Don Bosco Today - Spring 2004
Friendship - The Lost Gift
DON BOSCO IN THE HOLY LAND
Bosco House, Bootle
MY YEAR ABROAD WITH VIDES UK by Kate Keane
Prepared to Share
Sister Frances Dennehy FMA
Sister Hilda D'Arcy FMA
Father John Dawson SDB
The theme of this issue of Don Bosco Today is Friendship. Fr Michael Cunningham begins a two part article on this subject. Many of you will have read his recent book, Within & Without, in which he explores some of the implications of a contemporary relational spirituality. He feels that the subject of friendship is vital to our understanding of Christianity.
Don Bosco fully appreciated the value of friendship in the education of young people, so much so that he is often referred to as The Friend of Youth. In an earlier edition of Don Bosco Today, Fr David O'Malley wrote
Youth ministry happens when an adult steps out of their normal preferred pattern to engage in friendship with the world of a particular young person or group. Why friendship? Youth ministry happens most effectively within a network of friendship, confidence and freedom between a caring adult and a young person or group. Without the freedom and trust that friendship brings, the adult remains an instructor or a provider of entertainment. When the adult is trusted, hearts are opened and confidence established. A balanced, appropriate affection is able to be expressed and the adult is invited into the world of the young person to respect, affirm and guide the young person along their own unique faith journey.
In this edition of Don Bosco Today we celebrate the ways in which members of the Salesian Family, in various parts of the world, have made friends with young people. Fr Gianni Caputa, a Salesian who works in the Holy Land, has written a fascinating article on the work of Don Bosco in that country. Gianni is a theologian who recently spent a year studying in England. His subject was the life of the Venerable Bede. In his article we see how the Salesian Family in the Holy Land, by the openness of their youth work, is encouraging genuine friendship between the children of the various religions there. This is a very practical way of working for peace. The Salesian Family has been working in the Holy Land for over 100 years, their priority has always been the young people who are disadvantaged. Kate Keane, a learning mentor from Saint John Bosco High School in Liverpool, describes how she made so many friends among the poor children of Kenya and Cambodia. Alison Burrows tells us how we can be privileged to share our blessings with these children of Africa. I was fortunate to be able to visit Bosco House in Bootle where young men, who through addiction have been alienated from society, have discovered, in Bosco House, the wonderful healing of welcoming friendship. Our final section is Remembering. 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.
Anthony Bailey SDB
I shall not call you servants any more...I call you friends (Jn 14:15)
I have often puzzled over the loss of the gift of friendship in our Christian spirituality. Listening to sermons, one rarely hears about the gift of friendship. Visit a Christian bookshop, and you will find very little material on friendship. If we look at our own lives there should be no doubt as to the significance of friendship. Where else do we go when we want to share those special moments of joy and of sorrow in our lives. So why this Christian reticence, even neglect, of this great gift of friendship?
I want to suggest two reasons why we have neglected the gift of friendship. The first is our fear of God and the second is our fear of the body. In this first article I will look at the first of these fears: fear of God. The American writer Robert Sardello suggests to us that the most central spiritual task of our time is working to overcome fear.
If you look at the history of most religions, whenever God or a messenger from God appears, it is more often perceived as bad news rather than good news. This is revealed by the whole cult of sacrifice. Why was it that human beings thought that God had to be constantly kept sweet, as it were, by continual sacrifices? The amazing story of Abraham having to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, only to be stopped at the last minute is a very revealing one. It seems to mark a step forward in religious consciousness when human sacrifice was replaced by animal sacrifice. Henceforth it is animals that carry the stigma of having to be sacrificed to keep God at bay. It has been said that in the time of Jesus about 80% of the economy of Jerusalem centred around the business of moving and slaughtering animals. In fact to be a priest in the time of Jesus was to be a butcher.
The whole image of God, behind this understanding of religion, is a very distorted and damaging one, but it is very pervasive. There are plenty of examples of a much richer and more loving understanding of God in the scriptures, but one of the fascinating elements of the whole scriptural story is that it is usually three steps forward and two steps back. Whenever angels or messengers of God appear they go out of their way to counter this deep-seated fear of God. Fear not, don't be afraid is perhaps the most commonly used phrase in the Bible. But our fear goes deep.
