(ANS – Rome) – “Volti di uno stesso carisma. Salesiani e Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice nel XX secolo” (Faces of the same charism. Salesians and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in the 20th century – ACSSA, studi 10, Rome LAS 2021): this is the title of the very recent volume edited by Salesian scholars Francesco Motto and Grazia Loparco, which collects 48 profiles of SDB and FMA among those presented by members of the Associazione Cultori di Storia Salesiana (Association for the Study of Salesian History) and other lay researchers in the five previous continental seminaries (Slovakia, India, Thailand, Kenya, Argentina). The preface by prof. Giorgio Chiosso, who offers an extensive introduction to the editors of the volume, the multi-color attachments, indexes of people and places in the volume are very illuminating and useful.
The peculiarity of the profiles presented is that of involving people who, due to the importance of the works in place, have contributed to writing significant and innovative pages of Salesian history without however rising to levels of general notoriety. They worked in various ways, both for the background wherein they took root, and for the ability to remain faithful to the unique Salesian charism without renouncing personal initiatives, originality of solutions, flexibility of practical actions calibrated on the needs of local realities, in some case with also considerable entrepreneurial skills.
We find a hard, long result of work involving archival excavation on the biographical pieces of priests, two bishops, brothers, nuns, who as a whole allow the reconstruction “from the base” of the presence and evolution of Don Bosco’s charism in the world: from Poland to Sicily passing through half of the countries of Europe, from California to Chile, passing through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Argentina, from Tunisia to South Africa passing through Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, from India to Thailand, Korea, Japan, etc. Reading the large volume also offers the opportunity to grasp the complex microprocesses through which initiatives, often designed from below on the prompt of a bishop or a benefactor or to respond to an emergency, manage to work.
Among the 48 profiles, the most significant group is represented by nuns and priests committed to promoting the Salesian presence and its efficient organization. They are people mobilized by an almost boundless passion and faith, who throw their hearts over and beyond any obstacles in their path, entrust their hopes to Providence, pursue their goals with tenacity, accept to pay the price through personal sacrifices, not to mention the financial difficulties that sometimes make it difficult not only for the survival of the works just begun, but also for the sustenance. Alongside this prevalent typology of “notable” protagonists, we also find figures with different features, such as, several leading intellectuals. Finally, there is no lack of volcanic and enthusiastic characters and who, in some cases, are critical of established practices and methods, people who engage in dialectical confrontations with superiors and are perhaps sparked by some misunderstanding.
Their lives, in the innovative and original perspective in which they are presented, represent a magnificent source of inspiration for those who, in the difficult historical situation we are experiencing, are pervaded by symptoms of suffering for the feeling of not being up to the situation.
The reading of the work, the result of the collaboration of both established scholars and simple lovers of Salesian history, partly fills the gaps in learning about the thousands of nuns, priests, brothers and sisters, benefactors who made Don Bosco’s great dream possible. It also wants to be an incentive to undertake similar and in-depth archival research in local archives and works, which go beyond the traditional literary genre of mortuary letters, so edifying but often of little value for history.