Superior General’s Newsletter – 5 – August 2008

Religious Life: Prophecy in Today's Cultures? (Continuation)

Following up on my last reflection on religious life and prophecy, I wish to present three more points: two of these in light of the recent assembly of the Union of Superior Generals and the third in light of our Spiritual Directory.

1.  Prophetic Role of Religious Life in the Church's Documents

In his Apostolic Exhortation VITA CONSECRATA, Pope John Paul II returns to the prophetic character of the consecrated life. This concept is brought out especially in paragraphs 84 to 95 of this document.
The Pope begins with a basic affirmation: "There is a prophetic dimension which belongs to the consecrated life as such, resulting from the radical nature of the following of Christ and of the subsequent dedication to the mission characteristic of the consecrated life”. (VC 84).
In giving a historical background, the Pope remembers that since the early Fathers of the Church, the prophetic character has been present in the lived experience of the consecrated life, especially through the witness of so many consecrated men and women who exercised an authentic prophetic ministry. In referring to today’s world, Pope John Paul II affirms, ”a convincing prophetic witness on the part of consecrated persons is increasingly necessary” (VC 85). And he emphasizes certain elements of the consecrated life that possess prophetic capability today: the witness to the primacy of God; fraternal community living; the authenticity between the said word and the lived word.
What is prophetic today is especially the actual living out of the evangelical counsels. The Pope points out three great challenges that constitute a provocation for consecrated persons today. 1) The first provocation is made up by the hedonist culture to which we respond with the vow of Chastity: “The consecrated person attests that what many have believed impossible becomes, with the Lord's grace, possible and truly liberating.” (VC 88). 2) In the face of the provocation that stems from materialism and an eagerness for wealth, our response is evangelical poverty placed at the service of the poor, “in a form of fraternal life inspired by principles of simplicity and hospitality.”(VC 89-90). 3) In the face of the provocation of the concept of liberty divorced from respect for the human person, we propose, following the example of Christ, to obey the Father’s will, making it our daily nourishment (VC91).

2. The crisis in the life of the prophet and the people prepares for a new experience of God. Does today’s crisis in religious life prepare us for a new experience of God?

         The biblical story of the prophet Elijah is a paradigm of one who comes to find and to know who God is. Chapter 19 of Book I Kings narrates how he profoundly experienced God. We know well the incident. On Mount Horeb (where Moses had already met God) Elijah, at a critical moment in his life, awaited God’s appearance. But he expected God’s presence through traditional manifestations: in a cyclone, earthquake, or fire. He waited in vain! He became aware that the traditional signs of God’s presence had run their course. He could not rely any more upon these pillars from the past. He felt God’s presence in the force of God’s silence. His personal crisis reveals the crisis of a whole people – the crisis of the exiles from Babylonia in their search for God. This crisis turned into a moment to leave God to reveal Himself - in a new surprising way. It was the moment to let God be God.
         And God, in the slight breeze, took him by surprise. This experience opens up a new image of God. Elijah sensed God in what seemed be His absence. The slight breeze is the reliving of the experience proper to the exile during which whatever had given security to the people had been destroyed: temple, king and possession of the promised land. The feeling of defeat, of death, and of secularization that they faced in captivity is now sensed as a kairotic moment. God reveals himself in the interminable darkened night of crisis. By the force of God’s silence during a crisis, one is led to a more radical conversion in one’s search for a new image of God. Expressions that present God as father and mother, already present in the book of the prophet Isaiah, just as the image of the lowly servant, reveal God’s new image. Today what conversion does the slight breeze of God’s silence ask of Religious Life in midst of its crisis?

