Don Bosco Today - Spring 2002
Fr Juan Vecchi 1931 - 2002
ZATTI, the story of a Salesian Brother
Sister Maria Romero
New Books from Salesian Publications
LIFE AFTER SCHOOL
Fr John McKean SDB 1912 - 2002
Fr Patrick Cambridge SDB 1932 - 2001
Sister Marie Ranner 1909 - 2002
Sister Marija Stojko 1912 - 2001
This issue of Don Bosco Today is about people. Ordinary people who have discovered Don Bosco, and have met others who are similarly inspired by him. They are to be found all over the world working with young people for young people. They belong to the Salesian Family. What makes them family? In some strange but real way it is the young people they work with that make them family. Don Bosco was aware that young people needed a sense of feeling at home: safe, welcome and accepted. When young people feel safe and comfortable it is easier to obtain their trust, and support them in their growth. Often that will mean that they will feel free to express sadness and happiness, anger and contentedness. Young people need a family; many find it in the Salesian Family.
In this issue we meet some of these people. Just a few of the tens of thousands of members of the Salesian Family. But the ones who do not get a voice in this issue are as important as those who speak from these pages. In the first place there are the young people themselves. Then there are those who send donations to support our work. We may never meet them but they are at home with us in spirit. They are especially cherished members of the family. Many, now in their eighties and nineties, who have sent donations for years through Don Bosco Today to support the work of the Salesian Family. Reading their letters and being aware of the sacrifices they make is a very humbling experience for me. We can never forget them; they are very much in the prayers of our family.
Don Bosco had an incredible gift of invention, of being original in responding to the problems of his day. He also had a way with people. He seemed to know how to reach the most alienated child and the most ill disposed adult. He left a clear description of his principles in his writings, but an even clearer ideal of them in the family he established. His Salesian Family has always had a strong lay dimension. In this issue we feature the life of a very ordinary Salesian, Brother Zatti. When he joined the Salesians he wanted to be a priest, but illness did not allow that. He is being recognised by the Church for the extraordinary way he lived an ordinary life. He reminds us that the layperson occupies a unique place at the heart of the Salesian charism. I would even go further and say that the Salesian charism cannot be understood without this lay dimension. It is not priesthood that makes a person Salesian It is not religious life that makes a person Salesian. It is understanding people and serving them in the spirit of Don Bosco that makes anyone Salesian. Perhaps this may explain why so many lay people feel at home within the Salesian Family.
As in any family we live with the memory of those who have died. The memory of departed Salesians unites, in a love that will not pass away, those who are still pilgrims with those who are already resting in Christ. We live not only with the memory of those who have died, we live in gratitude for the way they have influenced our lives.
Fr Tony Bailey SDB (Editor)
A sincere thank-you to all who donated to the appeals in the last issue of 'Don Bosco Today'. We were able to send £2191 to East Africa, £2544 to South Africa and £1970 to Liberia.
On the 23rd January 2002, after a very long illness, Fr Vecchi, the Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, died.
Fr Juan Edmundo Vecchi was born in Argentina on 23rd June 1931, the youngest of seven children of a family of Italian emigrants. His parents met in Argentina and were married there. Fr Vecchi was a nephew of the Venerable Artemide Zatti, a Salesian Brother who will soon be beatified. He got to know the Salesians in Viedma and decided to follow a Salesian vocation. After making his first vows at Fortìn Mercedes, in 1947, he studied theology in Turin, Italy, where he was ordained priest in 1958. He returned to Argentina to work as a Salesian. In 1965 he was appointed Rector at Viedma, a responsibility he held until 1972, when he began his long service, some 30 years, as a member of the General Council of the Salesians. From 1972 to 1978 he was Regional Councillor for the Atlantic part of Latin America. From 1978 to 1990 he was Councillor General for Youth Pastoral Work. From 1990 to 1996 he was Vicar General. Finally on the 20th March 1996 he was appointed Rector Major, the eighth successor of Don Bosco, with responsibility for the whole Salesian Family.
Fr Vecchi will be remembered not only as an innovator in youth pastoral work, but also for his outstanding gifts of government. He could listen and give due weight to all suggestions and opinions, with an appreciation of individual needs. He had a strong sense of fatherliness and of fidelity to the founder's charism. He was moreover a gifted leader, who believed in teamwork. He was, above all, sensitive and open to the signs of the times.