It is Jesus, of course, who provides the best antidote to this toxic image of a God who has to be feared, rather than loved. I think we often make the mistake of reading the gospels like an instruction book. They provide us with teaching on what we ought to be doing. In the performance-obsessed culture in which we live, it is all too easy to reduce the gospels to another instruction manual. If we perform the instructions properly God might stop disliking us and might even let us into heaven, no doubt after a long stay in purgatory. This is a very serious distortion, because it is still rooted in an image of a God who is more interested in punishing us than loving us. The gospels, on the other hand, reveal to us the good news of a relational God who loves us so deeply and unconditionally. We never have to earn His love. It is not a question of worthiness, nothing we can ever do can make us worthy anyway. It is all about becoming aware of the free gift of God's grace in which we discover our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God. You could say that only when we understand God's free gift of grace can we begin to understand the good news.
So this amazing God, who loves us in a completely unaccountable way, is not looking at our performance of good and bad deeds. What he wants is a relationship of love and trust. He wants friends. During his public ministry, while he was preaching the good news, he surrounded himself with a whole range of friends. He had a large group of disciples, co-workers and collaborators with whom he shared work and friendship. In addition to that group he chose another inner circle of friends whom we call the twelve. He spent time with them, drew them away from the calls of ministry, ate with them, shared with them and prayed with them. But there is a further step. Even within that group he seems to have a more intimate small group of Peter, James and John. The gospels even tell us that one of his friends was known as the disciple Jesus loved: and we see a most tender scene at the last supper. (Jn 13:23) The sharing of table fellowship is one of the great signs of the coming of the kingdom and it clearly shocked many of the critics of Jesus.
Jesus met this criticism head-on; 'What description can I find for this generation...For John came, neither eating nor drinking and they say he is possessed. The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and they say, "Look a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners". Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions.' (Mt 11:16.18,19)
We also discover in Jesus a remarkable freedom in his relationships with women. Understood in the male-dominated culture of the day, in addition to the restrictions on the behaviour of rabbis, this is truly radical and revolutionary. So we see Jesus completely at ease in the company of women. The names of his friends are listed in the gospel accounts: Martha and Mary, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and so on. He engages the woman at the well in conversation; he touches the hand of the young daughter of Jairus, an act that would have made him unclean in the eyes of experts in the law. He allows a woman, described in Luke's gospel as a sinner, to anoint his head, hands and feet, to wash his feet, to wipe them with her hair and to kiss his feet. He says that this action should be long remembered for generations to come.
We see Jesus weeping at the death of his friend Lazarus. This kind of tenderness reveals the true intimacy in the friendship of Jesus. He is a man completely in touch with his feminine soul and is clearly not afraid of vulnerability. Vulnerability is at the heart of friendship. It is a deeply attractive human quality. It should not surprise us to see that vulnerability is at the heart of the friendship that Jesus offers each one of us. Jesus is the vulnerable name for God.
In the second article I will examine how we Christians let fear take over our understanding of the gift of friendship and how the overcoming of this fear could be one of the greatest gifts to our world in these troubled times
Michael Cunningham SDB
The Salesians and the Salesian Sisters first arrived in the Holy Land in 1891. At present there are 76 Salesians working in four houses, and 30 Salesian Sisters in four houses. Twelve Salesians work in Bethlehem, in the Provincial community, and in our technical school youth centre. In the school over 100 Palestinian teenagers attend regular courses in carpentry, mechanics, electro-mechanics, and computer sciences. The course lasts three years. They obtain a qualification from the Jordanian Authority, because until 1995, Bethlehem, although under Israeli military occupation since 1967, depended on Jordan as regards schools and education. Up to 150 young adults attend intensive evening courses of qualification in the same fields in order to be able to apply for work in factories, industries, and offices. Half are Muslims, half Christians. Since the students are generally very poor, the Salesians rely on various charities for scholarships. These same charities usually donate the equipment for the machine shops and laboratories. During this present second intifadah, Salesians in Bethlehem are mainly known for the free bread they distribute daily to over 300 families. This bread is made in the Salesian Bakery. Beth-lehem means The House of Bread.
