As part of the programme which culminates with the annual worldwide Salesian Mission Day celebration, focused this year on the mission volunteer movement, seven mission and volunteer directors, all but one of them lay, gathered with Fr Vaclav Klement at the Salesian HQ in Rome this week. They were a hand-picked group of people (most of them with missionary experience themselves) representing three regions with extensive lay mission programmes: East Asia-Oceania, North Europe and Interamerica. One is a Salesian SDB, two are Salesian Cooperators, the remaining four are fully involved in lay mission formation and management in their provinces. Two of them are mission animation delegates for their provinces. The group was joined, at various moments along the way, by members of the Social Communications and Youth Ministry teams. Representing EAO was Ms Lauren Bicknell-Hichaaba, director of the Australian-based Cagliero Project. English was used as the lingua franca for discussions, which covered areas such as sharing of experiences of lay mission and volunteer programmes already in place in their provinces and regions, the situating of their endeavours within the Youth Ministry Framework, a look at initial research projects involving Salesian lay mission and/or volunteer efforts, and an exploration of ways of forming, accompanying and managing lay mission and volunteer projects and personnel. One of the provinces represented, Ireland, is just starting out with a lay mission programme, though its representative, Ms Jane Mellet, has herself had extensive experience in India and is the author of a study of the Bangalore-based BREADS project.
The meeting arrived at three solid conclusions: to further the mutual support amongst directors of Salesian Lay Mission programmes around the world that the meeting represented; to exchange formation programmes and best practice via an online group set up within the www.sdb.org AGORA framework – this is available in English and Spanish for now; to foster the quality of volunteer activity in the respective Salesian regions and provinces. An important perspective that emerged was the potential opportunity for coordination of mission and volunteer activity within a Salesian Region.
Towards the end of the meeting, the Rector Major met with the group to thank them for the enthusiastic role they have played and will continue to do so, in the the Salesian mission. He referred to his long association with the Salesian lay mission movement already with 60 years behind it in his home province. He also placed the movement within the Youth Ministry framework by suggesting that it is the best expression of Salesian youth ministry, where committed young people are ready to share life in full with the Salesian community and carry out the Salesian mission with them. The very first to benefit from this are the missioners themselves. The Salesians, of course, need to believe in this expression of the common mission and help to foster quality formation and experience before, during and after, the latter being, in many ways, the major challenge yet to be fully confronted. He invited the directors present to consider the importance, in the post-volunteer phase, of inviting participants to membership of the Salesian Family, particularly through the Salesian Cooperators Association.