Manila (Philippines). The online General Assembly of the Educating Community of St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello Province of the Philippines and Papua New Guinea (FIL) took place from 28 to 30 November 2020 on the theme: “Cultivating mental health during this pandemic: strengthening resilience and determination”.
Thanks to live streaming through the Province Facebook page and other FB pages of the FMA Schools, the meeting saw the participation of FMA, Past Pupils, VIDES Volunteers, catechists, parent volunteers, Salesian Cooperators, students, educators, lay collaborators, and families.
The event opened with the messages of Sr. Mabel Pilar, Provincial of FIL, and of Mr. Walter San Diego, President of the Provincial Coordination Team of the Educating Community (PECCG) who, assisted by Sr. Josephine Garza, FMA, Delegate to the PECCG, and Sr. Maria Josefina Carrasco, FMA, Provincial Councilor Representative, organized the Assembly, chose and invited the speakers to study the theme and interact with the public through a forum.
The experts brought contributions from different points of view, starting with the analysis of the current pandemic situation and the emotional and psychological effects conducted by Dr. Joan Mae Perez-Rifareal, psychiatrist, who concluded by presenting some strategies for maintaining a positive spirit and adapt to the ‘new normal’, experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity for growth.
On the second day, work was held in parallel sessions, grouping the participants by age. Those aged 10-13 met with Mr. Allen Jeffrey Saraza, a motivator who spoke on “Coping with social isolation and the challenges of virtual learning.” Participants aged 14-24 worked on ‘5G’: Grit, Gratitude, Generosity, Grace, and Glory, facilitated by Fr. Jayson David, Salesian of Don Bosco. The third group brought together all the adults with Ms. Karen Kay Vardeleon, family psychologist, who talked about “Improving family resilience today and in the post-pandemic.”
A joint workshop on the ‘Online Diary’ was held by the writer Alya Honasan, who encouraged the participants to tell their story through a diary, as a therapy to rework the lived experience. This was followed by an experience of prayer on the Gospel passage of the healing of the paralytic, facilitated by Sister Cynthia Calabig, FMA.
At the end of each day, the FMA communities took turns in the presentation of videos on the experiences regarding community commitments related to the Encyclical Laudato Sì and on the path of family pastoral care.
The final presentation on “Salesian accompaniment for resilience and determination” was given by Fr. Fidel Orendain, SDB, who underlined the effectiveness of the Salesian Preventive System even with the changes taking place. In the Salesian environment, the children are surrounded by joy and optimism, an approach that promotes a positive vision of life. He also invited parents to reinforce faith-based optimism in their children.
Fr. Fidel’s speech was followed by a video message from Sr. Lucy Rose Ozhukayil, Visiting Councilor of the FMA Institute, who invited the participants to rediscover the richness of Salesian Pedagogy to form new generations to responsibility for the future.
The event concluded with the online celebration of the Eucharist, presided over by Fr. Jayson David, SDB. During the Holy Mass, the new representatives of the PECCG, elected during the Assembly, officially expressed their commitment to province service.
The online General Assembly was an experience of synodality for the Educating Communities and gave each person the opportunity to ‘reconnect’ for formation together and to strengthen the desire to reach out to young people and guarantee them Salesian accompaniment in this difficult time.