Fr Vecchi insisted that the whole Salesian Family needed to be better prepared in the art of communicating the Gospel. He was a man of communication, a pastoral sector in which he firmly believed, and to which he gave strong encouragement. He was convinced that communication should play a part in every aspect of Salesian work. He insisted on the renewal and relaunching of the 52 editions of the Salesian Bulletin. He constantly sought to make it understood that our task is not so much organizational as pastoral and spiritual.
He wanted others to have the experience that Jesus spoke of in the Gospel: "May the love with which you have loved me be in them, and I in them". Fr Vecchi was a true heir of Don Bosco and his spirit. He advised us never to lose ourselves in too many organizational or administrative tasks to the detriment of attention and closeness to one another, to the people we work with, to young people.
A Salesian community must create the conditions to be able to serve. Our work must be constantly planned, reflected upon and prayed about together. We must involve the greatest number of people in the same spirit of Don Bosco, in the image of the Good Shepherd. This was a much-loved icon of Fr Vecchi's. On his bed of suffering he liked to recite Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd. It was sickness, in fact, that came to characterize the last steps of his earthly pilgrimage and, paradoxically, which brought out the very best of him. His journey through this long illness was not easy. It was a journey, step by step, like the breaking of the bread of the Eucharist. His sickness came upon him quite suddenly. He saw it as a clear message to put his projects to one side, and abandon himself to the Lord. It was then that his great faith became clear to all those who had the good fortune to visit him. For we know that when the tent that we live in on earth is folded up, there is a house built by God for us, an everlasting home not made by human hands, in the heavens. (2Cor 5:1)
It was in these circumstances that he wrote his final letter, Sickness and old age in Salesian experience. In this letter he has left us with an honest assessment of what he was experiencing. But even on his bed of suffering he never lost sight of the Salesian mission to needy youngsters. His thoughts always went to the poor, and to the Salesians who were with them. He found his serenity in the knowledge that we were helping young people who have been exploited, abused, mistreated as child-soldiers, that we were concerned with the theme of peace and the problem of war. The last thing he wrote in 2002 was an invitation to be courageous, and like himself, to put out into the deep. To have no fear of the huge challenges of our time, but be confident in the knowledge that we can count on the presence of the Lord Jesus who has overcome the world. (John c16 v33.)
Thank you Lord for the great gift that you gave us in Fr Vecchi.
ZATTI, the story of a Salesian Brother
For many years I have been a great fan of a relatively unknown member of the Salesian Family, Brother Zatti. When I mentioned him to Salesians quite a few of them would say "Zatti? I've never heard of him." How did I hear of him? It happened when I started working with the Salesians. I was given a piece of advice from Brother Michael Grix. "Read the life of Brother Zatti." Once I'd starting reading his life story, I couldn't put the book down. I discovered a man of humour, of compassion, of dedication and of sheer doggedness even when all the odds were stacked against him. I realised that there was something strangely familiar about this man whom I had never known. He reminded me very forcibly of a man I did know and with whom I worked very closely, Brother Michael Grix. That's why for me the life of Brother Zatti is so precious; it captures the essence of the Salesian Brother. In reading the life of Brother Zatti, and in working closely with Brother Michael Grix, I came to realise that the vocation of the Salesian Brother is something very special.
Artemide Zatti was born in 1880, the third in a family of eight children. Like many of his contemporaries he would have lived and died in the small community of Boretto in Italy. However his uncle had made his fortune in South America and came back to Italy to persuade his brother and family to move to Argentina where he promised them a good life. For those Italians who were poor, close to starvation, and an easy prey to disease through poverty, South America seemed the promised land of opportunity.
When they arrived in their new home they found that although their labour was needed, as immigrants their presence was resented. The young Zatti began work in a hotel and later in a tile factory. In the local Church he came into contact with the Salesians. His free time was spent helping in the Church and visiting the sick in the parish. When he was nineteen, he left the family home to become a Salesian. After two years he was accepted for the Novitiate. While studying he had been given a special assignment to look after a priest suffering from tuberculosis. Despite the care that Zatti gave to him, he died. Shortly afterwards Zatti showed signs of having caught the disease. For the next few years he struggled to overcome the illness, as tuberculosis was a killer. His family wanted him home to care for him until he died. Zatti did return home for a short time, but then went back to the Salesians; promising Our Lady that should he return to health he would dedicate the rest of his life caring for the sick and poor. Because tuberculosis could be a recurring disease he was unable to continue his studies for the Priesthood, and was professed as a Salesian Brother.
