With the 142nd missionary expedition group now gathered for the traditional preparatory course before receiving the Missionary Cross from the Rector Major in the Basilica at Valdocco later in the month, it is interesting to note the changing face of this expeditionary series which began with Don Bosco nearly a century and a half ago.
Perhaps the most notable feature this time around is the Salesian Family composition of the group: 31 SDBs, 10 FMAs, 5 CSJs (Sisters of Charity of Jesus), 3 CMB (Community of the Mission of Don Bosco), and an as yet not fully specified number of lay missionaries through JyD (Jovenes y Desarollo) and from Italy, but at last count 13.
The matter of provenance and destination are the other two notable features: of the 31 Salesians SDB, 11 are from East Asia-Oceania (VIE, KOR, ITM, FIS), 10 from South Asia (all from various Indian Provinces), 3 from various pats of Europe, while 2 come from the Americas. The destinations are equally interesting for this group: 12 are coming into Europe, plus another two one of whom is going to Siberia, the other to Bulgaria; 8 will be going to one or other part of the Americas – to provinces ranging from the Antilles to Patagonia. The Middle East is receiving 2, Africa 2 (this includes one for Morocco and one for Tunisia), and Pakistan will receive one (from FIS, which has responsibility for Pakistan).
A similar pattern (we only know provenance, not destination) emerges for the FMA: of the 21 Sisters, 5 are from Vietnam, 3 from Korea, 3 from India,1 from the Philippines and the remainder include 5 from Europe, 2 from the Americas and 2 from Africa, one of these being a Sister from the Sudan.
The CSJ group is a special situation – they are opening their first community in Africa, and precisely in Juba, South Sudan. The 5 Sisters come from their communities in Japan, Korea and Brazil.
The Community of the Mission of Don Bosco might be unknown outside of Europe and Africa. They were founded in Bologna, Italy, and are an entirely lay group. Their Salesian charism is very much tied to parish and mission, and interestingly, two of the three being sent on mission this time are from Madagascar, where the Community began its first mission outreach beyond Italy. These two are going to Burindi where the Community has been at work for some time.
The other group of lay missionaries from Italy and Spain are largely destined for one or other part of Africa, while one will be in the Middle East and another in Albania.
It should be mentioned that the human resources involved in running the course for this large number of varied candidates includes 3 cultural animators, all three of whom come from or are already at work in EAO (one is a young Angolan studying theology at Ratisbonne who did his practical training in PNG), and of course 2 of the 4 Mission Department members, including Fr Klement himself, are or have been directly involved with EAO.