By Father Michael Mendl, SDB
The 22 SLMs come from all over the country and represent both Salesian provinces in the U.S. (based in San Francisco and New Rochelle).
The retreat was the culmination of four intense weeks of orientation under the leadership of their director, Adam Rudin, and other staff including Meg Fraino and Father Stephen Ryan of the Salesian Youth Ministry Office, Jayne Feeney, an SLM just returned from service in Ethiopia, and Father Mark Hyde, director of the Salesian Missions Office in New Rochelle.
The four weeks included initial Salesian orientation and getting acquainted, addressing cultural and other issues together with volunteers from several other organizations at Maryknoll’s MISO program, a week’s “practice” with children in the summer camp of the Salesian parishes in Port Chester, N.Y. (Holy Rosary and Corpus Christi), and finally the retreat and final paperwork and other issues to be taken care of before they head in the next few days or weeks for their missions in Bolivia, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Rwanda, and one other country.
The week’s retreat coincided (deliberately) with the annual retreat of some 20 Salesians. The young people, all in their early 20s, livened up the Salesians’ experience, as Father Dunne noted in a letter to the province and in oral remarks at the retreat. He noted the SLMs’ occasional use of Latin chant at Mass—they handled most of the music—as “the more traditional aspect of Catholic spirituality” typical of many young Catholics, and at the same time their “playfulness” exemplified in their throwing paper airplanes around the dining room at the end of lunch one day.
Father Dunne also lauded the SLMs’ “energetic spirit in following Don Bosco’s charism to the farthest corners of the earth [as] life-giving to all of us who have perhaps grown a bit hardened with the passage of many years.”
Father Dunne enjoyed listening one evening to the “informative and innovative presentations” that the volunteers made “about the peoples and ministries they will be serving.” “To my eyes,” he added, “the very best of what we sometimes call the Millennium Generation was on glorious display.”
The volunteers, in turn, deeply appreciated their interaction with the Salesians at the Liturgy of the Hours and of the Eucharist, listening to daily homilies, sharing meals, contributing to a Friday evening entertainment, and going to North Haledon, N.J., on August 5 to witness the first religious profession of Sister Josiane Phanord, FMA.
For most of the SLMs, if not all of them, the retreat week was the highlight of their orientation, closely followed, they said, by the week with the kids in Port Chester, which was for most of them their first real experience working directly with children.
In addition of Miss Feeney, returned SLM Sister Anna Kupin, SSC, helped orient the new class and shared their enthusiasm for Don Bosco’s mission. Sister Kupin served in Bolivia in 2000-01 and there discerned her religious vocation.