and social change that affects the transformation of society and requires a new role for volunteering. From these choices, the ability to be present and protagonists of change will grow and develop to affect, with personal testimony and as VIDES international, the development of a solid culture of reciprocity.” Mother Chiara also recalled the Association’s commitment “to accept the appeal of Laudato Si’, to listen to and respond to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, making it a priority in our life and mission, and adopting concrete measures together to face the many crises affecting our common home.” She wished them to live serenely every encounter and discussion, every opportunity for growth and progress.
The days of the Congress were marked by various formative moments, interventions, and Key Note Conferences, which alternated with workshops and moments of discussion. The Lectio Divine conducted by Sr. Eliane Petri Anschau, FMA, starting from the Gospel passage of the Wedding at Cana with reinterpretations in a charismatic key, provided important points for personal reflection and prayer.
Fr. Rossano Sala, a Salesian of Don Bosco, Full Professor of Pastoral Theology and Youth Ministry at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome, held the First Key Note Conference on the theme “Doing good to become good. The depth of the Salesian charism as a spirituality and methodology of action of the VIDES Volunteer, a global citizen, builder of peace in contemporaneity.” In his intervention, he deepened the characteristics of the Salesian Charism and attention to young people, especially the most abandoned. After recalling the challenges we face today, he spoke about how young people, in particular those engaged in voluntary work, must be perceived as precious resources, promoters and witnesses of the ‘culture of gratuitousness’ that is used to fight the ‘culture of war’, which is now rampant. Finally, he concluded his enlightening talk by recalling Don Bosco’s teaching and how good must be experienced through good experiences directly lived by young people.
Sr. Ena Veralis Bolaños, General Councilor for Administration of the FMA Institute, introduced the theme of SAD (Distance Support), highlighting it as one of the activities promoted by the FMA Institute that reflects its deepest values. Sr. Ena also asked for cooperation between all the realities linked to the FMA, for a better management of the Sector, with the aim of supporting the Missions of the Salesian Sisters and the most vulnerable children they help.
Mother Yvonne Reungoat, Superior General emerita, also took part in the Congress. She sees in VIDES “the concretization of the awareness of how much power for change there is in the world of youth, the response of the FMA Institute to the demand for leadership on the part of the new generations, the growing collaboration, in ever wider circles, with those who, in civil society and in the Church, are committed above all in the educational field and, in particular, in paying attention to children, women, girls so that all are given the opportunity to fully implement their potential and aspirations so that no one is treated as an object or exploited”.
Sr. Pina Del Core, FMA, Full Professor of Developmental and Orientation Psychology at the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences Auxilium and Consultor of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life (VC) and Societies of Apostolic Life, spoke on the “Culture of Reciprocity and volunteering in times of precariousness and relational violence.” In the Key Note Conference she held, she presented the proposal of a relational anthropology, against any form of self-referentiality and as an antidote to individualism, and of volunteer work understood as reciprocity, as an offer of interpersonal relationships marked by trust, acceptance, and welcome, of respect, of care.
The topic of youth volunteering was explored by Dr. Maurizio Cei, member of the Administration Council of VIDES International, and by Dr. Claudia Cassano, who in their Key Note Conferences based on their experience in VIDES and the results of a questionnaire submitted to the volunteers, brought data and reflections on youth protagonism in a time of change.
The testimonies, the fraternal moments, the sharing of good practices by the VIDES Groups of the world, contributed to ensuring that the Congress Days were lived in the family spirit that allows us to work together for the Common Good in different Countries and contexts, in a spirit of sharing and reciprocity, as Mother Chiara Cazzuola highlighted in her concluding words:
“In these days, sharing some significant moments with you, I have experienced a beautiful climate of fraternity, welcome, serenity. The same atmosphere that Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello defined as an air of home or, better still, a family spirit. It is beautiful and important to feel like a family, a big family that walks together while living in different continental and cultural contexts. Being and feeling like a family is a valid exercise for overcoming all self-sufficiency and at the same time opening up to sharing, the way of accessing reciprocity”.