Brother Zatti spent the rest of his life caring for the sick, young and old. There are many stories told about Brother Zatti, who spent his days running the local hospital and his nights visiting the sick, pedalling around the countryside on his old bicycle in all kinds of weather. He had acquired considerable skills obtaining a diploma in Pharmacy. He used these skills to heal and help the sick. Because of poverty in the area he would feed, and on occasions, give his bed to the sick. All this was accompanied by a sense of humour and a never-ending desire to help others.
His latter days were spent fighting for the rights of the poor. When land was required for building, the hospital had to be demolished. The residents did not like to see the invalids and poor in the midst of their better-off area. We are told that Brother Zatti cried like a baby, while they were demolishing the hospital. The patients were still living inside and he had no idea where to put them. When he was instructed by his superiors not to accept any more patients it nearly broke his heart. His policy had always been never to turn away anyone who needed help. As far as he was concerned God had sent them.
In January 1951 he was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas and on March 15th 1951 he passed away. "Fifty years ago I came here to prepare myself for death, and now that moment has come, what more do I want? All my life I have been preparing for this."
During his life he was renowned for his humility refusing a car in preference to his old bike, so that he could be one of the people. His day from 4.30 a.m. till late at night for forty years showed his dedication and love for the people he was so willing to serve: a truly remarkable man.
On June 1st 1979 Pope John Paul II introduced the cause for his canonisation and Sunday 14th April 2002 he will be beatified.
Maria was born in Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua on 13th January 1902. Nicaragua is one of the countries of Central America with Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. She was eleven years old when the Salesian Sisters arrived in Granada and opened the College of Mary Help of Christians. She started school, excelling in Art, but she missed most of that first year because she caught rheumatic fever and nearly died of it. At the age of eighteen on 24th May she asked to become a Salesian Sister and was professed in El Salvador. She was sent back to Granada, her hometown, where she taught music, singing and art and worked in the youth club. She made her final vows in 1929 and two years later was sent back to Costa Rica, to assist the novices and teach Music in the school. In 1934 she left the Novitiate and went to the college in San Jose where she encouraged the young catechists whom she called young missionaries to go into the poorest sections of the city to evangelise. This was the beginning of her work for the poor and it continued with the help of her past pupils.
By 1940 so many poor people were coming to the college seeking her help that she was known as Sister Maria of the Poor. She moved her work to a little house not far from the college, where the Sisters owned a coffee plantation. She started Catholic Action in the city and by 1945 she had begun 36 youth clubs in and around the city. Rooms were made available in the college, where the poor could stay and be fed. The mothers of the young missionaries would come there and make clothes for poor children. Food was distributed weekly, and the construction of a nursery school was begun in the plantation in 1958. As the work grew so did the need for larger premises. Her work moved to a new building, known as The Mary Help of Christians' House for Social Work.
This work for the poor continued to expand. In 1969 Sister Maria was asked to go to Italy to speak about her work. In Rome she had a private audience with Pope Paul VI. In 1977, after the feast of Mary Help of Christians, Sister Maria seemed more than usually tired and she was persuaded to take a month's break by the sea. One day, while she was there, her niece arrived to take her to Mass by car. Sister Maria did not appear, she was found stretched out on the floor of her room, dead. She was taken to the college chapel in Granada, but the people in Costa Rica wanted her to be buried there, where she had worked for 46 years. A small plane took her body back to Costa Rica where an immense crowd of people waited at the airport to welcome her. Eleven years after her death the diocese of San Jose, Costa Rica, began the process for her canonisation. On Sunday 14th April 2002 she will be beatified.
Sister Kathleen Scullion FMA
by David O'Malley SDB
Hidden in the ordinary patterns of each day are a network of life-giving relationships between young people and the adults that care for them. When a parent puts down the paper to talk to their son or daughter new things become possible. When a teacher, after disciplining a difficult pupil, enquires more gently about their home situation, they have moved into a sacred space where lives can be changed. This book is about those ordinary relationships, those objects of life that become pathways to personal growth and windows of insight.
David O'Malley's last book, Trust the Road, was much appreciated by many school-leavers. This book is for teachers, youth leaders and parents.
Paperback Price £4.50
plus p&p 80p UK only
Teacher, teach us to pray
by Sister Winifred Acred FMA
Jesus said, I have come that you may have life. To pray with the young is to give birth to this life or at least to be part of the process. Prayer is an occasion for getting in touch with the infinite within us and around us. With this in mind, prayer time in the classroom can be a sacred moment, a bonding time: teachers with children, children with children. More importantly a bonding time with a loving Father. Children have a natural gift when it comes to contemplation, but so often we do not help them to develop this gift. Teachers have heavy workloads and prayer can become just an extra task in a very busy day. This book aims to help primary school teachers make prayer in the classroom a special moment for everyone.