The youth centre is one of the most popular and frequented places in Bethlehem. Every boy in Bethlehem takes part in some of its activities: sports, the brass and rock bands, drama in the auditorium, the scouts group, the choir and altar servers in the beautiful church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Muslims and Christians, of every denomination, meet as friends. The courtyard of the school was a safe haven during the most difficult period of the intifadah. In the Bethlehem area, sports facilities are extremely rare, because the Israeli military authority prevented the building of any social or sports facility, for security reasons. Our church is the centre of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The annual procession with the Blessed Sacrament on the streets of Bethlehem is unique in a non-Catholic country. During the second World War the School served as an internment camp for the Italian and German Salesians and Salesian Sisters. The British officers used to say that they had never seen a more disciplined group of prisoners! Our young Salesians were allowed to continue with their studies, and even traditional hobbies. English officers and soldiers used to attend their concerts, not only out of duty, but because they enjoyed them.
Our Salesian school and Basilica in Nazareth are built on the highest point of the town. The Salesians run courses in mechanics, electro-mechanics, computer sciences and carpentry, an appropriate trade in the town of Saint Joseph the Carpenter. Over 600 teenagers, both Christian and Muslim, attend the school. It is the only Catholic technical school for Arab boys in Israel. The Salesians have no financial problems here because the Israeli Ministry of Education subsidizes not only each student but also the staff. The pastoral work is done by the Salesians and the Salesian Sisters, supported by a group of Salesian Past Pupils and Cooperators. The Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent, an architectural masterpiece, is the best example of a late French-Gothic church in the Middle East. The students draw inspiration from Simon Srugi (1877-1943), a Salesian Brother who was born in Nazareth and whose cause of canonisation is in progress. In Nazareth the Salesian youth centre was, and continues to be, one of the most popular places, and served as the training ground to many distinguished personalities. The present Latin Patriarch and two bishops are among the Salesian past pupils of Nazareth. The Salesian Sisters, the majority of them are Arabs, run a kindergarten and a primary and secondary school with more than 1200 girls and boys, both Christian and Muslims. These schools are also subsidized by the Israeli Authorities.
In Jerusalem the Salesian Sisters run a kindergarten with 100 children, both Christians and Muslims. They also have a guesthouse for groups of pilgrims and for residential students who attend various centres of higher biblical and theological education in the City.
Bet Gamal is a very large Salesian estate situated in an agricultural region between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The name means The House of Gamaliel, the Jewish doctor of the law who was the teacher of Saint Paul. Here, Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr was buried. The Salesians discovered the remains of his tomb in 1916, and since then the site has been venerated. Bet Gamal was awarded the Cross of Saint George by the British Mandate Authority as the First Agricultural School of Palestine, for the modernity of the techniques and the quality of their products, among them olive oil and wine. Due to the longstanding wars between Arabs and Jews, the local Palestinian population left the region. It is now inhabited by Jewish immigrants. Five Salesians and four volunteers cultivate the fields, the olive grove and the vineyards, they welcome groups of young people for retreats, and guard the shrine of Saint Stephen and the tomb of Simon Srugi. Simon was born in Nazareth in 1877 of a Lebanese Maronite mother and of a Greek-Melkite father; both died when he was very young, so he was entrusted to Fr Belloni who had opened an orphanage in Bethlehem. In 1891 Fr Belloni and his small local religious family joined the Salesian Congregation. A few years later Simon himself became a Salesian Brother, and was sent to Bet Gamal were he spent almost all his life. He was a man of God. His life was a life of charity, especially for the poor, among them a number of children who had survived the Armenian genocide. His life was one of compassion and loving care for the sick, whom he welcomed in the dispensary. He was a model as a religious and as an educator, an example to all Christians, and was considered a saint by the very Muslims who held him in great veneration. They looked to him as a mediator and a judge in cases of quarrels. He was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II in April 1993.