3. Spiritual Directory and Prophecy

         The preface is not an original part of the Spiritual Directory. It was first written by St Francis de Sales for the constitutions of the Visitation. Later, in order to highlight the importance that the Spiritual Directory has for us Oblates, the preface was placed at its beginning of our Spiritual Directory. It serves to motivate us so that the Directory may really occupy a central place in our life. “Only through the Directory will we be Oblates of St. Francis de Sales”, says our founder (Retreat, 1886).
         The preface begins with an invitation – “Come”. In this way, it identifies us completely with important biblical figures: Joshua (successor to Moses, leading the people into the Promised Land), Ezekiel (dispatched by God to keep alive the people’s hope during the difficult experience of the exile in Babylonia), and John the Evangelist (a man of God during the persecution of the Church in her beginnings). All these men are at the service of a suffering and persecuted people. All are given the same invitation: Feed upon the Book of the Law. Eat it; devour it. In other words, the teaching of the Lord must be digested and incarnated in the flesh and blood of the prophet’s own person. These are strong, direct words, that do not hide the necessity of suffering along the road to interior transformation: “This book will prove bitter to your interior, for it will lead to the perfect mortification of your self-love”. This was the interior process that occurred in life of the prophets. This is the process that we are faced with in our life as Oblates. What are its consequences? – “Your bitterness will be transformed into a sweetness of a perfect peace.” The abundance of peace and authentic happiness will be experienced by one who has the courage of plunging into this process of interior transformation. Only one who, somehow, has endured Good Friday experiences the resurrection.

         God makes it clear that the prophet, to be effective in his divine mission with the people, needs first of all, to under go a process of conversion.  For us Oblates the same condition is required.

         The preface continues with a request, marked equally by forceful expressions: “be strong, firm, persevering, unchangeable; and so remain in order that nothing may separate you from Jesus Christ.” This, indeed, is a program to be lived out!  Behind this is implicit the fact that our life as Oblates is a constant struggle. To get to the point where I am able to say, “it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me” (Gal. 2,20) requires a interior disposition marked by firmness, perseverance and strength. The preface makes it clear what must be our interior posture in order to grow each day in our identity as Oblates.  To the biblical prophet and to the Oblate the same invitation is offered always anew: “Come! ”

The merging Processes Occurring in the Congregation

         The definitive reception of our confreres from the Swiss community as members of the Austrian-South German Province is being concluded in Assembly in Fochenfeld this month of August. In a document prepared by the Provincial Council of the Austrian-South German Province and the Swiss confreres and approved by the General Council conditions were put forth for this official reception into the new province. I wish to express my gratitude to Fr. Konrad Esser who during these many years served as a link between the Swiss community and the General Council and who ultimately coordinated its integration into the Austrian-South German Province.

         The official union of the Austrian-South German Province and the German Province will take place on July 1, 2009. All steps are being taken to bring this about. This August in Fockenfeld, members of both Provinces, meeting jointly, will do the first step in the electoral process for the new government. In addition, there will be a canonical visit during the first semester of next year to both provinces involved in the process of merging.

         In September of this year, at the annual retreat and assembly of the members of the Keimos and Keetmanshoop regions, which will be held in Pella, election of the government of the future Region will take place. Officially the joining of these two regions is set for this December (2008).

         May we keep these processes of merging in our prayers. May they help our confreres grow in union of hearts and in their mission as Oblates.

General Directory and Necrology: New Edition

         Our present “General Directory and Necrology” was last edited in 2006. As you know, the information contained in it constantly changes, requiring continual updating. Even though this updated information is available on-line (, the General Council thought it well to publish a new edition. We are aware that not all of our confreres have access to the Internet. In addition, we thought that this publication could serve as a sign of unity among all of us. In many instances, as well, it is more practical to have the book form for our personal use. After consulting with the Provincial Superiors and Regionals, we decided to edit the two volumes separately: one, The General Directory and the another, The Necrology. These have already been printed in India (because of a more advantageous price). Within a short time, these new volumes should arrive at the respective Provincial and Regional headquarters.

