Chennai – As part of their formation program, the brothers from Don Guanella Major Seminary who are preparing themselves for Final Profession participated in a course for final vows preparation organized at Don Bosco Renewal Centre, Bannerghatta, Bangalore January 6th-25th. In this time of intensive preparation for perpetual vows, this course really helped them prepare on a deeper level. The content of the course included consecrated life, community life, prayer, discernment, psycho-sexual integration & celibacy, and group counseling. The information from the sessions and the fraternal moments with participants from the Salesian congregation fostered an atmosphere to deepen their knowledge about religious life and motivated them to be more committed to this way of life.
Chennai – After Theology courses were complete, the students of Don Guanella Major Seminary jumped into the camps to prepare themselves for perpetual preparation. They are experiencing different communities through various ways. They spent several days during October in the Thalavadi Community. The regular programs were arranged by Fr. Ligory in order to enjoy their stay with the special children. Basic orientation was given to help them attend to the needs of the poor while understanding the pastoral necessities of the community.
In November, they arrived in Yesuvanam; experiencing a warm welcome and orientation by Fr. Gnanaraj. Fr. Praveen organized a short seminar on ‘The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.’ There was also a talk on ‘Administrative Skills in the Ministry’ by a Salesian priest. A valuable talk, ‘Challenges in Religious Life,’ was given by a Servite priest. The Students share experiences and spend precious time with the ‘good children’ of Anbagam every day. Fr. Gustavo De Bonis joined the group to present ‘Guanellian Spirituality and Charism’
Bangalore – GPN community welcomed the newly ordained Priests, Fr. Kanikkai and Fr. John Peter. To congratulate them, a grand Mass was celebrated in the evening by Fr. John Peter. A profound and thoughtful homily was given by Fr. Kanikkai. He shared their life journey towards priesthood, enlightening the mind and hearts of all. He ended his homily by saying “abide in him and bear much fruit.” After Mass, a meal was shared and a program presented. Felicitation, dances and songs were offered to the new priests binging joy and harmony to the gathering. Our sisters, Sr. Petci and Sr. Shanthi, and the lay people joined in this festival. The program ended with a blessing by Fr. John Peter.
In February 1896, Don Guanella wrote an article for the magazine “La Divina Provvidenza”, entitled “The Catholic Vision”. I quote some of his lines:
“In the past, the world was coming toward us; now it turns its back on us. In the past it was enough for us to stay inside our Churches and offices; now we must move outward, getting out of our sacristies if we don’t want to run the risk of finding ourselves guilty of being locked in dishonorable isolation. To us indeed now these words of the Gospel are addressed: “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the towns and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (Luke 14:21).
Some may object: “We have our pulpits, our confessionals; let people come to us where we live and where we carry out our assignments”.
If they don’t come, if the voice of the bell instead of attracting them seems to chase them away, should we remain indifferent in front of such deplorable desertion, simply shaking the dust from our feet and throwing them the harsh words of Jeremiah: “Those who want to get lost, Let them get lost”.
Did it perhaps happen that the world moved first towards Jesus or is it true the other way around? Were Rome and Athens asking the apostles Peter and Paul for the Gospel? Let us imagine that in our place there are Saint Francis de Sales or St. Francis Xavier; after spending an hour of adoration, after practicing severe self-discipline and celebrating the holy mass with angelic devotion, how would they spend the rest of their day? Would they remain comfortably seated, observing the dangerous storms that afflict humankind, noticing only from which direction the wind blows, simply being content at counting how many boats are sinking, without providing any rescue to those in danger, without throwing the ropes to them and extending their helping hands?
Someone may say; “How could a few isolated individuals, cope with such a huge task? How? Bring together your human resources, join forces and orient them all toward the common goal.
We promote collaboration to develop sciences, to manage business, to dig channels, to populate newly discovered areas. Shouldn’t we join efforts likewise to populate heaven, to bring God to human hearts which are made to love and bless Him eternally? May the Lord help us!”
