In August this year seven Brothers: Michael Lynch, Stan Rossato, David O’Brien, Barry Parker, Dat Phung, Michael Morrow and Michael Harris headed off to Vietnam for a Brothers’ Congress. The purpose of the gathering was to study and improve the knowledge of the Salesian religious vocation in the particular form of the Salesian Brother. This sounds very serious, but it was a wonderful experience of camaraderie and new friendships.
There were about 180 Brothers in attendance from all the provinces of the East Asia – Oceania Region I didn’t realize there were so many Brothers in our region! And they weren’t all there! Men, young and old, of every field of experience from business managers to writers, artists, teachers, fund raisers, journalists in the digital field and mechanics and many other technical fields. Some had remained in their own provinces, but many were missionaries with unforgettable stories and adventures. What impressed me was the joy and enthusiasm of the whole group.
We were in a retreat house in K’Long, not far from Dalat, north-east of Ho Chi Minh, which is in the foothills and is cool, about 15 degrees and often raining and windy. It is the wet season. The gatherings were held in a big marquee which gradually almost disintegrated as the days went by, which added some excitement.
There were many “inputs” and resolutions, too many to remember! But one thought caught my attention. Our vocation is the Salesian religious vocation. We are consecrated religious. This is our gift to the world. Our witness. And during the promotion of the Salesian vocation this is the first and main thing to be promoted. Young men with a view to following Don Bosco as Salesians must understand the value of the religious vocation in the form of the Brother and the Priest. The Salesian religious vocation in both forms.
Brother Dat was our guide and organizer and he did a wonderful job especially in the last three days of looking around Vietnam especially Dalat and Ho Chi Minh city. The work of the local Salesians is amazing considering it is a communist country with some restrictions on possible activities. They have many aspirants from 18 to 25 years of age, pre-novices, novices, post novices etc. At the province centre, which includes their theologate, we attended the final profession of seven Salesians, 5 clerics and 2 brothers. There were about 1000 people in attendance, just to give you an idea of the vibrancy of the Vietnam/Mongolia province!
I think the others would agree that we returned home with a new appreciation of the Salesian Brothers’ vocation and new energy and enthusiasm to carry us into the future.
Br Michael Harris