Mumbai, 2017 May 16: One and a half million is a sizeable number, but up against twelve hundred million that number pales in comparison. Father Chrys Saldanha at the launch of his new book, ‘Challenges in Salesian Life Today’, in Mumbai on May 14, talked about such numbers to stress on the importance of one and a half million religious world-over using the potential of twelve hundred million Catholics to foster peace and love in a world riddled with strife.
In the 336-page discourse, his second publication, Father Saldanha addressed the challenges that Salesians face world-over. Issues like clericalism, excessive institutionalization, the Salesian Brother, revival of Oratories and anger were addressed in-depth.
Nirmala Rego – former brand director of Xavier Institute of Management & Research (XIMR) MBA programme – was the chief guest at the book launch, alongside Father Godfrey D’Souza, Provincial of Mumbai and Father Savio Silveira, vice provincial and a host of Salesians and lay people.
“We priests and religious are only one percent of the whole Catholic Church. Lay people are 99 per cent. If only some of them could be launched as missionaries in the world, what a difference it would make to the mission of the church,” Father Saldanha reflected.
“Pope Francis,” he added, “keep’s insisting that in the Church one of our problems is clericalism, it means that we play down the identity and mission of lay people. What is played up is the priestly role and not the lay role, so I thought that I’d write about this as I do feel it’s a problem, as we have to wake up to the identity and mission of the lay people in the world.”
Father Saldanha began writing the book in January 2016, on the insistence of Father D’Souza. His first book ‘Exploring Salesian Life Today’, published in 2015 works in tandem with this second volume to explore aspects of Salesian life and to highlight the challenges.
“In the book that has just been launched we have a spectrum of reflections,” Father Silveira said. “Father Chrys doesn’t only focus on the problem but explores a variety of solutions to these challenges.”
Father Saldanha stressed that the concept of a Salesian Brother has been somehow sidelined today. “We don’t see the secular field as an apostolate. Apostolate is always about what the priest does, what about people that live in the world of work? What about teachers, lawyers, doctors and engineers? We don’t consider that as apostolate and that is a mistake,” Father Saldanha said.
“All are called to be evangelizers and apostles. Some in the Church, and that’s the priest, but all are called to be evangelizers in society and the secular world. A catholic teacher who teaches in a school, who lives the Christian faith, not preaches, but lives the faith, is an apostle in the school. A catholic doctor who works in a hospital, but without words, stands for certain values for example against contraception or abortion is an apostle in the field of medicine.”
“If we play down the secular world as a field of apostolate, then there is no room for the Salesian Brother, because the Salesian Brother’s vocation is connected with the secular world, the field of technology, social communication. I dealt with these two topics about the laity and also about the Salesian Brother as well.”
The 27th General Chapter urged all Salesians to be mystics in the spirit. The word mystic is associated with Saint Catherine of Sienna, Teresa of Avila, Padre Pio. Father Saldanha dedicated a chapter to explain the meaning of a mystic and how Salesians can become mystics in the spirit.
In a chapter dedicated to the ‘Salesian Priest’, Father Saldanha stressed that pastoral work isn’t restricted to parishes, but also beyond its confines. “Sometimes priests think that they cannot do any pastoral work in a school, as pastoral work is done in a parish. What do you mean by pastoral work? Does it only mean the sacraments? Then there’s a danger of reducing the priesthood to a cultic priesthood, just to the sacraments, but the priesthood is much more than that. The priest performs baptisms and marriages, but he is also a priest on the playground with the boys. You need to rethink what do you mean by a Salesian priest,” he said.
Rego, who found a lot to take away from the book said, “I will read and meditate on the book and try to live it.” As the Tej-Prasarini production hits the stands, Father Chrys looks to pen a new publication for all religious in the future.