San Paolo (Brazil). On 8 October 2022, at the Colégio Santa Teresinha in Santana, San Paolo, about 5 thousand young people, educators, lay people, and religious from the realities of O. L. Aparecida Province (BAP) of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and Mary Help of Christians Province (BSP) of the Salesians of Don Bosco, came together joyfully as the Salesian Family after two years of pandemic.
Il FEST, Salesian Youth Feast, is the culmination of the pastoral activities of the year of the Salesian Provinces of Saint Paul and aims to celebrate the life and following of Jesus in the style of Don Bosco and Mary Mazzarello, and to revive belonging to the Salesian charism and the joy of being family. The event has been held for more than 20 years and the inspiring theme of this edition was the lyrics of the song “Peace“, by the musical group Roupa Nova.
The day began with the Eucharistic Celebration, presided over by the SDB Provincial Vicar, Fr. Cássio Rodrigo de Oliveira, who also recalled the canonization of Artemide Zatti, Salesian Brother, which would take place the next day, 9 October 2022. The program was then full of activities: theater, dances, band competitions, workshops, capoeira, games, skating, confessions, a vocational tent, a circle of sharing, and above all the feast!
The opportunity to live different experiences and to be among friends, to find significant people and to meet new ones, to be struck by so many talents and to celebrate a single charism, were the ‘special ingredients’ that attracted for a whole day many young people and adults from all the realities of the two Provinces.
In addition to the joy of meeting after the pandemic, the event was also made unique by the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and the 130 years of presence in Brazil, highlighted even more by the presence of the Superior General emeritus, Mother Yvonne Reungoat, in Brazil to hold the Spiritual Exercises of the FMA. Mother Yvonne captured the assembly with her smile and her familiar style, also venturing into Portuguese be closer. In her turn, she let herself be conquered by the affection of the thousands of young people attentive to her motherly words, who welcomed her as a gift. The BAP Provincial, Sr. Alaíde Deretti, was also present at the meeting.
Ellen, from the city of Ribeirão Preto (SP), says: “It was an incredible experience! I didn’t come from a Salesian school, so when the sisters told me about the FEST, I didn’t have a clear idea of what it was like, and when I arrived here, it was a thousand times better than everything I expected. It was very lovely to see so many young people and the familiarity with which they interacted with each other”.
“I cannot describe the joy of living this experience once again. I have already had the opportunity to participate as a student, as a counselor of the Salesian Youth Movement (AJS) and now as a contact person for the pastoral care and former student of the Colégio do Carmo, and every meeting is a new emotion. Returning to the FEST after two years without seeing each other, face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart, is an inexplicable joy! Every person we meet among the thousands who are here to celebrate Salesian life, brings in her smile the dreams of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello, the continuation of a mission of entrustment and donation, of call and response, of love for life, for the Lord of life and the young,” says Isadora Lina, referent of Pastoral Care of Guaratinguetá.
To the question: “What is it like to live the Salesian Fest for the first time, now that the BAP Province also welcomes the Southern States?” “I would like to have more eyes and more legs,” replied Sr. Solange Sanches, Provincial Councilor for Youth Ministry, “to be able to be everywhere at the same time, because there is so much beauty, so much creativity, so much life! So, I try to divide myself a little, and I am thrilled to see the youth protagonism! We have in our hands a multitude of young people that we cannot lose, because it is they who will give continuity to the Salesian charism in these 150 years that await us!”.
For the first time, in fact, the communities of the southern region and of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul had the opportunity to participate in this great interprovincial event which, with the new configuration of the FMA Provinces, also embraces these regions.
In this year of so many celebrations and news, the certainty that Salesian roots are translated into life, pulsate in the hearts, and shine in the eyes of every member of this great and fruitful Family, renews the desire of Mother Mazzarello and Don Bosco, to live for the young and make them happy in time and in eternity!