£4.50 plus p&p 80p UK only
by Winifred Acred FMA
A pack consisting of an instruction sheet and 7 A4 cards.
Seven witnesses narrate their part in the Passion.
A new and interesting way of retelling the Passion Story during Holy Week.
Ideal for children's liturgy in parish or school.
plus p&p 80p UK only
All these books are available from Don Bosco Publications:
Thornleigh House, Sharples Park, Bolton BL1 6PQ, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Discount for bulk? Phone Joan on (01204) 308811
Born to be denied a family,
Who will provide for them?
See the sorrow in their eyes
To a queue condemned
"I love you sister. You are the best head teacher I have ever had," thus spoke a little five-year old as she gave me a tearful hug at the end of the assembly to mark my retirement after 44 years teaching, 41 of which as a Salesian Sister. Not exactly a qualification for the Guinness Book of Records but a lifetime's work for me. I was leaving all I knew and loved. I was embarking on an unknown future, made extra difficult because my sister, who was my best friend, had just died.
I was given a one-year sabbatical: a time to sort out what I wanted to do, not as a retirement hobby, but as a second career. Salesians only seem to retire when they get their telegram from the Queen. I chose to go to Berkley, California for a four-month course on Salesian Spirituality. For the first time in my life I lived in an all-male community, an experience that was stimulating, enlightening and spiritually uplifting. Despite having lived over 40 years as a Salesian, I learnt so much more about Don Bosco. While there I fell in love with St Francis de Sales. One thing that struck me, that I was unaware of prior to the course, was his love for children. The villagers knew when he had returned to his cathedral because they would hear the laughter of the children as he gathered them together in the church. (A forerunner of Children's liturgy?) The course included Salesian Youth Spirituality and a course in Pastoral Ministry (American style) alongside a number of women who were preparing for ordination in their church. Paths were certainly beginning to show themselves to me, no not ordination, but another way of being Salesian without being in formal education!
After my time in the USA I went off for another four months to Israel, to study Scripture. Words cannot describe this experience. It was a time for prayer and reflection on the Word, in the land where it all began.
Time was up and I returned home to England. The sun was rising over Manchester airport. Not quite as beautiful as over the Grand Canyon or Jerusalem! Shortly after returning to Liverpool I had a meeting with Bishop Vincent Malone who informed me that there was a regeneration programme in the south-end of the city, Toxteth, Dingle, Granby and Edge Hill. I was thrilled when I heard where the post was. My parents had been brought up in one of the parishes of this deanery. I was born and baptised in St Patrick's. My sabbatical had taken me back to my spiritual roots, and now my new mission was taking me back to my family roots.
There were seven churches in the deanery. The people were going through a consultation process about the future of the church in that area. I was finally offered a post as catechetical co-ordinator in the deanery. It was a difficult time for the area as churches were going to close. One would need to understand the long history of these churches and the close-knit community to appreciate the pain the people would suffer. The three priests each had two churches to care for. They said that coping with baptisms took a great deal of their time, so that was set as my first priority. In order to do this I had to find catechists. There were one or two wonderful people already but one or two in such a needy area is like the five loaves and two fish. Only I wasn't able to work any miracles. For a while they stayed as five loaves! I asked many people, but they all seemed to think you had to be a teacher, or have some great gifts to be a catechist. I set up a training programme for catechists and we moved on from there. Baptism programmes started in three parishes. I then visited the local schools; the staff and pupils were so kind and welcoming. I could not have done what I have done without their tremendous help and support.
First Communion programmes became Home, School, Parish programmes rather than school initiatives. As the congregations tended to be elderly the First Communion children's attendance at the Sunday Mass rather changed the atmosphere. Three of the churches have Children's Liturgy on Sundays so I provided the lessons and work sheets. During the second year I set up Reconciliation Programmes in three of the schools. All this meant a good deal of work with the parents as well as the children, work that was both interesting and rewarding. Last term I wrote a Confirmation Programme, and with the catechists, prepared 30 youngsters for the sacrament. We are in the process of evaluating this along with the other churches that are now part of our much larger amalgamated deanery.
I particularly enjoy working in the team for RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Each year has been very different and we have had a number of baptisms. This year's group consists of about fifteen adults.
