Turin (Italy). On 13 January 2023, after the start of the Salesian Spirituality Days with the presentation by the Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, of Strenna 2023 “LIKE YEAST IN TODAY’S HUMAN FAMILY. The lay dimension in Don Bosco’s Family” to the approximately 300 participants who came to Valdocco from all over the world, the works came to life with the round table on four aspects of the laity in the Salesian Family.
In the homily of the Eucharistic celebration in the morning, Fr. Juan Carlos Pérez Godoy, Councilor for the Mediterranean Region, commenting on the Gospel of Mark (Mk 2:1-12), referred to the theme saying:
“Healing and forgiveness are the two poles of Jesus’ saving action, which remind us of our charismatic style of being yeast in the world, our way of understanding evangelization and education in the faith, the actualization of the Good News of the Kingdom in the process of growth and progress of people, institutions, and society. It is the experience of educating by evangelizing and evangelizing by educating that identifies our educative-pastoral action. (…) This way of acting and of understanding being yeast in our world leads us to look at the agents of this process and, in particular, at the way of understanding and uniting as agents in themselves: consecrated and laity in communion of spirit and mission. (…) It is a matter of living in communion by sharing Don Bosco’s spirit and mission, each one starting from the specificity of their own vocation”.
In the afternoon, Mr. Antonio Boccia, World Coordinator of the Salesian Cooperators (SSCC), moderator of the round table, asked the speakers to introduce themselves: Susanna de Torres, Past Pupil, Teacher and Educator in a Salesian Institute in Madrid, Spain, where she was an Oratorian and animator, participating in various experiences with the Salesian Youth Movement (SYM); Renato Cursi, Salesian Cooperator, President of Salesiani per il Sociale APS, husband and father, raised in the SYM; Pierluigi Dovis, Past Pupil of the Salesian Schools and of the UPS University of Rome, Director of the Diocesan Caritas of Turin and Coordinator of the Caritas of Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta; and Fr. Fabio Attard, Salesian of Don Bosco, General Councilor for Formation for two six-year terms and currently responsible for the formation of Salesians and lay people in Europe.
Susanna de Torres, expressing her gratitude to contribute to the reflection of the GSFS, spoke of “Educational processes to strengthen the sensitivity of young people to become lay protagonists of social transformation.” Processes which, according to concentric circles given by the fundamental pillars of Salesian work – courtyard, house, school, church – should open young people to new horizons of commitment. “Here a great challenge arises: what can we continue to offer these young people? How can we accompany them in their process of becoming ‘good Christians and honest citizens’?” asked the presenter, who sees it necessary to continue to foster synergy as a Family, so that young people, having left Salesian environments, “find a community where they can live and celebrate their faith; where they can rediscover their roots and become men and women capable of transforming society in an evangelical key”.
“The identity of the lay Christian with a Salesian style” is the topic explored by Renato Cursi, who identifies in identity – personal, existential – the theme of this change of era, with the related question: “Who are we on this earth?” For young people in particular, this involves the recognition of one’s identity by others: “Who am I for you?” Referring to the Magisterium of Pope Francis, who instead invites young people to ask themselves, “Who am I for?”, Renato specified that the lay Christian in Salesian style is for God and also for others, “where the others are in the first place young people, the poorest young people,” in the style of Mary, who “got up and went quickly” (Lk 1:39) – a phrase chosen by the Pope for the 37th WYD which will be celebrated in Lisbon in August 2023, at the service of the mission, from the point of view of synodality.
Pierluigi Dovis spoke of the laity’s style of “being in the world” as “conscious inhabitants” of the “profane space – understood as “outside the temple” – living pastoral charity the way in which the shepherd loves the sheep, that is, in being with, getting to know, helping to grow, caring for, being involved. In Salesian terms, he translated it with “the style of presence”, implementation of the Preventive System, “which serves not only to make good Christians and honest citizens grow, but also to make the world grow.” Taking up the words addressed by Don Bosco to Don Rua, “Study to make yourself loved,” which in Piedmontese means “make yourself capable of being loved,” he then specified the commitment to become loving and attractive lay people. “The unloving layperson is not a lay Christian.” He concluded by saying, “The layperson’s task is to use the tools proper to the lay space, but with the ability to go further and to bring out from these tools what goes beyond (…) recognizing that this space is a place of grace and thus brings to light the roots of generativity”.
“The moment of the laity in the Church” is the fourth aspect developed by Fr. Fabio Attard, who shared his reflections regarding the current moment of the laity in the believing community in the light of the ecclesial journey made starting from the Second Vatican Council. In particular, Fr. Fabio took into consideration the apostolic exhortations Christifideles Laici of John Paul II (1988) and Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis (2013), identifying the challenges linked to identity, formation, mission, to be “witnesses of the Good News, with full respect for the other and for others”.
After the round table, the reflection continued in the four macro-groups into which the participants were divided with each speaker, with the possibility of exchanging questions and considerations.
In the evening, on the monthly commemoration of St. Mary Mazzarello, and in the solemn setting of the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, the “San Bernardo” Choir of the Parish of Saints Martino and Gaudenzio of Novara, directed by Maria Dina Bertotti, FMA Past Pupil, proposed the spiritual meditation in music and words, “Mornese lights up with light”, with which she told the story of Main: “35 years lived as a lay person and 9 years lived as a religious, Daughter of Mary Help of Christians.” Years in which, as a young laywoman immersed in the historical and social fabric of her time, like the yeast that leavens the dough in silence and transforms it, she turns her fragility into a resource, becoming a weaver of true fraternity.
The performance ended with the songFeast in Heaven for eternity,written by Maria Dina Bertotti and set to music by Fr. Maurizio Palazzo, SDB, donated to Mother Chiara Cazzuola and to all the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in 2022, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Foundation of the FMA Institute.