In these lines written more than a century ago, Don Guanella shared something of the passion for the Church’s evangelizing mission that burned within his heart and that urged him into action without hesitation or fear, neither counting the cost, nor being intimidated by the risks. What our founder felt, experienced and boldly proposed sounds so much in tune with the call of the Spirit to the Church of our time, an appeal that has been continually re-echoed and broadcasted by the pastoral ministry of Pope Benedict XVI.
The wind of the New Evangelization that has blown throughout the duration of our 19th General Chapter, is now urging us to welcome the inspirations felt and the decisions made during that assembly allowing ourselves to be continually set on fire for the beautiful mission entrusted to us, Servants of God’s Love among his poor.
Let us simply cherish in our hearts and translate into attitudes and pastoral decisions the prophetic reminders of our Saint.
- Ours is a time of difficulties and challenges, as well as of graces and unique opportunities.
- It’s time again for us to be evangelized and converted anew to the Lord, fascinated by the everlasting beauty of the Gospel. It’s a time to overcome fears, to put aside timidity and mere human calculations, to fight laziness, to reject temptations of mediocrity and selfishness.
- It’s a time to go out not only of our sacristies and offices, but most of all, our “comfort zone,” individualistic habits, and self-centeredness.
- It’s a time to take new fresh, bolder steps to be more visible and present to the poor and the marginalized with the heart, mind and hands of Jesus, to become their closest friends, companions, joyful and humble servants.
- It’s a time to deepen our love for the Church, our mother, our home and our family. Time to insert more and more clearly our life and ministry in the living body of the Local Church which we are called to beautify and enrich with our specific vocation and charism.
- It’s time to feel the urgency to reach out and touch the lives of many brethren who are not yet in the sheepfold, who got lost, who have never been home with the God whom we call our Father.
- It’s time to evangelize together, making our fraternal communion the first and most credible sign of our mission.
- It’s time to let our consecrated lifestyle speak louder than our words.
- It’s time to help and challenge one another to throw away what is futile, worldly, un-Christian and focus instead on the essential of our public commitment.
- And the essential is; “In Omnibus Charitas”; “To make Charity the heart of the world!”
On June 3rd, people of Holy Rosary Church, Yelangha came to GPN to share their love with the elderly by performing skits, dancing and singing. They were very inspired by the mission and the elderly enjoyed their performance. At lunch, Fr. Visuvasam presented St. Louis Guanella key chains to the performers.
An inauguration ceremony on June 7th kicked off the year for philosophy brothers studying at Kristu Jyoti College. Holy Mass was celebrated by the Provincial of the Salesians in the Bangalore Province and concelebrated by Fr. Samson, Rector of Philosophy Students.
On the feast of St. Antony of Padua, June 13th, Fr. Samson and Deacon Kanikairaj went on a pilgrimage with their elderly beneficiaries. They began their spiritual journey joyfully; spending time praying to the Lord. After the Eucharistic celebration, they went site seeing and had tea and snacks before returning home.
The Feast of the Sacred Heart began early in the morning with prayer and meditation led by Fr. Samson at GPN. The priests and brothers played basketball with the elderly as ‘cheerleaders.’ In the evening, Fr. Visuvasam celebrated Mass; reminding everyone that the Sacred Heart is the heart of love, forgiveness and compassion which all Christians are called to possess. During Mass, the priests renewed their vows. The feast day ended with a fellowship meal.
- On June 23rd, a grand Mass was celebrated by Fr. A. P. Samy to commemorate the 1st anniversary of his ordination. The entire GPN Community was inspired by his words, “be strong enough to face any challenge.” Dinner, fellowship and games followed. The evening ended by reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
Legazpi – On June 15th, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, two seminarians Adornaldo O. Jacob and Alfie S. Madulac were formally accepted into the Postulancy program. In a Eucharistic celebration held at the community chapel, presided over by Fr. Battista Omodei, Sdc, the local community superior and director of Postulants, the seminarians were officially initiated to the rite of Postulancy. The Eucharistic celebration also marked the renewal of vows of the confreres and the commitment of three aspirants.