In my spare time and as a hobby I have been writing books for teachers and for children. There is certainly a great deal of life after formal education that is still truly Salesian. Don Bosco's life was dedicated to catechetics. His writings, to spread the good news, were prodigious. I've only got one published so far but then I am not Don Bosco, I'm just trying to follow in his footsteps.
I have met so many wonderful people since I came to this deanery. My daily prayer is, 'We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you.'
Sister Winifred Acred FMA
There are so many ways of being part of the Salesian Family. In the following articles we see how different people have found their own way of belonging to the Salesian family.
As I came to the end of school, something I had enjoyed to the full, I knew where I wanted to go next in life, volunteering. I have been involved with the Salesians now for seven years and I don't know what I would have done without their gentle presence as I grew up. When I was eleven, I started attending youth club and found myself in an environment where I could be myself and be accepted for it. Through the encouragement of the sisters and volunteers, I was able to discover gifts I never knew I had. The Salesian magic captured me and since then I have never looked back. Brettargh Holt has been like a second home for me, a place where I have formed some of my most treasured friendships. I only hope that I can start to pass on this magic to the young people I work with, giving them the same chance I had.
Mary Cotter Age 18 from Kendal
I have known the Salesian Sisters for 16 years now and have worked along side them for 12 years in a variety of ways such as youth clubs, Salesian Youth Movement, Parishes, Vides and volunteering. Throughout my early years I got to know a few of the Salesian Sisters on a personal level. They encouraged me to get involved in the youth club and after school activities. At first I wasn't sure it was what I wanted but I gave it a go, as I had nothing to lose. I found something that I enjoyed, and belonged to. Something good. From that moment the Sisters played an important part in my life. They gave me so much love, support and friendship. They saw that I had potential and encouraged me to fulfil it to the best of my ability. Because of this I wanted to give something back in return. I did this through volunteering. I believe I wouldn't be the person I am today if it wasn't for the Sisters being there for me when others haven't.
Pamela Lambert Age 27 from Liverpool
The Salesian Effect - A Teacher's View
When I began my teaching career with the Salesians at Chertsey, the Salesians were just one of the many Catholic teaching orders I had known by name. But I knew very little about them. Over the following eight years the influence of the teachings of Don Bosco and the experience of working within a Salesian community has played a fundamental part of my professional and personal development. I feel that the distinctive nature of Salesian education can be summarised in one word, that of family. The network of Salesian schools and the religious order provides a great sense of belonging. Meeting other Salesians allows me to share my values and aspirations. It helps to convince me that the holistic nature of Salesian education is at the heart of transformational teaching. Not all that is value-added can be measured in league tables. The Salesian effect has influenced my day-to-day interaction with students. Quiet reminders in the back of my mind encourage me to go the extra mile to help students. However, in this I am certainly not unique. The commitment of colleagues and the extent of their willingness to share tasks still astound me. They are fully aware of the extra work that will be created, but time and time again they keep saying yes! The worldwide nature of the Salesian Family serves as a constant reminder of my duty to educate my students about their individual responsibility to those people in the developing world. With a new global economy, I am a Salesian teacher who belongs to a family that is spread between the richest and poorest nations in the world. I recognise the morally imperative challenge of developing good Christians and honest global citizens.
Tim O'Donoghue, Chertsey
How does being a Volunteer of Don Bosco help me to fit into the Salesian Family?
Being part of the Salesian Family is easy; it has an open door policy. It invites the young and not so young to belong. It is a Family that shares, supporting each other in working for and with the young living a spirituality of celebration of the good things in our lives emphasising the need to pray together and finding time for relaxation allowing each person to work out their own way of living in the Salesian Style. As a Salesian Past-Pupil, a Salesian Teacher and a Cooperator I have been part of the Family for over 30 years. Despite all that I received in the way of friendship, encouragement and support there was a space in my life a space that could not be ignored. Salesian friends helped me in my search, a journey which led to me making vows as a Secular Religious within the Salesian Family.
Many, within the Family, have expressed a puzzlement about what I have been doing, and have asked many questions about what being a Secular Religious involves and how it fits within the Salesian Family. The original concept of the VDBs was to be FMA's in the world, complimenting the work of the Sisters in their Communities, expanding the Family to incorporate yet another aspect of the Salesian Apostolate. Although the VDBs are not well known in Britain, not once have I been faced with criticism. The Family has expanded to meet my personal needs. Despite not always understanding my journey the help and encouragement has been tremendous from the whole Salesian Family.
