Syria – Lay people co-responsible in Salesian mission: Johnny and Georgette

(ANS – Kafroun) – A history of suffering, certainly, like all those concerning refugees during wars; but also a love story, of a family steadfast in difficulties; a story of fidelity to one’s own values ​​on the part of a Christian and Salesian family; a story of gratitude, that of many people towards them and their work: all this is the story of Johnny and Georgette, a married couple of Salesian Cooperators who, after fleeing Aleppo in the hardest months of the war in Syria, led, for eight years, the first lay-run work in the whole Middle East Province (MOR), that is, the retreat house the Salesians own in the mountainous region of Kafroun. Now Johnny and Georgette, together with their children, have been able to return to their Aleppo; but not before having received heartfelt thanks from the Sons of Don Bosco in Syria.

It has been over 8 years since this family left Aleppo, due to the harshness of the war and its consequences, both material and psychological. It was 2012 when they abandoned their home and their belongings, taking with them what was their only daughter at the time. At that moment they could not have known that Providence had a special assignment for them.

On arriving in Kafroun, in fact, the two Salesian Cooperators Johnny Ghazi and Georgette Deek were invited to take on the responsibility of managing the Salesian house there. And they, in a spirit of service to the Lord and always maintaining the typically Salesian family atmosphere, welcomed the proposal and accompanied all the initiatives: catechism, summer activities, formation meetings, welcoming groups of visitors who constantly coming to the center – born, indeed, as a monastery for camps…

About two weeks ago, during a visit to the work, the Provincial of MOR, Fr Alejandro León, celebrated a Eucharist in which he wanted to publicly thank them for their ministry and their good administration in this time during which they gave the example of Christian and Salesian laity, committed in the Church and in society, with young people.

After their service in Kafroun, now Johnny and Georgette are back with their two daughters in Aleppo.

Today, therefore, this message arrives from the Salesian community in Syria:

“Despite the many difficulties, they lived this service with honesty, joy and sacrifice. Furthermore, theirs was the first experience in the Middle East Province, in which lay people of the Salesian Family were given the opportunity to live Salesian spirituality with high responsibility, hand in hand with consecrated Salesians, as Don Bosco wanted, a single family for a single objective: the salvation of souls. On behalf of the Salesians, young people, Salesian Families and Cooperators in the Middle East, we say to you: ‘Thank you, Johnny and Georgette!'”

ANS – Agency of Salesian News

Lebanon – Salesian oratory is an oasis of peace in context of crisis

(ANS – El-Houssoun) – Organized by the Salesians in Lebanon, the Youth South Camp in the mountain house of El-Houssoun (Byblos district) is increasingly revealing itself to be an oasis of peace, serenity and conviviality in what is a dramatic social, political and economic context, one that is unprecedented in the centennial history of modern Lebanon.

About 800 boys and girls are involved: Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi, with dozens of volunteer animators, adequately trained. Syrians and Iraqis are all refugees, residing in Lebanon for several years: Syrians are waiting to be able to return to their country, while Iraqis are waiting to be welcomed in a third country. While the Syrians are all Muslims and the Iraqis Christians, the Lebanese are mixed, but the vast majority are Christians, in accordance with the area’s demographics and live within a radius of 10-15 km from the Salesian center. Syrian children also reside in the area; Iraqis, on the other hand, reside in the suburbs of Beirut, more than 40 km away. For all of them, transportation is guaranteed, as well as the daily distribution of a sandwich and refreshments.

Never had the Salesian house in El-Houssoun known such a crowded Summer Camp, even if the daily attendance is divided into the days of the week according to the nationality and age of the participants (from 6 to 15 years).

A collective or group educational and recreational program forms the core, flanked by moments of free playful activities, especially sports.

“It’s impressive to see the joy that shines on the faces of children and adolescents and the enthusiasm they put into participating in the various activities offered,” they write from the Oratory. “Even Muslim girls who wear the veil put aside their traditional reserve to leave involve the atmosphere that surrounds them,” they add. All this strongly contrasts with the climate currently dominant in the country: mistrust, poverty and, not infrequently, misery, unemployment, galloping devaluation of the Lebanese pound, instability and sometimes insecurity, lack of basic products, medicines and the most basic social services. From day to day, in a crisis that has lasted for two years, aggravated by the terrible explosion in the port of Beirut (4 August 2020), there is no glimmer of light.

Sowing joy, trust and giving hope, as well as providing concrete help, remains the primary objective of and for the children of Don Bosco in the current situation in Lebanon. The day is expected when the light shall eventually triumph and then Lebanon will once again become the “message country” described by Pope Saint John Paul II.

ANS – Agency of Salesian News

Fr Caputa introduces Simone Srugi

(ANS – Beitgemal) – The Salesian Fr Giovanni Caputa, former professor of Theology in Cremisan and Jerusalem (1980-2017), has since 2014 been a collaborator in the cause of beatification of Venerable Simone Srugi, a Salesian brother who was a central figure for the Salesians of the Middle East. Fr Caputa recently wrote a new book in Italian on Simone Srugi (Simone Srugi nella storia di Betgamāl), and today he illustrates the history of the Venerable and the value of this publication.

It is not your first book on Srugi. What’s new in this one?

