Il tempo della vita (…) è così breve e sì prezioso, che sarebbe anche una pazzia indugiarci a pensare dove lo straccio andrà a finire: il Signore lo getti di qua, lo getti di là, come vuole, si sta sempre bene quando si sta dove vuole il Signore.
Martedì, 31 Gennaio 2023
24 Gennaio 2012
Per un presente che abbia futuro – English

Per un presente che abbia futuro_EN

The inculturation of the charism in a changing Congregation

December 29, 2011

Dear Confreres,

Deo gratias!

I am writing this letter once again from the hermitage of St. Albert di Butrio, where I am spending a few days of the Christmas season with the community of our hermits. There is time to pray and to reflect, in silence before God, on one’s own life and that of the congregation.

Thinking about the theme of the letter, it immediately came to mind the request of some Confreres to develop the theme of the inculturation of the charism in the contemporary world. [1]

The topic is large and complex. It is very important because the Orionine charism, "our raison d’être and way of being in the Church" will continue in its journey through history if we succeed in planting it, at the same time, with fidelity and creativity, where we are and where we operate. Planting the charism in different cultures has been the commitment of our congregation for more than a century, starting from the foundation and the first missions of Don Orione in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Poland, and later in many other nations.

Our orionine charism is Catholic because it is evangelical. It has already proved its catholicity, even existential, because it has been assumed by the different categories of people (religious, priests, contemplative nuns, consecrated lay people, in associations or individually), by different peoples (thirty countries) and has been through several eras and cultures of history. [2]

The work of inculturation of the charism continues. The mission of the Orionine Family will be significant and effective, and so will have a future, if it is able to appear at the same time true to itself but also 'at home' in the popular and cultural environment in which it is located. Precisely for this reason I intend to reflect with you, dear Confreres, on the inculturation of the orionine charism of the Congregation in the current historical context. It seems to me a task of extreme urgency. The vitality of the congregation in various countries in which it is embodied is dependent upon the vital synthesis between fidelity to the charism and adherence to its historical and cultural environment.


Culture and history affect the charism, determine a dialogue, and its re-expression with difficulties and opportunities, changes and adaptations and renewal. Don Orione himself, true to his charism, faced a number of inculturations. In Italy, at a time of great social progress (until 1914), he promoted particularly schools and agricultural settlements. Then, in the context and conditions of the Fascist period (1922-1943), Don Orione and the congregation turned towards the orphans and the poor, to the most abandoned classes, and the Little Cottolengos arose. In the next era of "social reconstruction", the congregation opened itself to the post-war emergency with dozens of homes for orphans, maimed and disabled youth, vocational schools and homes for young worker.

In short, looking at history in Italy alone, it is evident that the Congregation has remained true to his charism, renewing itself according to the time and social context.

And today, how is the inculturation of the charism in the world going?

To my knowledge of the Congregation, I see that in different nations, we are called to an inculturation of the charism that is also global as well as new, because new and global are the traits of the economy environment, customs, culture, politics, and religiosity. In the past, when the world was less inter-communicating, inculturation was more specific in each country. The "becoming Venetian  with the Venetians, English with the English, Brazilian with the Brazilians" indicated the meeting with well-defined cultures and situations. We must acknowledge that the change to which the Family Orionine is called today is more global.

Even more, because of  our "popular" vocation of being close to the people and practical service, we are called to change in a changing world to be "in our time" and have a future. The change is inevitable. What we can choose - and in fact do choose – is whether to change well, that is in an updated and faithful way, or to  change badly, that is passively enduring the time and customs,  without our charismatic identity or withdrawing from the current time and the customs.

Without inculturation, the charism would be reduced to a set of ideals and a niche of devotion, a past memory and not a project, a longing for the past and not a proposal.

"Let’s make the sign of the cross and trustingly throw ourselves into the fire of the new times." [3] In this indispensable work of inculturation of the charism in the here and now that has a future, anything can be useful: the  friendly and spontaneous reflection, the meetings of the Congregation, the sociable and committed  implementation of the guidelines given by the chapters and the superiors; the Secretariats are a cultural and practical laboratory of renewal.

As a personal contribution, I jot down some of the main nuclei of inculturation of the charism to which the Congregation is called.


There has already been a remarkable evolution of the types and forms of management of the works of charity [4] , but also of their quality and apostolic  significance.

In a context in which the state’s social security has generally grown, is greatly diminished  the providence  towards the needy (desamparados) exerted by the Congregation. Is it enough that the  Sons of Divine Providence be good stewards of social security?

In all countries where we operate, until a few decades ago, it was enough to open a work of care  which was immediately perceived as work of charity, a beautiful sign of love of the Congregation and of the Church "to bring the little ones, the poor to the Church and the Pope, to establish all things in Christ ", according to the charism. Today, after the evolution  that has occurred, it is no longer automatic that a work of social care or education is ipso facto a charitable and apostolic work. [5] There are charitable organizations "like all the others" almost devoid of quality and apostolic meaning. From this was born the just and inevitable suffering of so many Confreres, the restlessness, the impatience and the  projects which ,in the General Chapters, have taken the name of "apostolic revival", " charismatic recovery," " apostolic conversion"  of the works of charity. All perceive the problem of  the "works of charity" that do not "open people’s  eyes to the faith."

Just as change - already happened – of identity,  management and direction of the works is global, so also must be global and congregational the new inculturation of this paramount tool of our charism, wanted and fixed by Don Orione and recognized by the Church.

