The city of San Benito Petén, Guatemala, hosts an important Salesian mission that is strongly rooted in the territory. It is greatly appreciated by the local population (whom mostly have little material wealth) because they are committed to bringing development and authentic evangelization. This is the setting for which a great celebration of the Feast Day of Don Bosco was experienced!

Celebrations began on January 22 with the start of the Novena in honour of the Saint of Youth; a novena which, like all other activities this year, was affected by the restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to the dedication and commitment of its promoters however, the SYM) the Association of Mary Help of Christians, Salesian Co-operators and catechists, it was carried out effectively both in the flesh and through digital connections.

Naturally, the climax of the celebration took place on the Sunday of the feast day itself; January 31st. Throughout the day, from 5 in the morning to 8 in the evening, the temple and the structures of the Salesian parish were alive with activities. Six Eucharists were celebrated during the day, some of them so packed that they needed to be moved outside to the nearby school hall!

Mass particpants maintain their COVID-safe distance as they particpate in mass

In the afternoon, a specific Mass for the youth of the Salesian Youth Movement was celebrated, which had been greatly anticipated by the young people – so much so that in the face of limitations against crowding available spaces, bookings for seats were occurring up to 15 days beforehand!

After the Mass, the young people experienced a space for meeting, fraternity, prayer and reflection, culminating in an evening shared with all those present during which the video of the Rector Major's Strenna for 2021 "Moved by hope: 'See, I am making all things new' (Rev 21,5)" was presented.

The feast day celebrations demanded a lot of energy from many people, but the love for Don Bosco in that land is great and so widespread that everyone was enthusiastic to participate. As one of the parishioners commented, "we give thanks to God and His Holy Church, because for 8 years and seven months now, through the 'Youth Parish', He has given Don Bosco to San Benito Petén."

This story orginally appeared in ANS

Fr Tony De Groot is an Australian missionary that has lived and worked amongst the indigenous Q’eqchi’ people of Guatemala for the past 45 years - read more about his story here!