         Mr. Hans Angleitner did the entire work of preparing the material for publishing. As you will see, he has added to the Necrology some new information about our confreres who have already gone before us to our Father’s house. Beside the former information about the year of death, age and Province to which each deceased Oblate belonged, other information has been added such as: principle ministerial activity, place of ministry, place of death etc. Mr. Angleitner added only the information that was available to him. This ‘upgrading’ certainly is invaluable for all of us. I ask all our confreres who have any other information about our deceased confreres to send it to Mr. Angleitner (e-mail: Besides this, I would like to remember the need to report to Mr. Angleitner whenever there is any new information about our confreres: admission to the novitiate, first vows, renewal of vows, perpetual profession, ordination, transfers, death etc.). In the case of informing about the death of one of our confreres, please send him a short summary of the life of the departed Oblate. Also, if you note any mistaken information in the Directory or in the Necrology, please communicate these to him. He is always ready to add or to alter information on our international page on the Internet.
         I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude, on behalf of all our confreres, to Mr. Hans Angleitner for his tireless dedication in preparing all the material for publishing.

ICSS: Activities and Program

         If you look at the bi-annual publication from International Commission of Salesian Studies – ICSS – you will see that a the wide variety of initiatives are being undertaken that have as their objective the touching, with the salesian spirit, of the heart of a great many people. The March of 2008 edition of the ICSS Newsletter, in addition to a good, in-depth synthesis about the celebrations in Troyes on the occasion of the centenary of the death our founder, also contains information about the most recent publications: books, magazines and articles. I mention especially the works: “Human Encounter in the Salesian Tradition” (several authors), and the biography of Fr. Louis Brisson authored by Fr. Dirk Koster OSFS. In addition, Austrian Province has drawn up several materials concerning the Year of Fr. Brisson that are intended to be used by the public media.
         I take this opportunity to invite everyone to visit our Internet page, On this page under “Works” you will find recent works, such as the Millennium Edition of the retreats, talks and preaching of our founder. This edition was prepared by Fr. Roger Balducelli OSFS, to whom I wish to express our heartfelt thanks. I wish to express, as well, my most cordial gratefulness to Fr. Joseph Chorpenning OSFS, president of the ICSS, and to the other members of the Commission for their valuable service to all in our great salesian family.

         I would like to recall that we are in a time that literarily invites us to return to our sources. During this year of 2008, centenary of the death of our founder, in addition to other initiatives, we are celebrating, on the first Fridays of each month, our novena in his honor. During the year of 2009 we will be invited to rediscover the spiritual treasure contained in the Introduction to the Devout Life in the year that marks the 400th centenary of its publication. Finally, in the year 2010, the Sisters of the Visitation will celebrate 400 years of their foundation.


As you know, at last year’s meeting at DeSales University, we created the position of General Coordinator of Formation. This position was filled by Fr. Lewis Fiorelli, my predecessor. The first service confided to him has already gotten off to a good start. Specifically I am referring to the creation of an Internet page dedicated to formation ( user name: osfs). This page already contains various information. Our formation people are especially invited the help improve this page with additional information about formation in their Province / Region, and also with additional articles – in our differing languages that are used in formation. I invite you to visit this Internet page, and to give us your suggestions. It would be nice if this page became a gathering place where formation persons and those in formation could meet.

Another task confided to Fr. Fiorelli was the programming, in the Salesian area, of a future formation meeting for our formation personnel. Some ideas about this meeting such as: themes, length, number of participants and funding have already been raised. During the next meeting of the General Council we will further deliberate this topic with Fr. Fiorelli.

Chablais Mission Fund – Disbursing Committee

The General Council recently approved the proposal made by the Disbursing Committee for the distribution of this year’s available funds. The following shares, defined in dollars were determined: Keimoes Region: $12,000.00; Keetmanshoop Region: $12,000.00; Indian Mission: $16,000.00; South American Province (Haiti): $14,000.00; French Province (Benin): $46,000.00.

