“The Word, the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him’’. (John 1: 9 and 11).
Each year the celebration of Christmas offers me, and all the members of the General Council, the pleasant opportunity to be with your communities, and to present to each and every one of you our fraternal good wishes for a Blessed Christmas and a fruitful New Year!
I want to address these good wishes in a special way to our seniors, and those who are ill, to those who are experiencing difficulties at this time in their spiritual or community lives, to our younger members in formation, as well as our benefactors, the La Salette Laity and the Sisters of La Salette who, along with us, are dealing with the challenges and difficulties of announcing the Good News in different areas of the world, and in a special way at the Shrine on the Holy Mountain.
I hope that the light which shines forth from the grotto of Bethlehem will illumine the heart and conscience of all of you, so that our personal life as well as our ministry may always be clearly seen in such a way as to make clear to today’s world the mercy and the loving face of the Father, as these were seen in the Lord Jesus.
To all I wish the rediscovery, in this Christmas, of the joy of community living, with all its challenges, and also the rich diversity which exists in community life; working and praying together, as well as discerning together the best way to serve the Church and the Congregation in the light of our charism.
With the aim of helping and stimulating personal and community reflection, the General Council has, the last few years, proposed to the whole Congregation an annual theme, judged to be especially important for the human, spiritual, pastoral and charismatic development of each La Salette religious.
The theme this year, “Witnessing to the Beauty of Diversity,” seeks to accentuate in a positive way the many diversities (culture, language, sensibilities) which make up the richness and beauty of our life together as the great international and intercultural family that our Congregation is today.
Little by little this will prepare us for the celebration of the Year of Vocations, which begins next September, and then for the Marian Year.
Like a slogan, this theme wants to highlight some of the important aspects which should be visible in our religious, community and apostolic lives in today’s world.
Witnessing: as religious, in view of our commitment to follow the Lord, chaste, poor, obedient, we are called to give witness to our deep union with Him, doing this with all our strength, all our mind, and all our heart, knowing that our witness has true value only if it comes out of a serious and radical commitment at the depth of personal being.
Beauty: we are invited to see not only the beautiful and the good inside ourselves, but also that which presents itself all around us, in our confreres, in our everyday pastoral ministry, in the people we meet, in the world of our lives. In other words: we are asked to see the people and the reality which surround us as God sees them (cf. Genesis 1).
Diversity: to see the differences around us less as negative elements to fight off, and more as occasions of grace to live and value fully. Meeting this challenge with serenity and without prejudice allows our faith to ripen in fraternal communion; it allows us to build bridges, which facilitates our contacts, our listening, our sharing, and eliminates the temptation to build walls or outdated barriers, which are more apt to divide and create distances between us.
We are called by our charism to oppose with all our strength, by our words, and especially by the example of our lives, a kind of bourgeois mentality that opposes, excludes, and rejects anyone who is different—we see this type of mentality gaining ground in our society, sparking alarmism and fears which are often unfounded.
To welcome diversity as an offered gift and an enrichment: that will surely make us credible prophets in the eyes of today’s world (cf. Decision 8 of the 2018 General Chapter).
So that the whole congregation might walk a communal and “synodal” path, the General Council will prepare some short and simple papers for personal and community reflection. The General and Provincial Secretaries will make these available to each religious.
As already announced, starting January 1, 2019, there will be changes in the General Administration. Fr. Belarmino (Angola), who has served so well as Secretary General, will be replaced by Fr. Meme Romuald (Madagascar). Fr. Alex, General Treasure for eleven years, will be replaced by Fr. Andrzej Zontek (Poland), and Fr. Paulo Banga (Angola) will become Director of the House.
The new members should have arrived in Rome during the first two weeks of December. We pray they will have a fruitful ministry in the General House with the General Council; and we thank their respective Provinces for having freed up these confreres, so they might serve our larger religious family.
I extend my personal thanks, and those of the General Council, to all those who will leave us in the coming months. The work they have generously done in the last administration was important and appreciated. May the Lord, and the Virgin of La Salette, reward them for all the good they have done for the general house and for the Congregation!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Fr. Silvano and the General Council
News from Rome
+ Frs. Jojohn and Nunda are continuing their study of Italian at a school in central Rome. For some time now, they have been presiding at the community Eucharist celebrated in Italian. The general house community congratulates them fraternally for their progress in inculturation thus far.
+ During the latter part of November, we had the pleasure of extending hospitality to three of the La Salette Laity from Brazil, collaborators of Fr. Isidro Perin, pastor and rector of the La Salette Shrine in Curitiba.
+ Fr. Antoni Skalba, Rector of the La Salette Shrine (France) and Frs. Michel, Gomes and Albert, members of the international community, spent a few days of R & R amongst us. While Fr. Antoni was participating in an international meeting of shrine directors, the others changed into tourists and pilgrims in order to visit Christian and historic sites of the Italian capital.
+ November 29 was a big day for Fr. Jojohn. Three months after having submitted all his document for his stay in Italy, he was granted the card which will allow him to travel freely throughout Europe, and in the world, as he serves the community.
+ On December 4, Fr. Silvano went to France in order to take part in the meeting of the Board of the A.P.S. (Assn. of La Salette Pilgrims), which took place in Gières, at the mother house of the La Salette Sisters. Many thorny questions about the organization of hospitality services and the pastoral care of the Shrine of La Salette were considered at this meeting.
+ On December 7, Fr. Jacek flew to Busk, in Ukraine, to receive the perpetual profession of Fr. Ivan Diakiv, the first La Salette Missionary from that country.
+ On December 9, Frs. Silvano and Jojohn left for Rutete (Tanzania) to visit the La Salette community there. This year they celebrated the second anniversary of their presence in the country and in the diocese of Bukoba. They will return to Rome the morning of the 23rd.