Monday, August 3, 2009

The Salesian Family

After two weeks at Maryknoll training, we spent a week in Port Chester, trying to better understand what Salesian ministry looks like. The Salesians are a Catholic order devoted to youth. They were started by Don Bosco, who reached out to children and teenagers by making himself a trustworthy companion. Every Salesian ministry contains the "four oratory criteria" which were essential to the oratories Don Bosco started over 150 years ago. Oratories should be a home, playground, school and church all in one. Children should be able to learn, pray, play, and know they are loved all at once. The Salesians began when boys attending the oratories started to take a peer ministry role and eventually decided to stick around to help with the younger kids. Pretty soon they grew to a whole group of people who became known as the Salesians.It's a very relationship-based method known as the preventive system. Basically, the idea is that if a child knows they are loved, is given high expectations and the means to meet them, and is kept busy in a positive way, they've probably got a shot. Peer modeling is really important in the Salesian method, and it was pretty cool to see it in action in Port Chester. Kids from the school grew up to work at the summer camps. Kids from the summer camps talked about wanting to help at the food pantry and clothes closet when they got older. Most of the volunteers, teachers, and counselors we met grew up in Salesian parishes. They really are a family of sorts.

In fact, that's why the Salesians are in America to begin with. A lot of people don't realize that the Salesians are actually the second largest religious order in the world. In Africa, India, South America, and parts of Europe they're pretty well known. They only came up to America to help care for communities of immigrants from countries they originally served. I talked to someone about my age who said that he came here from Peru, where he attended a Salesian school and parish, when his Dad found a statue of Mary Help of Christians (Maria Auxiliadora, our patron) and realized he was at home here amongst the Salesians.

On a side note, this whole "Salesian family" thing works out to be a pretty good deal sometimes. Like, say, when people grow up in Salesian communities, become persons of influence in the UN, hear there are some Salesians visiting, and decide to exercise some hospitality. Here we are in the General Assembly room, that's my lovely and talented site companion, Johanna.

Anyway, that's all for now, take care and be good.

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