In the mountainous region Southwest of Jerusalem and West of Bethlehem is Cremisan. The Salesian Sisters run a kindergarten with 100 children, both Christian and Muslims, a retreat-house a house for elderly sisters and a week-end youth centre. The educational program of this particular youth centre is remarkable for its ecumenical and inter-religious character. Salesian Sisters and Salesians work with very poor people. They welcome refugees and street children, especially those teenagers who, because of the intifadah, during which schools were suspended and social life was seriously disrupted, have grown up without any formal education and consequently are unemployed. The Salesian Sisters were so effective that in the late 1980s a young Muslim past pupil of theirs decided to open her house in Jerusalem to poor children, because she wanted to do for them what Don Bosco did in Turin. Her house was situated in a completely Islamic environment. Two years ago a group of young female teachers, from a refugee camp near Bethlehem, started doing the same thing among the children of their school. Both teachers and children are Muslims.
The Salesian community in Cremisan is international, with 32 students of Theology from 14 different countries of the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Latin America. The principal activities of the Salesians in Cremisan are the International College of Theology and the winery, a small youth centre for the boys of the area, and the retreat house. The present International College of Theology had its beginnings in Bethlehem in October 1929, in order to provide an adequate formation for the young Salesians of the Middle East Province. In 1966 it became affiliated with the Faculty of Theology of the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome. The duration of studies is four years. The principle language of instruction is Italian, but it is planned to change to English soon. Owing to its privileged situation in the Holy Land, the College can give special importance to biblical formation. There is the opportunity of visits not only to the Holy Places locally, but also to Jordan, Sinai and Egypt. The College benefits from the assistance of the Biblical institutions of higher education in Jerusalem. This provides a solid base for those students who intend to continue their studies. Taking advantage of the special ecclesial, ethnical and religious riches of the Middle East, the College offers its students the possibility of an ecumenical formation through contact with the Christian, Jewish and Muslim cultures and surroundings. Staff and students are involved in various forms of pastoral activities in parishes, youth centres, and schools. Our seminarians are well known, all over the Holy Land, for their typical style of joy. In normal times, the most popular festival, except for the official Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem and for the Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem, is the feast of Mary Help of Christians, held in Cremisan, with a procession and a concert. In the summer time Cremisan usually accommodates various groups who come to the Holy Land on pilgrimage, or for periods of retreat, for ongoing formation or conferences.
The College is supported financially mainly by the income of the winery, which covers the fees for a third of the students. The present winery was started unpretentiously in 1880. The sale of wine began in 1885 to give employment to the local people, to help the Bethlehem Orphanage and to assure the financial autonomy of Cremisan. Presently Cremisan and Bet Gamal vineyards cover a mountainous area of about three hectares. In the wine industry, equipped with modern installations and machinery, up to 450 metric tons of grapes are processed annually, depending on the market demand. Unfortunately, the crisis affecting tourism and pilgrimages over the past three years, has caused the sale of the famous Cremisan wine, which used to be on the table of the pilgrim restaurants, to crumble. Helping in the vineyard and in the wine factory is part of the training of our seminarians, and it goes very well together with their future mission as workers in the vineyard of the Lord. Five Cremisan past pupils are bishops in the Middle and Far East. Another has recently received an international award for his work of peace among the peoples living in the border region between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Gianni Caputa SDB
Within the circle of the seasons
See the symbols, know the reasons
For the Church's celebrations -
Good news given to all nations.
A Home for the Homeless
There are so many houses, schools and projects in so many parts of the world which bear the name Bosco. It would be impossible to list all the activities which take place in the name of Don Bosco, but one thing is certain - they all, in their own way, offer a home for young people. I recently visited one such work, Bosco House in Bootle. I was met at the door by John, one of the helpers. I had come to meet Mary Hughes who was responsible for this work, but I was early. While I waited John kindly explained to me the kind of work he did. As I listened to him I realised that he had a great understanding of the needs of the young men in Bosco House, who were attempting to recover from drug abuse. I was curious to know where he had learned so much about the problems of the young drug addict. I didn't need to ask because he was anxious to explain to me that, long before he was appointed to his present post, Bosco House had been his home. He had come as a young homeless criminal with a serious heroin problem and he had found a home here and then a purpose in life - helping to make Bosco House a home for similar young men who had lost all reason for living. He has regained confidence in himself to the extent that he is now able to talk to sixth formers in local schools about his own life experience and the dangers of drug addiction.