As I wrap up my visit with our confreres in the United States of America, I cannot help but think of “that venerable pilgrim who disregarded the inconveniences of his old age, and crossed the ocean urged only by the love of Christ and the fire of Charity.” With these words the editor of the magazine La Divina Provvidenza, Maddalena Albini Crosta described the missionary trip that brought Don Guanella to the shores of North America one hundred years ago, fulfilling a dream and desire that had been in his heart for many years.
He writes from Boston on December 31, 1912; “It is because of our weakness and timidity that we have not come over earlier. The desire was in my heart more than ten years ago, but I had to wait for the call from above.”
And the call came through the cardinal of Boston, His Eminence William O’Conner, who invited our saint to visit America and who welcomed him to his Archdiocese on Christmas Eve 1912, “expressing wishes that in America too, our apostolate may be established for the benefit of Italian immigrants as well as of English speaking people.” A few weeks later the Archbishop of Chicago echoed a similar invitation, “try your best to open a house for invalids and mentally handicapped persons, because the State of Illinois is not yet providing for them. It would be providential for you not to wait too long.”
To provide wings to our “venerable pilgrim who, though advanced in age, is still young in his holy zeal,” was certainly the hand carried autographed letter with which the Holy Father, Pope Pius X, introduced him to the American church. The pope writes, “Fr. Guanella undertakes this journey to explore the possibility of beginning a foundation with his sisters whose ministry is to gather mentally and physically challenged girls and ladies of every age and social background in order to care for them and look after their needs. We bear witness that these dear daughters here in Rome and anywhere else are very appreciated because of their praiseworthy ministry and obedience to the holy charism of their institute. They perform miracles of true charity.” (Pius X, Vatican City December 2, 1912)
With such an authoritative and encouraging introduction, Fr. Guanella tirelessly traveled from December 21, 1912 to February 8, 1913 from city to city; New York, Boston, Providence, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Washington, St. Louis, Chicago and Buffalo. He covered a distance of 6,000 km while visiting the shepherds of various dioceses, and saw magnificent cathedrals and humble wooden chapels, parochial schools and state run institutions while encountering poor, illiterate and struggling new immigrant communities. He met with successful business people and potential benefactors, always with eyes and ears open to see the signs and to hear the voice of Providence. What kept the founder going was only one passion: to discern Gods call. Sympathizing particularly with the needy, he observed how the local church responded to their needs while searching for an open door, an opportunity, or a possible field to sow the seeds of his charism in humility; always in obedience to the spirit and answering the needs of his time.
Accompanying and guiding him along his journey was Fr. Gregori, whom Don Guanella described as “God’s instrument, a brother, almost a guardian angel.” All throughout his American pilgrimage our founder also felt the fraternal support of the missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, the religious priests and brothers founded by his friend and classmate in the Como seminary, Bishop John Baptist Scalabrini.
Let us try to capture from Fr. Guanella himself some of the most significant insights and memories of his missionary visit to America, as they are reported by La Divina Provvidenza:
This journey, planned by Providence, is going to open for our two Guanellian Congregations a new season of hope and vast horizons of ministry. It is new proof that God is blessing and assisting us by entrusting us with another immense field of apostolate. It is the lifting of another mysterious veil behind which we may see the design of Divine Providence, who has given birth to our institutions and who continues to nurture its life and growth.
We should not become too proud nor exalt ourselves. It is in these solemn moments of hope and responsibility that we consider ourselves to be small instruments, confused by our poverty and insufficiency. And yet God makes great things by using unworthy tools; in that we see the sign of His goodness and power.
We try our best to respond to God’s call; to devote ourselves to the holy cause of caring for the poor and needy with greater fervor; to grow in number, in the virtue of charity and in zeal for the benefit and salvation of our brethren.
For this reason we dare to go out and beg, telling people that their charitable donations and money are destined to support our mission projects and houses, where money is used to alleviate the misery of the many poor. They will gain high interest from above in return, because our houses of charity are God’s banks that give back huge dividends.