In 2018 I published Vita e scritti di Simone Srugi (Life and Writings), which contains all the documentation. In this last book, I better frame one and the others in their historical context, that is, the hundred years between the reconstitution of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (1847) and the partition of Palestine (1947). It was part of a region that during that century completely changed aspect, from a political, socio-economic, cultural and religious point of view … The maps and the “photo gallery”, which complete the volume, help to offer a better picture.

Against that background, the life and action of Srugi stand out; after his childhood in Nazareth and the years of apprenticeship in Bethlehem (nurse, tailor and baker), he made his religious profession as a Salesian brother (1896) and carried out his mission for 50 years in Betgamāl. In this out-of-the-way and malarial locality, the Salesians welcomed Palestinian orphans, Armenian, Lebanese, Syrian refugees, and finally also Poles. They ran an agricultural school with an attached mill, olive oil press, canteen and medical-pharmaceutical dispensary. Simone was teacher and catechist of the little ones, master of ceremonies in the shrine of St Stephen and above all a nurse: the sick came to him by the dozen every day, from about fifty villages. It is estimated that he treated tens of thousands of poor sick people.

What did Srugi leave written?

He was not a writer; he was a practical, simple man, who loved to read Don Bosco’s books, manuals of piety… From them he transcribed short sentences, which he distributed in strips of paper to brothers and boys. They resemble today’s tweets.

Here are a few:

–      A “thank you to God” is worth more, a “God be blessed” in adversity, than a thousand thanks in prosperity.

–      God does things slowly, but He does them well.

–      Carry the cross of each day every day with the grace of each day.

–      The cross, if it is loved, is only half a cross, because the love of Jesus softens everything, and one does not suffer much, except when one loves little.

–      It is more worth raising a straw out of obedience than fasting a Lent by one’s own election.

–      You do not have to look for enemies in the town square, while the most bitter is hidden inside you, indeed, it is you. So look at your soul for yourself.

–      The happiness of pleasing God with doing all things well is a sage of heaven.

The book in Italian Simone Srugi nella storia di Betgamāl – Simone Srugi in the history of Betgamāl – will soon be included in the Salesian Digital Library (SDL).

   Agency of Salesian News

Lebanon – Feast of Don Bosco for youth of Zgharta’s “Don Bosco Association”

Zgharta, Lebanon – February 2020 – Like every year, Don Bosco’s family in Zgharta celebrated the Mass in honor of Don Bosco in the church of “Our Lady of Zgharta” in which the youth of the “Don Bosco Association” participated. The Mass was presided by Fr Jean Moura, mentor of the association that has been assisting young people with Don Bosco’s charism for 21 years. After Mass, Don Bosco’s family presented artistic performances centered on the mission of the Saint of the Young to the audience.

Written by: ANS – Agency of Salesian News

The most beautiful photo: “Don Bosco, priest, father and pastor”

It has been written, and it is absolute truth, that Don Bosco never stopped confessing, even when he was sick, and still a few months before he died he continued to do so. His great joy was that his children were “in the grace of God”. All the boys wanted to confess to Don Bosco and the reason is visible in this, the most beautiful photo for Don Bosco, the one where he shows his identity as a priest. He has a serene face, an attentive gaze, a paternal attitude. In this circumstance, he was confessing the one who will be his second successor at the head of the Congregation: Paolo Albera. The photo was taken by Francesco Serra, with the title “Don Bosco who confesses”, in Turin, in 1861.

 

Written by: ANS – Agency of Salesian News

The Salesian Youth Centres in Spain in solidarity with those in Syria

The Don Bosco Confederation of Salesian Youth Centres, together with the National Commission of Salesian Oratories and Youth Centres in Spain, has launched a project called “Suriya” (phonetic transcription of the Arabic word “Syria”).

Given the complexity of any project to welcome Syrian refugees, those responsible for the Don Bosco Confederation wondered if they could help their colleagues in Syria who are working with children and young people in their own situation, realizing that they know best what is to be done. This led to an awareness project among the children and young people who attend the Salesian youth centres in Spain, and out of this came the solidarity project called “Suriya”.

The project arose as a short, medium and long-term commitment, thanks to the twinning of the Salesian Youth Centres in Spain and Syria. This will raise the level of awareness, support and fundraising to help cover the material needs of the Syrian oratories. There are three main areas of intervention: material needs (such as food, medicine and clothes); materials for study (stationery, etc.) and psychological training for the team of leaders; and, finally, material for recreational activities (balls, nets, etc.).

Among the various awareness-raising activities planned are the preparation of teaching units that work for different age groups and make them aware of the Syrian reality and the objectives of the project. They are also organizing a travelling photographic exhibition on the reality of refugees. There will be a visit to Syria by a delegation of Spanish youth centres, and some Syrian leaders will be involved in the summer activities of the Spanish oratories. There will also be a prayer vigil at the same time in various centres of the two countries, organized by the Salesian Youth Movement.

For the fundraising efforts, a special bank account has been opened and a “Solidarity Fair” campaign has been launched in various centres.

The Suriya project is carried out in close collaboration between the National Committee of Spain’s Youth Centres, and the delegates of Youth Ministry of the Salesians and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Syria.

The Don Bosco Confederation was founded in 1991 and today it has 127 Salesian youth centres in Spain, with about 5,800 volunteers, 180 professionals, and 57,000 beneficiaries.