Every home needs a homemaker, someone who can breathe a spirit of welcome into the ordinary bricks and mortar of a house. In the case of Bosco House, Bootle, the homemaker is very clearly Mary Hughes. To meet Mary is to encounter enthusiasm. It is evident, from the animated way she talks, that she has a genuine love for the young men in her care. She has been the inspiration which drives all those who, in varying capacities, help her to make Bosco House a home for those who are homeless.
The centre was opened by the Salesians as a homeless unit in 1984 under the care of Father John Booth SDB. Mary Hughes helped considerably in the early days, she was then working locally as a Probation Officer, a job she held for 15 years. In 1999 it became clear that a full-time professional leader was needed to run Bosco House. Mary turned down the position of Senior Probation Officer in Dublin and bravely accepted the responsibility of Bosco House.
The house is home to thirteen lads who, while recovering from drug or substance addiction, have the opportunity to follow a variety of courses. They are taught useful trades, wood occupation skills, catering, horticulture and photography and they have a computer room. All the residents are encouraged to become computer literate, some taking courses which will enable them to find a place at college for more advanced courses. A useful spin-off from the course in wood occupation is that they have been able to build their own kitchen and replace the ageing window frames with new wood-framed double glazing. Apart from these vocational courses, the lads are also offered the help of professionally trained counsellors and medical practitioners who understand the care needed in treating HIV and Hepatitis.
The successful leadership of a home for the homeless requires more than enthusiasm. It requires a confident professional approach to a host of agencies, who determine, not only the conditions which must apply in such delicate work, but also the way it is financed. The secret lies in the balance between administration and ethos, the balance of time spent with outside agencies and the time given to making the house into a home. The facilities available for the young people, who are making the painful journey from addiction to reintegration into society, are clear signs of the professional expertise which underpins the project. The ease with which the young people relate to one another and to visitors, and the pride they show in their home indicate that they are not only accepted but loved.
David O'Malley in his book Ordinary Ways reminds us that Don Bosco wanted his house to be a school, a church, a playground and a home, all focussed on young people and that the vital part of this fourfold pattern was balance. In Bosco House we see this balance achieved in remarkable simplicity. The schooling takes place in the workshops provided. Compared to the sophistication of modern schools this may not seem a great achievement, but one must remember that these are young men for whom schools days were not happy days, but days passed in the total distraction of addiction. The discipline of learning has incredible therapeutic value in the regaining of self-confidence, as it did so many years ago for the first boys Don Bosco found on the streets of Turin. The church aspect of their lives can be found in the Christian values upon which this home is built, and in the love shown to them as they struggle to realise that they are at last valued for what they are. The playground was always an integral part of Don Bosco's way, and remains a valued educative force in Bosco House. Opportunities are given for the 'lads' to have outings and holidays, to see their favourite Merseyside football teams and indulge in the good-humoured rivalry which this provokes. Once a year they have their 'family' holiday together as any ordinary family would, they have been able to visit Wales, Ireland and Cornwall. The home aspect of their lives seems to be more traditional than many family homes today, since great store is placed on good food eaten together. Since drug addiction has such deleterious effects on health, the advantages of a good diet are much appreciated.
As I was leaving Bosco House, one of the young men, said to me quite spontaneously,
"Mary is like a Mum to me. She looks after me better than my own family ever did."
In August 2002 I set off on a journey of discovery. At the outset I had no idea that it would involve me seeing so many different parts of the world, or that I would find out so much about the lives of others, but more importantly about myself. Having been a volunteer with VIDES UK for over five years I decided I would like to try a long term experience abroad. I was fortunate enough to be granted a year out from my job as Learning Mentor at St John Bosco High School in Liverpool to do this.
