The original group of Salesian Missionaries to Australia

Today, whilst many enjoying abundant material well-being, there are warning signs that genuine quality of life is in short supply. Despite the greatly increased number of people receiving higher education, is true wisdom developing among us as individuals and society? Does the flood of information delivered by the internet truly add to our age’s long search for real knowledge?

All is far from well. With material prosperity has come, not serenity and peace of mind, but a deep-seated sense of disturbance that leads to an ever-grasping thirst for more. We have gained much in the last 50 years, but we seem to have lost something vital, something irreplaceable. Many would say that it is our Christian heritage, a place for God in our lives, a family in which to feel wanted and from which to receive a sense of value and, lastly, a country of which to be proud. 

Many, especially among young people, are lost, dwelling in isolation, deprived of a God to live for, coping with fragmented and dysfunctional relationships and marginalized by a society which places little value on the social graces of reverence, courtesy, tolerance and honesty. 

T.S. Elliott, the poet, in his Choruses from ‘The Rock’ raised the same query:
Where is the life we have lost in living? 
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? 
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information
But it seems to be upon us with a new urgency.

Treasuring and remembering our past can provide the solution. History is to a nation what memory is to the individual. Remembering leads to appreciation and appreciation deepens relationships, allowing us to build on our past and adapt it to our future.

The year 2023 will offer the Salesian Family an opportunity for such an enriching experience, for in this year, we celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the Salesian Presence in Australia. 1923 saw the coming of the Congregation of St Francis of Sales, (the Salesians of Don Bosco) to the ‘Great South Land’ of Australia. 

On 30 March 1923, the first group of Salesians reached Fremantle on the way to the Kimberley mission in North Western Australia.

The Altar the Salesians found upon arriving in Beagle Bay in the Kimberley.

The years, that have flowed since then, have seen a rapid growth in apostolic works throughout Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. Indeed, the seeds sown in hardships and frustrations in the distant Kimberley have grown into vibrant plants despite moments of difficulties, personal failures and the subsequent loss of society’s acceptance and appreciation.

It is indeed the time to remember. The year 2023 calls us to live it as a year of grace, remembering where we come from, who we are, and where we are heading. We will be borne along on a veritable stream of memories and celebrations of the great events of the past 100 years. So, let it be.  

Remembrance is a gift which, while preserving the past, refreshes the present and stores up lasting enrichment for the future.  The poet Wordsworth expressed it as:
“…. And when the stream
which overflowed the soul was passed away,
a consciousness remained that it had left 
deposited upon the silent shore
of memory, images and precious thoughts,
that shall not die, and cannot be destroyed” .                          

This story originally appeared in the Autumn 2023 edition of the Australian Salesian Bulletin