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 CNS Story:

POPE-SALESIANS Mar-31-2008 (520 words) xxxi

Pope urges Salesians to increase outreach to families

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In focusing on the education and evangelization of young people, the Salesians must also increase their outreach to families, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Caring for families will not take energy from your work on behalf of the young, but rather will make it more lasting and effective," the pope said March 31 in a meeting with the 233 delegates to the Salesian general chapter.

The chapter of the order, which has almost 16,000 members working in 129 countries, opened in Rome March 3 and was scheduled to conclude April 12.

Father Pascual Chavez Villanueva, a Mexican Salesian elected March 25 to a second six-year term as superior of the order, told the pope the chapter members had been focusing on ways to strengthen their commitment to the vision of their founder, St. John Bosco, to serve God through educating the young, particularly the poor.

Recognizing the rapid changes in the world, he said, the chapter delegates know the order must learn to listen to young people and respond to their worries and hopes for the future.

Thirty years ago, a Salesian general chapter launched Project Africa to pool worldwide Salesian resources to strengthen the order's presence in Africa; Salesians now work in 42 African countries and have more than 1,200 members, mostly Africans, working on the continent, he said.

The current chapter, Father Chavez said, has decided to launch Project Europe, to reorganize and strengthen the Salesian presence in Europe and to launch a new program of evangelization "to respond to the spiritual and moral needs of these young people, who seem to be a bit like pilgrims without a guide and without a goal."

Pope Benedict asked the Salesians to join his efforts to address what he has called an "education emergency" in Rome and throughout the developed West.

"The most serious aspect of the educational emergency is the sense of discouragement felt by many educators, especially parents and teachers, in the face of the difficulties present today," he said.

The purpose of education and ways to teach effectively seem increasingly unclear, he said. And the doubts of modern society, a rejection of traditional values and the pervasiveness of the media in the lives of young people seem to have much more influence than a teacher or parent could hope to have.

"At the roots of the crisis in education lies a crisis of trust in life, which basically is nothing other than a lack of trust in the God who has called us to life," the pope said.

Teachers, parents and especially Salesians dedicated to evangelizing the young must nourish their trust in God through prayer, he said. And the Salesians must show young people their total reliance on God through the exemplary way they live their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

In addition, he said, they must involve their students' parents and they must help prepare young couples to be the kind of parents who can educate their own children.


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