The charity, compassion, benevolence and fervent prayer to God of many people help us to form in ourselves an extraordinary spirit of holiness and zeal that compels us to be the channels of God’s greatness and goodness. Our best way to praise the Lord and give thanks to all those who are sustaining and helping us is to strengthen our institute with a renewed energy and tenacity overcoming all trials, expanding its presence through more homes of charity and a greater number of religious.
Energized by the warm ray of God’s blessing and surrounded by the loving support of many people, may our institute live, flourish and grow for the glory of God and the benefit of humankind.
A hundred years ago our founder, on his way back to Rome from his missionary trip to the USA, embraced the challenge of opening up his mission of charity without delay, to the vast horizon of a totally new world; a world marked by incredible opportunities, by huge tracts of land with riches hidden in the bowels of the earth, endless forests, jobs, material and technological progress, and a welcoming atmosphere of freedom with a door open to all.
As he took note of these “bright lights,” Fr. Guanella could neither ignore nor close his eyes to the dark-side of the picture of that society. Among the shadows that brought pain to his sensitive heart were the following situations:
“The dollar is on the lips and in the heart of everybody;” money tends to be the new idol that seems to push the true God out of the picture.
Public institutions, even the ones for persons with disabilities that I have visited are well organized, housing a large number of patients; “they display great equipment but lack a supernatural spark.”
A huge number of immigrants were struggling to assimilate into the new world. Poor, uneducated, unskilled people faced suffering, isolation and at times even despair.
Divorces were easy, frequent and legal. Broken families were a common phenomenon.
Other visible signs of deterioration included searching for comfort and pleasure at any cost, along with individualism, materialism, and egotism.
The clear separation of church and state kept God out of public institutions.
Migrants, when pastorally unattended, tended to lose touch with their religious and moral values.
Society was moving quickly toward a-religiosity, indifference and irrelevance to God’s presence in everyday life.
Does this scenario have anything in common with our present world and the call of the church for a New Evangelization? Fr. Guanella did not hide himself but faced the challenge of his time squarely. Indeed he did not waste time; he sent his first sisters in mission in May 1913. He also considered sending some of his Servants of Charity.
His strong Christian faith was the engine propelling him into action. To him a true believer is a fiery, zealous apostle. “How can we believe that the image of our Savior is imprinted on the forehead of the poor and not run to His aid?”
The quickly approaching 19th General Chapter is offering us Servants of Charity the opportunity not only to recall the founder’s missionary zeal, but to rekindle that flame in ourselves, our communities and our mission projects around the world. Let us intensify our prayers, begging the Lord to increase first of all our faith.
Faith in action inspired St. Guanella to cross the ocean one hundred years ago at the sunset of his life. He opened a wider missionary horizon to his religious sons and daughters and to their lay cooperators.
May this intrepid prophet and apostle of charity continue to inspire and sustain our commitment to reach out to and care for our marginalized and suffering brethren in whom we recognize the face of Jesus.
Faith blossoming in charity: that is the essential content and objective and end goal of evangelization, yesterday, today and tomorrow anywhere; in a variety of creative ways.
As we honor the Blessed Virgin, we entrust to her the large number of confreres who have asked to renew their religious consecration this month, on the joyful occasion of St. Louis Guanella’s anniversary of priestly ordination. Likewise, we surround our novices in Bangalore who are about to make their first profession with fraternal support and prayers. Truly, our province continues to be blessed by youthful energies to be placed at the service of the Lord and of the poor wherever Divine Providence calls. Best wishes to all!
We rejoice and give thanks to the Lord for the recent perpetual profession and diaconate ordinations of our confreres Bakthis and Amalor in Rome April 21-22. Our province feels enriched and blessed by this addition of new servants in the field of the Guanellian ministry inserted in the Church mission toward New Evangelization. To our confreres our prayerful wishes to faithfully and joyfully live their vocations remembering that our title is Servants and our motto is “In omnibus caritas.”