Madagascar. The Salesian Missionary Volunteering “VO SA MI” is the opportunity for young animators offered by Mary Source of Life Province (MDG) of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and by the Mary Immaculate Preprovince (MDG) of the Salesians of Don Bosco to live the spirit of service and evangelization in the Salesian spirit.

The objective is to share the spirituality and educational method of Don Bosco in particular through a missionary experience lived together with the aim of helping young people to enter into communion with Christ and with each other, to proclaim the Gospel through the testimony of Christian community life. The participants in the VO SA MI gather in an atmosphere of conviviality, sharing moments of prayer – meditation, praise, Eucharist, Rosary, and Vespers, as well as moments of fraternity.

From 18 to 28 August 2023, various young people from Ivato and Port Berger, accompanied by Fr. Harisoa José Gaston Rakotondranaivo, SDB, and Sister Rahajamalala Dina Natacha, FMA, lived the missionary experience in Ambatondrazaka, in the Alaotra Mangoro region, in the north-eastern part of Madagascar.

After receiving the blessing from the SDB Vice Province Superior, Fr. Innocent Bizimana, the group left Don Bosco House in Ivato on 21 August to reach Ambatondrazaka.

The missionary experience takes place in two interdependent stages: preparation and the actual mission. The first phase includes three days of preparation, including the first day of the trip, followed by two days of mission simulation in Tanamandroso Ambatondrazaka (Don Bosco Oratory).

These two days of common life allow them to prepare for the mission by immediately experiencing the missionary spirit. During this period, we tried to form a small community by living together, in respect and love, despite our differences.

The second phase corresponds to the actual mission. On Sunday 20 August, the group headed towards their destination, Amparafaravola, where they were warmly welcomed. Already from this first welcome, it was felt that the young people were eager to learn about Don Bosco’s spirituality and educational method. As the Malagasy proverb says, “Tafahoana ny Tia sy ny Manina”: those who love each other meet.

Every morning the young people of VO SA MI offered formation to local animators by addressing various topics: elements of psychology, Salesian animation techniques, group dynamics, interpersonal relationships, Preventive System, Catechism of the Catholic Church, and content of the Encyclical Laudato si’ of Pope Francis.

In the afternoons, the team of VO SA MI animators with local animators animated 300 young people and children from Amparafaravola in the courtyard of the San Michele School, applying the same style of ‘Fy Don Bosco’ of the Salesian realities with activities punctuated by games, prayer, animation, and moments of sharing. This is precisely one of the objectives of the VO SA MI movement: to transmit Don Bosco’s spirituality and educational style to other regions.

The children and young people seemed at ease, impressed by the sharing of experiences and the cohesion of the VO SA MI group and their leaders, who invited them to discover the life of Don Bosco, Mary Domenica Mazzarello, Domenic Savio, and Laura Vicuña. Already from the second day the name of Don Bosco was familiar among them.

At the end of the activities on 26 August, the young leaders enjoyed a retreat together, which ended with a closing party and the distribution of a souvenir to all the participating young people and children. On Sunday 27 August, after the Eucharistic Celebration, the VO SA MI group left Amparafaravola towards Ambatondrazaka, and then reached their respective regions and villages.

“We are convinced that being a Salesian animator is a vocation and committing ourselves as volunteers is a call to which we respond with faith and willpower. This experience helps us live our Christian life by embracing Salesian spirituality and sharing it with others,” is the testimony of the young people in the group.



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