Turin (Italy). On 12 January 2023, the LXI edition of the Salesian Family Spirituality Days opened at the Teatro Grande in Turin, Valdocco. About 300 members of almost all 32 SF Groups from all over the world came to Turin to experience this traditional appointment in Salesian places from 12 to 15 January, together with thousands of people connected online through live streaming.
The first day began with the greeting of the Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, invited on stage by the young presenters, the Hungarian Past Pupil Marton and the Italian animator Federica Ambrogio, to give a greeting ‘to his Family’. “Here in Valdocco everything speaks and our presence here also embraces those who were unable to come.” And he wished, “May these be days to deepen a sense of the Church and the Salesian Family.”
Fr. Leonardo Mancini, Superior of the Circumscription of Piedmont, Valle d’Aosta, and Lithuania, then did the honors of the house, expressing his wish to the participants to welcome the Days as renewed yeast, to grow and make young people grow towards the stature of Christ. “Salesian yeast is unique and original, because this is how it was invented and offered to us by the Holy Spirit. It is alive! It is made of reason, religion, and loving kindness; it is the dust of dreams – dreams inspired by God – and a concentrate of Heaven, because it comes from there. It is the instigator of extraordinary acts of charity for children and young people all over the world, and It wants to be placed within children and young people all over the world (…). The more it is used, the more it multiplies, grows, expands all over the world. Thanks to the Spirit who gave it to us, thanks to Don Bosco who flooded the Church with it through his children, and thanks to those who made it reach us from hand to hand, from dough to dough.”
The Central Delegate of the Rector Major for the Secretariat of the Salesian Family, Fr. Joan Lluís Playá, SDB, who coordinates the organization, also welcomed everyone, emphasizing the dignity of the lay dimension valued by the Second Vatican Council and by Don Bosco, in the breadth of his charismatic and educational vision. As Fr. Playá explained, the Days were organized so as to explore topics such as the current situation of the laity in the Church, the identity of the Christian lay person with the Salesian spirit, the complementarity between consecrated and laity, shared vision and formation, the path of synodality to be traveled together, and others.
After a time of prayer, Fr. Ivo Coelho, General Councilor for Formation, took the stage for the official closing of the year dedicated to St. Francis de Sales on the 400th anniversary of his death (1622-2022), covering salient moments characterized by conferences, insights, spiritual and cultural initiatives, up to the gift of Pope Francis of the Apostolic Letter “Totus amoris est”.
The heart of the afternoon was the presentation of Strenna 2023 – “LIKE YEAST IN TODAY’S HUMAN FAMILY. The lay dimension in Don Bosco’s Family” – by the Rector Major, introduced by the video curated by IME Comunications, filmed right in the Teatro Grande of Valdocco.
Fr. Ángel then made himself available to answer questions, first of all clarifying what he meant by the human family: “We are all the human family, hundreds of thousands of members of the Groups of the Salesian Family, present in 135/136 nations, and we have some something beautiful to offer, as Don Bosco did with the first boys,” He then addressed various topics, such as formation for socio-political commitment; the importance of personal life testimony in all contexts, to help each one to live their faith in an authentic way; the strength of the personal encounter, which acts as yeast in the disruptive flow of media and information; complementarity as enrichment and sharing of the common mission. “We must each live our own vocation, lay or consecrated and Salesian, wherever we are. This seems to me the most beautiful challenge and also the simplest. Secondly, I strongly believe in the great value of our being a family, the largest religious family in the Church, which is expected to be full of vitality, open to the world and to the Church,” he said in conclusion.
The last question concerned the choice of poster graphics. After showing some of the other proposals received for the choice, the Rector Major called the authors of the final images to the stage: the Portuguese Nuno Quaresma and the Spaniard Agustín de la Torre, who explained in detail their works and the inspiration that guided them in their creation.
The opening session of the GSFS 2023 ended with the screening of the video presentation of one of the Groups of the Salesian Family, the Past Pupils of Don Bosco, with the aim of getting to know each other better among the Groups.
The participants then gathered in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians for the Eucharistic Celebration presided over by the Rector Major, during which Msgr. Jonas Abib, was remembered in a special way as the Founder of the Community of Canção Nova, 25th Group of the SF, who passed away on 12 December 2022.
In his homily, Fr. Pierluigi Cameroni, Postulator General of the Causes of the Salesians of Don Bosco, taking up the theme of the heart from the letter to the Hebrews, “Today… do not harden your hearts” (Heb 3: 7-14), the compassion of Jesus for the leper (Mk 1: 40-45), and the testimony of some members of the SF: St. Artemide Zatti, the Servant of God Vera Grita, and Blessed Luigi Variara, said: “I believe that we are first of all called, and then are to be signs, precisely of the compassionate love of a God full of mercy. (…) Today’s young people also ask us for that compassion, that look, that word that changes hearts and lives.”
The first intense Day ended with the evening celebration, again in the Basilica, of the prayer of the Via Lucis, a liturgical-devotional path born precisely in the Salesian Family, held by the Group of Witnesses of the Risen One.