Being the only VDB in the Province some ask if it is a lonely existence, it is not. I may be alone but I'm not lonely because I am part of the Family. What a great family to belong to. One that lets you be yourself and search in your own way, even if that way is not fully understood.
For me, becoming a Cooperator began with an encounter with Sister Margaret Cahill FMA outside our parish church one morning, many years ago. Sister Margaret began to speak of the work of the Salesian Cooperators. It sounded interesting and I felt a need to know more. I found myself attending a meeting in the Convent and before I knew it I was preparing to become a Cooperator myself. On becoming a Cooperator a new and wonderful chapter in my life began. My confidence grew and I found myself beginning to do things I didn't think I would ever be able to do. Those who know me would describe me at that time as being extremely shy and terrified of being in the limelight, and yet here I was helping run a club for the local girls every Wednesday evening. It was great fun, with games, music, crafts and in true traditional Salesian style a Don Bosco Goodnight. We enjoyed weekends away, took the girls carol singing at hospitals and old folks' homes. We raised money for charities. Through Sister Monica, I became involved in the Veritas Baptism Programme. I am still involved today. I have become a Catechist and Eucharistic Minister and have had the pleasure of helping to bring a lovely young family into the Church. There are so many things that make being a Cooperator special. It is the joy of coming together, as a Salesian family, at retreats, on feast days, celebrations, meetings. We support one another and pray for each other, learn from one another. It is a sharing of the Salesian Spirit with those you meet, helping to plant that seed of joy in the hearts of others, especially the young, making sure that they know they are both loved and loveable. Being a Salesian Cooperator has now become a way of life for me, it means such a lot to me to know and feel that I am part of such a warm and loving family.
Phyllis, a Salesian Cooperator from Gilmoss, Liverpool
The first time I came across the words Salesian Family was in May 1994, I was 21 years old, living at home, and working as a pharmacy technician in a hospital. I'd felt for a while that God might be calling me to the Religious Life, and had been discerning with various congregations. However, I felt that I had come to a halt. Nothing felt right, nothing seemed to give me the Yes factor. I made a list of things that I felt were important to me in a religious family, it read : Christ-centred, Simplicity, Charity, Young People, Family with Sisters, Priests and lay people. One day a friend of mine gave me a copy of this magazine. As I turned the pages, things seemed to fall into place and I began ticking off my list.
I started visiting the Sisters in Battersea who encouraged me to take part in various Salesian Family events. The first was a SYM meeting. Salesian Youth Movement, held at the Salesian College in Battersea. I was nervous at the thought of meeting so many new people for the first time. As I entered the room all my nerves disappeared, I began to feel I'd come home. People spoke to me and shared with me as if they'd known me for years. The atmosphere was one of contagious celebration, joy and optimism. The one thing that stood out for me most however, was the way they loved each other. I really feel that love is the greatest witness of Christ's presence in our lives, and is expressed thorough joy, celebration and kindness. I met all of those that day. The challenge however comes in the fidelity to that witness in our every day lives, where we live and work side by side and are continually being called to forgive and ask forgiveness.
I believe that its because I feel truly loved by my sisters and friends throughout the Salesian Family that I am able, day after day, to respond to God's call to love, as a Salesian sister and to say Yes! Seven amazing years have passed since those first contacts with the Salesian Family and I've found myself doing things I'd never dreamed possible! After periods of formation in Battersea and Rome, I made my first profession in 1999. I then joined the community at Brettargh Holt Retreat and Youth Pastoral centre as part of the Youth Team. This year I have also taken on the co-ordination of the Volunteers who live and work here.
The thing I love most about my work is seeing others, who like myself have had no previous knowledge of Salesian Spirituality, come into our house, and leave feeling part of something special.
Sister Pia Cronin FMA
In 1965 Mary Help of Christians Convent Grammar School Opened in Stonebridge Lane, and when my daughters began there I joined the PTA. I served on the committee there for twenty-five years. This I feel paved my way for the role to come. Having grown in love and understanding of Don Bosco, Mother Mazzarello and the Salesian way of life, I become a Cooperator on 24th October 1978. I had officially become a member of the Salesian family.
Today the roles that our Gilmoss Cooperators play are many and varied, Eucharistic ministers, involvement in Baptism courses, First Communion preparation, cleaning the church, taking the little church Liturgy. Some Cooperators work in schools educating the young, some are involved in school clubs and sporting events, another runs Brownies and Guides. Some raise funds for Ethiopia, Liberia, Vides, and Russia. Some members are a powerhouse of prayer, much valued by us all.
