The Salesians of Don Bosco in the United States have commissioned 14 lay volunteers for mission during 2011-2012. Thirteen will serve as Salesian Lay Missioners (SLMs) in Salesian missions overseas, and one will serve as a Salesian Domestic Volunteer at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Md.
The 14 volunteers include 11 women and 3 men. They come from California, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. Eight volunteers are in the their 20s, recent graduates of Aquinas College (Grand Rapids), Catholic University of America (Washington), Gettysburg College, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers (New Brunswick, N.J.), Texas A & M (College Station), or finishing up at Texas Tech (Lubbock). Three are in their 30s and three in their 50s, leaving behind or taking temporary leave from careers in education, health care, youth ministry, and business.
Six of the overseas volunteers will serve in Bolivia, 2 in Cambodia, 3 in Ethiopia, and 2 in the Far East. Some will teach English in Salesian schools, some will teach other skills, some will care for orphans, some will do community outreach, and one will help in a parish. Not all the sites are Salesian, but all look after poor young people who are at risk.
The commissioning Mass was attended by almost two dozen Salesians, by the family of one SLM, by friends of others, and by three returned SLMs who had served in Rwanda and Ethiopia. Taking note of the presence of all these, Father Dunne said in his homily, “No one goes overseas alone.” They go, he said, with the support of many other people and with contact with others.
Father Dunne observed that at the Transfiguration of Jesus (the feast of August 6), Peter, James, and John had nothing with them when they met God on the mountaintop. When they and the rest of the apostles went out to preach the Good News, God was all they had to depend upon; they had to leave behind all their extra “tools” like extra clothes and money. He told the soon-to-depart missionaries that they also would have to leave a lot behind when they went out to be evangelizers. He cited the examples of people he knew who did just that and had life-changing experiences: meeting the Lord in their own emptiness and in the joy of the people to whom they were sent.