Firstly I journeyed to a small town in Southern Kenya, called Namanga. Initially I was there with seven volunteers from the UK and we spent three weeks working alongside Kenyan VIDES volunteers. Living and working as part of a community, we provided daily lessons and activities for over 500 of the local children. In Kenya local can mean children travelling anything up to two hours on foot to attend a lesson, such is the value of education! After this project the group left but I remained to work alongside the FMA sisters in the parish. Sr Rosetta Guarnier is the superior, and with two other sisters, they run a nursery school, a vocational training course, a number of weekend oratories and provide religious instruction for all Catholics in the local government schools. I taught mainly English and Art in the schools during the week and then worked with some of the Kenyan volunteers to provide activities for the children and young people of the parish at the weekends. As I was there until December I had a fantastic time preparing for Christmas, in true Kenyan style, with lots of singing, dancing and colourful artwork.
My time in Kenya was wonderful. The people were so warm and they welcomed me wholeheartedly into their community. Living and working alongside the Sisters taught me so much. My job in Kenya may have been to teach, but I feel that I received an education all of my own through the experience.
After Christmas I moved from Africa to join another VIDES volunteer from the UK, Siobhan Moore, working in Cambodia. This placement was very different, not just because it was in a different continent with a dramatic change in climate and culture, but because I was in the hustle and bustle of the capital city of Phnom Penh. The FMA Sisters have two houses in Phnom Penh a short distance from each other. They run vocational training courses for girls who largely have missed out on opportunities in education. Siobhan and I taught English conversation in these two schools. We also spent time working in a primary school the Sisters have established in a village just outside the city called Phum Chreh. At the weekends we went out with the students from the training schools to the villages. The girls provide free lessons every Sunday in English, Health/Hygiene and Ethics/Values to the village children who have little or no other access to education. The students feel this is an important way of them being able to give something back from the high quality education they have received during their time at the Salesian Schools in the city.
When I reflect on my time in Cambodia I draw similar conclusions to what was my experience in Kenya. It was the people I met, lived and worked with, who made all the difference. The Sisters, the students, teaching colleagues and the children were so receptive to my presence as a volunteer. I am sure that anyone who has had an experience of living and working abroad will understand what I mean when I say that discovering different cultures, climates, lifestyles etc can be challenging yet rewarding all at the same time. However, the people I met and worked with were so good to me, and embraced me so genuinely, that the idea of differences between us appeared not to exist. I believe that powerful relationships and true friendships happen when our spirits rise and meet each other, without thinking of differences in language, colour of skin, culture, lifestyle, religion, environment etc. True friendship is based on mutual respect, acceptance and understanding and I certainly experienced plenty of that in Kenya and Cambodia.
My year abroad with VIDES UK took me to places I never thought I would go, opened my eyes to many things and set me on a path of personal discovery which has still not reached its end. The joy of this is that I have no idea when or if it will end.
In the Autumn 2001 edition of Don Bosco Today I wrote an article entitled Prepared to Share, in which I described how my husband and I, together with our children Ellie, and Luke, then aged 11 and 8 spent the summer of 2001 teaching and working in Kenya. We went to Africa as part of a VIDES Project and we lived and worked in Namanga, a town on the border of Tanzania. Although our life has now nearly returned to normal with the hustle and bustle of work, school, music lessons and football, our whole family remains deeply affected and enriched by the experiences we had that summer in Kenya. Quite simply we cannot get the thought of the needs of the children we met out of our heads. As a result we are constantly asking ourselves, "How can we continue to help these children?" Realising the limits of our own experience and finances, we feel obliged to look for further opportunities to support the wonderful Salesian work we were privileged to witness at first hand in Kenya.
During our time in Africa it quickly became apparent that for most children and young people education was a luxury rather than a right. As a result many have no choice but to opt out of primary and secondary education because the cost is way beyond the means of their parents. As teachers, parents and educators we felt moved to respond to this need and, in our own small way help to make a difference!
How can we respond to the need?
