Jai Ho! Salesian Brothers’ Congress is yet here again, with the usual panoply and fanfare? Perhaps, No. I noticed something different from the conventional, this time over, about the Congress. To start with, there is something fascinating with the theme appearing on the Logo: “Salesians, be Holy.” It gives me a hunch that the forthcoming Congress is not going to be a predictable copybook repeat, with the customary ingredients of Brochure, Beverage, Tour, T-Shirt and Topi, smacking of a corporate mega-show. I have a feeling from within, that this Congress is going to break new ground. A Paradigm Shift is on the horizon, in the way, the Brothers’ Congress has been imagined and going to be executed, with also a Survey on Salesianity, served, as we were running up to the Congress.
It is a daring and path breaking attempt, on the part of the organizers, to look at and into the Brothers’ way of holiness, straight into the face – empirically. It is left unsaid that the organizers are going take the trouble of analyzing and interpreting the Survey Results, with critical reverence and from a multi-disciplinary perspective. If so, the exercise, will surely serve to bring out the latent, suppressed and unspoken factors, which are holding them back, and equally, the untapped potential, and synergize them to blossom forth as even more impact-filled charismatic force. The Survey findings will throw up the sociological and psycho-spiritual baggage, in the different Provinces, which, when cleared, would lead to greater integration of selves and communities. It is a sure recipe for a more invested and dynamic Complementarity of the Lay and the Clerical.
Naturally, the Clerical constituent too would have lessons to learn, from the Survey. Like Don Egidio Vigano poignantly stated, “The crisis in the vocation of the Salesian Lay Brother is actually the crisis in the identity of the Priest.” I wish the Congress would be an exercise in joint soul-searching, to move ahead, in true Complementarity, towards a more vibrant servant-leadership of the poor and marginalized youth of South Asia. I presume all those who matter, would be conspicuous by their presence, and not their absence, in this forum!
It is my dream that the Salesian Brothers Congress – 2014, with its empirical thrust and mood, will assist at the birth of a new culture among the Salesian Brothers of South Asia, where they would reclaim the richness of the Lay, in their call and not fight shy of it, in blind imitation of the so-called non-clerical Congregations of Brothers. While I was serving as the Rector of Don Bosco Philosophate, Karunapuram, of the combined communities of the Salesian Lay Brothers and the Clerics, I had experienced certain discomfort, the Brothers seem to be having, with the Lay, as an adjective, and as a component of/in describing their identity. I was left wondering, why?
Complementarity is a challenging prospect to live with, but a beautiful exercise in Fraternity-in-Partnership. May the Congress be an Advent and a new Pentecost, blended into one, where the Salesian Lay Brothers of South Asia will reconfigure themselves, along the software of the Vatican II, as inscribed in Lumen Gentium and Gaudum et Spes. And lead the Clerics, to where they would not dare to go, ungluing them from their many churchy altars, to the Altar of the World, in a movement of Partnership, with all the People of God, and All God’s People. May the Congress be blazing new trails and kindling new hopes, in making the genial creation of Don Bosco, even more genial and ingeniously incarnate, indeed a New Wine in New Wineskins. Vintage quality, at that, able to intoxicate humanity, with their mystique of action, just lay, and nothing more, not having pretensions to being bonsaied clerics. Just being that would help them, as we get on ahead for the next Congress, to take up the two unfinished agendas of Vatican II: creating a positive and declericalized theology of the “Laity” (an evident misnomer!) and becoming even better catalysts of a culture of partnership, of Nature, Women and Men, interrogating the oppressive structures of Patriarchy, in the Church and outside, growing in Feminist Consciousness..