The Rector-Major pictured with Year 7 St Josephs Students, Provinical Fr Will Matthews, Principal Cathy Livingstone

The penultimate day of Rector-Major Don Ángel Fernández Artime’s visit to Australia saw him travel to St Joseph’s college in Ferntree Gully (situated approx. 40km east of Melbourne’s CBD).

The college has recently gone through a stunning transformation, adding a wide-range of facilities for the benefit of its students. The Rector-Major’s first task was to bless the new water-fountain established in the newly minted ‘Bosco Piazza”; with the allusions to Don Bosco’s methodology of meeting young people at the watering hole clear.

The Rector-Major gathered with students after the blessing of the new fountain and piazza

The small crowd of students in leadership positions and teachers (with a handful of guests) were treated to a composition of a song that had be specifically written for the event by music teacher Ms Bronwyn Dean. Sung by the school choir, it was a poignant moment befitting of such a special time.

A quick tour of the new year 7 buildings commenced, which resulted in a meeting with students in one of their classrooms. It was mathematics classes that had been interrupted for this, and grasping one of the textbooks, the Rector-Major mentioned to a few nearby students how impressed he was at the thickness of the book and all they are learning!

Afterwards, the year 12 student leaders joined the gathered guests and teachers in the staff room for morning tea. Here, the Rector-Major thanked everyone gathered for all the hard work they do (while stressing that he would be more comfortable if they continued to eat their snacks while he spoke!) He offered congratulations to the crowd for reaching 100 years with an important proviso – this was to be only the beginning with many more years to come!

The Don Bosco Retreat Centre at Lysterfield and the Salesian community who reside there is closely associated with the college, situated only 10 minutes away. This was the next stop for the Rector Major and a meeting place for many Salesians from all around the province who travelled to be there.

Fr Frank Bertagnolli begun the session with a reflection on the history of the Salesians in Australia an some light entertainment followed in the form Fr Mick Court, a talented magician who uses his skills in his ministry in the vein of Don Bosco. Those gathered were then invited to share some of their most precious memories throughout their lives as Salesians; and most seemed to gravitate towards talking about the Salesians that had most impressed them when they were young.

After lunch, the Rector-Major mentioned how as a Spaniard, asking him to offer input so soon after lunch without a proper siesta was a very tall order! Nevertheless, he spoke with the gathered confreres on the state of the congregation and his vision for the future. His last visit to Australia was 9 years ago, and he stressed how good it was to see progress in the province from that time, and the dissipation of anxieties that had lingered in the air during his last visit.

The Rector-Major with those gathered for the retreat day

He spoke of a conscious hope; that there was surely plenty more to come in the Salesian story in Australia; the congregation just needed to march towards that with a deliberate plan for spreading Don Bosco’s charism to the young who are in need of it most. The floor was then opened for a few questions and then adjourned to ensure that everyone was given some time for rest before evening mass, which was then followed by a communal dinner put on by the retreat centre staff.