One practical way of responding to this need is to support the Sponsorship programme which VIDES UK is hoping to set up, and which we are sure will help make the difference. This programme will enable people in the UK who are prepared to share, to contribute financially to the educational school projects run by the Salesian communities in Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia). The aim of this sponsorship is to support and promote the education of African children. It is more difficult for a young person to find funding to go to college than for a child to attend primary school. My husband and I are prepared to act as the link coordinators in the UK, working with the Salesian link coordinators in Namanga and Embu in Kenya, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Adua in Ethiopia. There will be two strands to the programme.
1 Support of Identified Projects
The donations of those who sponsor in this way will be used to fund specific projects identified by the Link Co-ordinator abroad. The money will be used to benefit all the children in the project, not just one specific child. It will enable the purchase of text books, the provision of libraries etc. In return for their donations, those who sponsor these projects will receive communication from one of the Salesian Communities or from a child who is benefiting directly from the project, for example a letter, a drawing, or a photograph.
2 Bursary Fund
Bursary Funds will be set up to support specific young adults requiring help with furthering their education or training. To access a bursary fund the young person will approach the link co-ordinator in their region of Africa or their local Salesian Community. After discussion with the link co-ordinator, conditions for the bursary for each young person will be negotiated. Such conditions would include an annual report by letter to VIDES UK which will be distributed to sponsors of the programme.
Are you prepared to share?
You can make a difference. Through your financial support you will help change the lives of hundreds of identified children and young people. You will be offering them educational opportunities. You will be working with the members of the Salesian Communities who are called to serve these young people.
If you are prepared to share your blessings with the young people of Africa there are many ways of doing so. You can make a one-off contribution to the sponsorship programme, or perhaps you may prefer to contribute, monthly, quarterly, six monthly or annually. Schools can also be sponsors. For example a whole class might choose to fund-raise and support a class abroad. Members of this class could write to children on the project. Such a partnership, worked through the school, will not only benefit the children in Africa but will increase the understanding our children have of the lives of other children.
The people of Africa have touched the lives of the members of my family in ways we could never ever have imagined. I know how much we have received, and it most certainly is much more than we ever gave! There is still so much more that we can give. I'm sure your experience will be similar to our experience if you are prepared to share in this way and support the sponsorship programme. There is a quotation by Mother Teresa which I think captures the essence of the reality of giving,
"No one so poor they have nothing to give
and no-one so rich
they have nothing to receive"
Any donations which you send to:
Vides UK 61A, Mansion Drive, Croxteth, Liverpool. L11 9DP
will go directly to the children and young people served by the Salesian Communities in Africa.
1911 - 2003
Frances was born in Drimoleague, Co Cork, Ireland and moved with her family to London during the first world war. Her father died as a result of the war and both of her brothers died when they were young leaving Frances and her sister with her mother. Frances went to school in Chelsea and was taught by the Sisters of Mercy. On leaving school she worked in a shop until she asked to join the Salesian Sisters.
As an aspirant in Chertsey, she helped the Sisters with the Sunday Oratory and with parish catechetics. After her religious profession she worked mainly as cook and in the laundry in different communities. She was very generous and was often sent 'on supply' to other houses in times of need. She was a woman of prayer, with an outstanding devotion to Saint Joseph. She wrote - "I felt Saint Joseph very near me at times." Certainly those around her often heard the words 'Saint Joseph' on her lips - she relied on him for everything! She herself said that it is God, Good Saint. Joseph and Our Lady who are our helpers. She had a good sense of humour and her kindness was very genuine. She spent a number of years in Henley. One of the neighbours, hearing of her death, sent a card saying, "We will always remember your kindness when you were our next-door neighbour." Frances retired to Cowley in 1988, and gradually became less mobile. During her last two months, which she spent in hospital, she was an inspiration to all who came into contact with her. Her constant refrain, spoken wholeheartedly, was, "Oh, thank you, thank you." May she rest in peace now and intercede for us with God, Good Saint. Joseph and Our Lady.