The Salesian way of life has affected the whole of my family; my two daughters educated by Salesians became teachers themselves, in Salesian schools. Laura my granddaughter has worked on Salesian Summer Camps for four years now. 42 years on I can joyfully say that from my first Hello and smile with Sister Mary Cairns, my family and myself have been imbibed with that wonderful, Salesian feeling that I encountered all those years ago!
Marie, a Salesian Cooperator
There was huge excitement and energy as we divided the spoils and unwrapped the paper around the burgers. I sat and looked at mine as it sweated smugly on the Formica table top, bathed in the unnatural neon colours from the café lighting. The eyes of the group glowed with satisfaction as they sank their teeth, almost in unison, into the soft sweet bread. I sighed and reached for the warm cushion of chemicals and wondered when I would get a decent meal. "I'll have yours if you don't want it", a voice said from another table. It was a tempting offer, but I knew I needed something in my stomach before the long drive back home. It had been a good day and stopping off for a burger was important to help celebrate a day out together. I stopped suddenly, shocked. I was actually enjoying the burger! "Hey!" I said to the group, "this actually tastes good!"
They all laughed, one of them slapped me on the shoulder and smiled. For a few minutes I was in their world. I belonged with them and despite the difficulties of the day we were together.
It was a moment of communion, the highlight of my day with the group. haring a meal has always been a sign of unity. Sitting together, sharing a laugh, some food and some memories. A meal somehow completes and celebrates what has happened. It can bring a moment, even fleetingly, of reflection and togetherness.
Don Bosco always wanted to celebrate whatever had been done. Small treats, surprises and even a bag of sweets shared, create those opportunities to remind us that we draw on the same energy. We share food, friendship, forgiveness and faith.
Being with young people means looking out for those moments when the mood changes. When something more is needed to sharpen the focus of a day well spent, or a problem resolved and a deeper hunger satisfied. Even a burger can be the focus for the magic of a meal to work. Lord of the last supper Lord of bread and meals, help me recognise your spirit in hungry faces bathed in neon lights in humid cafes at the end of busy days.
Give me the wisdom to know when to stop and celebrate that moment when your presence stirs in the group.
Help me find ways to recognise the sacred moment and celebrate it.
An excerpt from Ordinary Ways by David O'Malley SDB see page 10
John's strong roots of Catholic faith and Scottish pride were nurtured in the early years of the last century in the west of Scotland. He entered the Salesians at the age of 26 after working in an auctioneer's office in Glasgow. He was ordained in 1948 and soon after that he went to Malta where he worked as bursar at St Patrick's until 1958. After returning to England as bursar in Bollington and then catechist in Cowley he had two spells as Rector first in Aberdour and then back in Bollington. He was then sent to Colne as chaplain to the Salesian Sisters in 1969 followed by a year doing similar work in Battersea before he returned to his beloved Malta where he lived and worked from 1971-1985. I think these were very happy years for John and Malta certainly remained very dear to his heart. He made many friends and those friends stayed in regular contact with him when he retired in 1985 by moving to the Stockport community and then finally to St Joseph's in Bolton.
In his long life as a Salesian priest John radiated God's love and concern for people. He had a natural ability to appreciate the problems and worries of others and he would frequently express his concern and his support. I think that his most attractive quality was his sense of humour and his gift for making people laugh. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face and this sense of the joy and wonder of life was rooted in that childlike simplicity of a man of deep faith who was secure in the knowledge and experience that he was loved by God. What I found moving, however, was that he was very sensitive to any trouble he might cause others. For some time he had been telling us that he wanted to die; he had had enough; he was ready to go. He was ready to meet the Lord who he and served so faithfully for so many years; to be with our Blessed Lady whom he loved much; and to be reunited with his parents, his brother, David, and the many Salesian friends who had gone before him.
I can see him now singing 'Keep right on to the end of the road'. Because that is what John did. He kept right on to the end of the road. We pray that God, who is the author of all laughter, all delight and all joy will now open paradise to John because he kept the faith, he did not lose heart and he brought a lot of joy to people's hearts.
