(ANS – Castelnuovo Don Bosco) – An experience beyond expectations, capable of opening new horizons, to be preserved as a gift from the Lord: the comments of the participants in the second edition of the Salesian Spiritual Accompaniment School for Italian, Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Salesians are enthusiastic , carried out on the Salesian sites, between Valdocco and Castelnuovo Don Bosco, from 17 August to 19 September last. In total, 22 Salesians from 17 Provinces took part in this edition.

Coordinated by Mr. Raymond Callo, SDB, of the Sector for Formation, and by Fr Fabio Attard, Coordinator of the Formation of Salesians and Laity in Europe, the experience of the School also saw the presence in the final phase of the General Councilor for Formation, Fr Ivo Coelho.

“Before participating, I thought it was the usual intellectual course detached from personal and pastoral experience. I changed my mind – Vittorio Cunsolo, a Salesian from the Central Italy Circumscription (ICC) testifies today -. Already in the first days in Valdocco, the modality of management favored the comparison between the life experience of the young priest Don Bosco and my personal experience. The extended times for internalization, the questions that guided us, the sharing in groups, all helped to make Don Bosco’s life dialogue with his own life ”.

Don Cunsolo continues: “The apex of the course was the Spiritual Exercises. A week in complete silence in a Rosminian monastery. For an activist like me, I thought it was a bit of a waste of time to spend a week in complete silence. One could listen to comments on the Word of God, read good spiritual books, discuss with other confreres, etc… and instead sit there in silence. I trusted and tried to slow down my hectic pace of life. The daily confrontation with a guide of one’s choice accompanied me in slowly immersing myself in that silence, which was a door to interiority. The first fruit of silence is calm and from this deep listening. From deep listening, the Encounter. Get back in touch with yourself and with the One who was there waiting. I understood what St. Ignatius meant: ‘it is not much knowing that satisfies and satisfies the soul, but feeling and tasting things internally’ ”.

“The last few weeks – concludes the Salesian from ICC – we spent at Colle Don Bosco where we had the opportunity to calmly re-read, together with little Giovannino, the years of our formation. See the plot that Providence was weaving. I deepened my knowledge of Don Bosco and of the many figures who helped him to grow, I did not know several things. Accompanied by the team, we were finally able to work on ourselves and on the way of being among the young. I became aware of quality and aspects to improve. Thanks to the testimony of the team, to their fraternal and at the same time professional presence, I was able to enrich myself by learning from their Salesian way of accompanying us. My thanks to the Congregation, the team and all the classmates who have allowed all this ”.

Fr Domingos Chikenge Chimuco, an Angolan Salesian, for his part observes: “For me it was a very beautiful experience and it meant a lot in my life. It gave me much broader horizons on the techniques of spiritual accompaniment, in the Church and above all in Salesian spirituality. It was a very well organized five weeks, with many moments of prayer, reflection, sharing, games, etc. It was five weeks of great familiarity with the whole reality of the Salesian Family in the world. It is a very current school and is given to us by the Holy Spirit in the Congregation, above all for the formation of confreres, for the spiritual accompaniment of young people in formation, and not only, and of people who approach our works and services ”.

Fr Sergio Astorga, from Chile concludes: “The School of Salesian Spiritual Accompaniment, offered by a team of the Department for Formation at a world level, ended on 19 September. We who participated in it appreciated it as a great gift from the Lord. It was a unique experience in a group made up of confreres from different countries of the Salesian world, and the atmosphere of prayer, the depth of reflection, the conviviality and teamwork, the recreation… everything was exceptional.

Begun in Valdocco and ended at Colle Don Bosco, it allowed us to acquire tools for individual spiritual accompaniment and to undertake paths of conversion. We are now better prepared to offer better service in our respective Provinces. From the bottom of my heart ‘thank you very much’ “.

Launched in its first edition in August 2021, the School of Salesian Spiritual Accompaniment is one of the ways of implementing the recommendations contained in the text “Young Salesians and accompaniment – Orientations and directives”, as well as the fourth programmatic line offered by the Rector Major to all the Congregation after the 28th General Chapter. Furthermore, the urgency of the formation of spiritual guides was also expressed in the worldwide research on Salesian Personal Accompaniment conducted in 2016 and in which about 4,000 Salesians participated.

Italy – “A great gift from the Lord”: the Salesian Spiritual Accompaniment School