Sister Kathleen Scullion FMA
1916 - 2003
Hilda was one of a large family from Boyle, Co Roscommon. She loved her family and often spoke of the goodness they showed her. She began to train for nursing before she asked to join the Salesian Sisters. During most of her religious life she had the responsibility of community infirmarian. During the war years she looked after small children, first in Windlesham, and then in Hastings. When she made her final profession she applied for the Missions, but obedience led her to continue her work in community, where she was responsible for laundry, linen and the care of the sick. During the many years in the community in Liverpool, she always showed an interest in the Sisters' work in the school, and would welcome past pupils who would come to ask her prayers for themselves and their families. She gave any visitor a warm welcome and was genuinely kind. She was interested in current events and, until her sight deteriorated, read the daily newspaper and watched the TV news. A sister who lived with her over a long period of time remembered that "Thank you" was often on her lips and she never wanted to put anyone else to any trouble on her account. On one occasion she advised a Sister, "Let it lie, don't upset yourself, you'll be the better person for it." One of her favourite sayings was, "Better to own a little than to want a lot." Hilda's faith was simple but profound. She had a deep sense of prayer and a great love for Our Lady. She prayed constantly and read anything she could find about recent apparitions. She suffered a painful period of anxiety in her last years while in Cowley. Her family kept in touch with her to the end and she felt close to them. As death approached she found great peace and she was grateful for the loving care she received from her sisters in community, who were able to be with her until the end. May she rest in peace and pray for us from heaven
Sister Kathleen Scullion FMA
1916 - 2003
John Dawson died peacefully during the evening of 24th October 2003, in Frimley Park Hospital. He had been unwell for nearly a month, and an operation in early October to improve his circulation had not been able to help him. During the final fortnight he was largely unconscious. The last event he enjoyed in community in Farnborough was a meal celebrating the 70th anniversary of his Salesian Profession.
John was born in Bolton in March 1916 and baptised in SS Peter & Paul's Church. He attended Thornleigh Salesian College where his gifts as a footballer placed him in the forward line of the school team. At the age of sixteen John chose to enter the Salesians and made his novitiate in Cowley. He was professed on 9th September 1933 and began his studies in philosophy. His threee years of practical training were spent in Chertsey, a school he returned to later as a priest. Four years study at Blaisdon, with his final profession at Beckford in 1939, led John to his Salesian priestly ordination in July 1942, in the Blaisdon Hall chapel.
John spent over 24 years as a teacher, working at Chertsey, Battersea and Blaisdon. His work in school was characterised by his gentle good humour, observant wit, and a great love and knowledge of the natural world, especially birds and butterflies. John taught geography and some of his meticulous displays that he kept with him showed the quality of his work in humanities education.
Following a period of ill health in his late fifties, John undertook a new form of ministry. He became the Chaplain to the FMA Community in Sandrock Hall, Hastings, and then convalesced in Malta, with some teaching. In 1976 John moved to Clacton, where he worked as Chaplain to St Michael's Convent Nursing Home. Over a period of seventeen years, John gave sterling service in this apostolate. His warmth of personality and sincerity in ministry earned him many friends and considerable appreciation. His service extended to supporting the parishes of the town of Clacton in a supply capacty and as confessor for several priests.
In 1993 John, aged 77, transferred as Chaplain to Nazareth House in Bexhill, Sussex, receiving care in his old age. After eight years in Sussex, the closure of the convent in Bexhill meant that John came to us at St John Bosco House, Farnborough. After a quarter of a century living out of community, John adapted well to the change. His was a voice of quiet appreciation for the care offered by the staff, and for the friendship of his Salesian brothers. His was an outlook compassionate for those who had weaker health; the wit and droll sense of humour never deserted him. Often the raising of an eye-brow or a quiet remark at table showed John's vision of the funny side of a situation, despite the pain he often endured. He smiled and joked on the evening before surgery, as we anointed him in hospital, and raised a smile during a more alert spell a week before his death. As we can delight in the bird that settles briefly on a branch before flying away, we were glad of John's company and enjoyed his presence in the two brief years he shared with us in Farnborough.
Hugh Preston SDB