Fr Michael Cunningham SDB
Pat celebrated his fiftieth year as a professed Salesian of Don Bosco in September 2001. Last year in July he celebrated his fortieth year as a priest. Most of his ministry was spent in Bootle; for twenty-eight years he ministered as a Salesian and a priest in Bootle. For nine years he worked in the Don Bosco Youth Centre. For ten years he was the parish priest of St Richard's and St Alexander's. During that period he was involved in various social projects on behalf of the community. In 1986 Pat was responsible for setting up St Richard's Community Programme, funded by the Manpower Services Commission. His vision of church went beyond the provision of the sacraments. Over the past nine years he was parish priest of St James', Bootle.
He was devoted to the people of Bootle. He was clearly aware of the challenges that the archdiocese, along with other dioceses in Britain, Ireland and elsewhere in Western Europe, would have to face with the declining numbers of priests. Pat was anxious to play his part in helping all of us face the future and have the courage to make any necessary changes, however difficult they might seem.
It seemed very fitting his body was received back among us on the great feast of Christ the King. It is the feast of the archdiocese in which he ministered for 28 years. It was also Youth Sunday, an appropriate day to pay our respects to a Salesian priest who dedicated so much of his time and energy to the needs of young people. He was a confessed workaholic who rarely took time off. The members of the parish council tried to insist that he took more time off. He was reluctant, but in these last days he did not hold it up as a virtue to be imitated by others. However, it does say something of the man and priest he was.
We give thanks and celebrate Pat's life. May he rest in peace, and may we who mourn him console each other with the assurances of faith.
Fr Jim Gallagher SDB
Sister Marie was the eldest of a family of six girls. She got to know the Salesian Sisters through a priest in Battersea who was a Salesian past-pupil of Farnborough. After profession she studied and taught in schools in Chertsey, Cowley and Limerick. After completing her Teacher Training course in Southampton in 1935 she taught for one year in Chertsey before being sent out 'on loan' to Madras for one year. She returned in 1938 to take up the headship of an elementary school in Farnborough where she stayed until her retirement in 1969.
Sister Marie lived for 17 years in Streatham, London where she willingly helped in community in whatever way she could. She had a very strong sense of responsibility and was always a very determined character. She was always very devoted to her family. She never forgot her mother's dying request that she should look after her sisters. Her family kept in contact with her and sent cards, flowers and photographs for birthdays and Christmas and other family events. She took a real interest in their joys and sorrows. Her face would light up as she looked at photographs, especially those of new babies and young children. Her sister Joan in still living.
During recent months, after a series of slight strokes she was aware of increasing confusion of mind and this made her rather anxious. After a fall she was taken to hospital where she drifted in and out of consciousness, unable to speak. Gradually she weakened until her peaceful death.
God has called Sister Marie to himself during a special year for the province as we celebrate the centenary of the arrival of the first sisters in England. She knew some of these sisters personally. May there be a joyful reunion as with Our Lady they welcome her home.
Sister Kathleen Scullion FMA
Sister Mary was born in Strigova, Yugoslavia in December 1912. In order to follow her call to the Salesian Religious life, she had to leave her family and country and go to Italy, to Nizza Monferrato where she made her novitiate. Sister Mary wanted to go to the Missions but in 1934, one year after her first profession, she was sent to England and here she spent the rest of her religious life, working in different Salesian houses in a variety of ways. From 1930 to 1970 she worked as cook in Battersea, Farnborough and Chertsey. She was a very capable and excellent cook and was much appreciated by the Salesians and their pupils. She was also Bursar for several years and Superior for three years.
I was with her for the first few years of my religious life and have vivid memories of Sister Mary as a very hard worker, extremely quick and thorough in her work. I must have tried her patience at times! But what was most remarkable was her spirit of prayer. Her work was frequently interspersed with prayer, a favourite being a short prayer in Italian in which she offered everything she did that to God. I think that was particularly true of Sister Mary and this stayed with her to the end.
Though the work was hard there was lots of laughter and good humour. Sister Mary herself had a lovely voice and was always willing to use it. At times her English had a certain originality. One day she phoned the greengrocer and told him his apples were stupid and she didn't want any more of them. On a more sober note, Sister Mary had much to suffer during her life, physically and mentally but she went on day after day in quiet resignation supported by her communities. Another great sorrow for her was knowing that her family were suffering under Communist rule. During the war years she was not able to receive news from home and it wasn't until after the war before she learned that her Father had died quite a long time before. She was able to go home several times, the last time being in 1980 for her Mother's death.
Her end was very peaceful, just like going to sleep. Her most frequently repeated request was 'Pray for me'. Let's do so and she will surely do the same for us.
Sister Monica Smith FMA