Fr Massimo Bianco, SDB, has been a missionary in Lithuania for twenty years. Originally from Turin, Italy, he is 57 years old, lives and works in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, in a large suburban parish dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of the Rosary.
“Being a missionary is responding to a call, which I have matured for a long time,” he says. “I had spent three summer experiences in Africa, precisely in Nigeria, in the end I 'landed' on European soil, but I gradually understood that mission before a territory is a way of life.
“Even if the standard of living here is different from Africa, the need for evangelization in a secularized and post-Soviet world I would say is the same: here you meet people who are not physically malnourished, but are malnourished in spirit.”
“Here I replied: 'Here I am! Send me!' to the One who is the source of every missionary call.”
Fr Massimo arrived in Kaunas in 2001 as director and parish priest. In Kaunas, there is a Salesian parish with an oratory; the area has two neighborhoods, divided by the railway, Palemonas and Neveronys, in all about 10,000 inhabitants. There is a beautiful church, dedicated to Our Lady Queen of the Rosary, flanked on one side by the house of the Salesians and on the other by the house of the Salesian sisters. The Salesians run the Don Bosco oratory for children and young people aged 6 to 16, the sisters run a day center in Palemonas for about 30 children from disadvantaged families.
Fr Massimo performs the mass.
Fr Massimo explains that in recent years he has tried first of all to listen, to fit into a different culture with respect, patience and progressiveness: the language, the climate, the people, the faith lived in small communities were various aspects to be integrated, a little bit at a time.
“In the face of moments of loneliness and difficulty,” he continues, “I try not to lose heart. Of course, the moment comes, sooner or later, when you ask yourself: 'But what am I doing here?'”
“It is therefore a question of overcoming the temptation to let go, at the same time you realize that you carry within yourself a disease called 'protagonism and efficiency', driven by the human desire to always see results, but often this is not possible, at least in short term. In these cases, the life of prayer and the support of the Salesian and parish community in which I live help me a lot.”
As a Salesian of Don Bosco, Fr Massimo feels the task and the desire to make children and young people aware of the figure of Don Bosco, the Saint of the young, in a particular way.“This requires on my part to struggle with the temptation of a mediocre life that is satisfied with the 'minimum acceptable result',” he underscores.
“So always start again, keep the missionary fire alive in your heart, continue until I pass the baton to others, when God wills, with the awareness that it is worth working for the Kingdom of Heaven. It's not just a matter of understanding that the Lord sends us to proclaim His Word, but it is a matter of becoming the voice of that Word ourselves, with our presence and our testimony.”