(ANS – New Rochelle) – Beginning this month, “Salesian Missions”, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joyfully celebrates its 75th anniversary – a significant milestone in its long and fruitful partnership with generous friends. Together with its donors and friends, it has helped more than three million children around the world turn their lives around.
Ever since Father James O’Loughlen first established the Salesian Missions office in 1947, with a charter to tell the stories of our global works and rally support for our efforts, it has achieved success after remarkable success, not for themselves, but for the poorest, most disenfranchised, and most vulnerable children and families living in more than 130 countries around the world.
“Those successes are truly countless,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “More importantly, they are individually significant and transformative. Ever since I stepped into this role three years ago, I have heard about so many children and adults whose names I will always remember. These very real people are building much brighter futures thanks to the education, training, social support and other assistance they needed but never could have accessed on their own.”
And it all started with a visionary director who knew exactly how to harness the potential of the U.S. Postal Service.
That director was Father Edward (“Ed”) Cappelletti, who assumed directorship of Salesian Missions in 1959. For the next 44 years, Fr. Ed rose each morning with a singular focus: to live selflessly in service to the world’s poor, especially the precious children. To that end, he poured his remarkable creativity, infectious enthusiasm, and ability to motivate others into imagining – and delivering on – a new way of reaching, soliciting and communicating with potential donors about the Salesian missionaries’ global works. Arguably, those efforts revolutionized the use of direct mail for fundraising and donor communications.
“When you think about it, you realize that Fr. Ed’s ideas were truly visionary for the time,” says Fr. Gus. “But he never let that stop him. It’s not an understatement to say we wouldn’t be where we are today without him.”
Fr. Ed’s ideas included scouring local telephone books for surnames that were likely to be Catholic—and manually collecting the addresses into a mailing list. And so, from a small basement office at the Provincial House in New Rochelle, NY, he and five typists did exactly that. That list was comprised of thousands of names and had grown to include a new segment of Spanish-speaking Catholics identified—you guessed it!—by cross-referencing local phone books against one from Puerto Rico. In 1970, Salesian Missions moved into a new office building adjacent to the Provincial House, built to accommodate new technologies and processes Fr. Ed adopted to support our fundraising goals. That building, officially dedicated in 2014 to Fr. Ed, remains our headquarters today.
Although he died on 12 November 2013 at the age of 93, Fr. Ed’s indelible legacy continues to inspire the Salesian Missions’ work. Led by equally dedicated successors, including Brother Emile Dube, Father Mark Hyde, and now, Fr. Gus, the Mission Office communicates with a multitude of generous donors and partners each and every day.
To date, this work responds to help fund the work of nearly 30,000 Salesian missionaries, and has improved the lives and futures of over three million children, in more than 130 countries around the world.
“Together with our friends, we are the torch-bearers keeping Fr. James’ and Fr. Ed’s flames bright and alive,” concludes Fr. Gus. “I hope you will continue to join me in igniting that passion among even more supporters who will carry it forward into the next 75 years … and beyond.”
Source: Salesian Missions