Salesian Youth Pilgrimage

In June, in Annecy, France, there occurred a Salesian pilgrimage involving Oblates and young people from our various schools. This was the first such experience.  And was the result of a motion approved by the General Chapter of 2006. Young people from three of our schools were represented: Salesianum (Wilmington, USA), St. Michel (Annecy, France) and Colegio e Liceo Mariano (Montevideo, Uruguay). Total participants numbered 30, including Oblates, students and teachers. The experience was well worth it, according to the testimony of several participants.

I wish to my thanks to those involved in planning as well as to those who participated in this pilgrimage. My special thanks to Fr. Bill McCandless and Fr. Bruno Lecoin, who undertook this initiative and coordinated this event. A further step is being contemplated: to program another pilgrimage, involving all our schools.

Meeting of Young European Oblates

During the last week of July, 13 young European Oblatos met in and around Annecy. It was the first ever event of this nature. The group spent some time at the Alpine vacation house in La Frasse, near Annecy. Themes such as the life and works of our founder, and St. Francis de Sales’ understanding of the Eucharistic were treated in-depth. Despite the fact that the participants came from different countries, a fraternal Salesian spirit overcame the challenge of differing languages. Another such meeting has been planned for two years from now. It will be prepared by Fr. Michel Tournade e Fr. Sebastian Leitner.

2009 Major Superiors Meeting

The year 2009 marks 400 years of the publication of the Introduction to the Devout Life. This fact has led the General Council to decide to hold the Meeting of Major Superiors in Annecy. The meeting has been set for the week of July 26 (Sunday- arrival day) until August 1(Saturday- departure day). We will dedicate two days to the Introduction and three days to the affairs of interest to the whole Assembly. Later on I will be sending a correspondence to all Major Superior with greater information about subject this meeting.

India: Pastoral Commitment and New Formation House

In spite of the challenges, our mission in India continues to give us reasons for joy and hope. Soon the 12th Oblate priest will be ordained in India. Recently, a contract has been signed between the Oblates and the Bishop of the Diocese of Vijayawda to assume responsibility for the Parish in Vangutur. This will be our first pastoral responsibility in India. The parish is located in the Andhra Pradesh State, in east-central India.
This step of taking on the pastoral responsibility of a parish represents, without a doubt, an important step in our missionary presence in India. We wish to compliment Fr. Mathew Mukkath and the members of his Advisory Board for their courage in taking this step with the support and approval of the General Council.  In the name of the whole congregation, I express my joy and pride for the seriousness with which our confreres in India, with the wise help of Fr. Joseph Koltinger and Fr. Fred Smuda – are taking with this strong step in bringing our Oblate presence to a new region of that country. I ask for your continued prayers for the Indian mission. Because of the change in the Formation program, for three years now there has not been a novitiate in India. But we do look forward to beginning a new group of novices in May of next year. The novitiate will be in Samarpanaram, but in the future our plan is to have the Novitiate in Eluru, near the parish that we are assuming. The plan is that, temporarily, our theology students will use this house.

Constitution 330

I wish to remind the governments of our Provinces and Regions of the stipulations of Constitution 330. The acts foreseen in this number need approval of the General Council for their validity.


In August I will spent a week in Fockenfeld for the annual retreat of the confreres from the German language Provinces. Right after the retreat, I will remain with them as they hold their Assembly.

During the second half of September, I will be visiting our confreres in the Regions of Keimoes and Keetmanshoop, and taking part in their retreat and Assembly which will be held in Pella. On this occasion the new leadership (Regional Superior and Councilors) for the new Region, whose unification will be made official at the beginning of next December. In November and the beginning of December, together with our Assistant, Fr. Konrad Esser, I will visit the missions in the Haiti, Ecuador and Bahia (Brazil), mission areas of the South American Province. After these visits, I will remain in Brazil in order to give the retreat to our Brazilian confreres. This retreat will occur around the feast of St Francis de Sales, January 2009. In the beginning of February 2009, the General Council will meet in Monaco. After that, again during the first semester of next year, I plan to visit our confreres in India, and also to accompany the unification of the German and Austrian - South German Provinces.

Fr. Aldino José Kiesel, osfs
Superior General