One should add that not only the dynamics of the works  have changed - and must change - but also that of the religious who work there. The last general chapter speaks of identity and role of religious called to be in the works above all as "witnesses", "guarantors of charism," "shepherds", "trainers", "prophets", [6] with a new relationship dynamics, but no less demanding than those of the past.

Regarding this new and necessary inculturation (= insight, adaptation, renewal, creativity) of the charismatic works the Congregation has long been on the move. We have interesting experiences at which even other Congregations are looking. Some innovations in management mode are taking shape, trying to create a new role for the religious in the works,  re-centring the apostolic relationship of the work with the territory.

Courage, dear Confreres, we contribute to the evolution of the works of charity so that they continue to be charismatic and apostolic in the greatly changed social context today. In some cases, it will mean leaving certain works which cannot be converted into instruments of apostolate.

I know that the evolution of the works created and creates tension of interpretation and solutions. It is inevitable, because there are no immediately obvious solutions. The change in our relationship with the works calls us, provokes us, and sometimes discourages us. But we are there, the Congregation is there to face the change. Dialogue and the exchange of positive experiences are useful. With the directives of the last two General Chapters and the action of the Secretariats, a common path is taking shape. We should not be either catastrophic ("Enough, the era of the works is over") or deluded ("The works speak for themselves"). No one should feel like an “outsider” on this issue, but should offer its own contribution of ideas and especially the practical cooperation in all the communities and activities, participation in the secretariats and other meetings of the Congregation.


Another area in which fidelity to our charism today should be renewed is the destination to the "poorest of the poor" given by the Founder. Our future goes through a new loyalty to the "poorest of the poor", a term often overused and empty, but full of realism in the thinking and practice of Don Orione and many of his followers.

The last circular of the previous six year term was devoted to this theme: " Let it be clearly determined that the Little Work is for the poor." [7] It is an insurmountable point of the charism, a borderline "firm wall" enabling us to walk faithfully in the footsteps of Don Orione. Don Orione wanted to reinforce the guard-rail of our  charismatic way with a special oath of poverty. [8] Those who work to maintain the  firm wall [9] of the personal style and of service to the poor "poorest of the  poor" contribute to the  now of the Congregation, and ensure its future. [10]

But there are also practical  and new difficulties. Today, the categories  and the environment of the poor, which is our habitat, in which the one  plant with several branches of Divine Providence [11] grows, are evolving, have changed.

It is not my duty to recall sociological visions, interpretations and diagnosis. I would just like to make an interpretative observation that can be used for charismatic inculturation.

There are still  poor people located in a geographical region of the country or city, but many live in the ordinary society. Today, the category of "poverty" is extended to any experience of the limit and needs of people: material, spiritual, physical, mental, relational, cultural and religious. The smaller geographical or sociological homogeneity of our recipients, the poor, can lead to the conclusion: "Well, let’s do a bit of everything," generically, "because everyone is poor." There is some truth in this, but our presence would lose its charismatic privilege of being "for the poorest of the poor," as its particular and ecclesial sign.

Certainly the "for the poor" as understood by Don Orion means "for all the poor." He did not choose specific categories like other founders (the sick, disabled, children, workers, senior citizens, immigrants, women, etc..). But in Don Orione there's more. While, on the one hand, the universality of destination and charitable work that he wanted is evident, yet, on the other, its charismatic concentration is clear: "We are for the poor, even for the poorest and most abandoned." [12] What did he mean by the phrase, "the poorest?". Here is almost a definition: "the poorest of the poor, the ones that no one provides for and cannot be accepted in other institutes." [13] In fact, "Those who have protection from other hands, for them there is already the providence of men, we are of Divine Providence, that is, we are but to make up for those who missed out and have exhausted every human providence." [14]

"The most poor" are the "most abandoned", the "desamparados", the most devoid of other benefits. This is the criterion of discernment and of the charismatic project. An Orionine must never forget that the charism does not bind us to one kind of poor but unites us to the most abandoned condition of the poor. We must give priority to the charity for "the most abandoned, los mas desamparados", because this was and will be, in future, the public, simple, effective and convincing sign, "to experience the Providence of God and the motherhood of the Church"  as Don Orione wanted.

No uncertainty: "the poorest" of Don Orione and of the Orionines are the "most abandoned", the "desamparados", the most devoid of other benefits. What characterizes the "privilegium  orioninum" for the poor is their degree of neglect and lack of other insurance: "We are of Divine Providence, that  is, we are just to help the needy and those who have exhausted all human providence." [15]

Dear Confreres, I am writing these things in prayer and I feel that I am touching a key point for the safeguarding and promotion of our charism, and therefore our future. In the inculturation of our service to the "poorest of the poor" I think the Congregation needs to do a reflection and a more decisive journey than hitherto. It is not easy. The continued paucity of our number of religious and the pressing need of the large, traditional institutions,  has almost completely prevented this aspect of inculturation "conditio sine qua non" of fidelity to the charism: the destination "to the poorest of the poor."

It is comforting to know that the inculturation of the service to the "most poor" continues to take place especially in the new missions. But there's even more need of it - although more difficult – in the established  Provinces, and here something has been done particularly by supporting the laity to make self-help groups, counselling centres, group homes for the unborn, small institutions for minors in difficulty, initiatives for immigrants, some free clinics for the poor, schemes to support poor people out of institutions, etc.. All this is very good.

Let us go ahead, as religious and as religious communities, to place ourselves "on the front lines Pro Providentia!" [16] There are two decisions of the 13th  General Chapter, which fall into this category.

Decision 28: Each province, discerning in its own situation the ways in which life is threatened (new life, weak life, immigrants, etc..), defines the most significant actions for its defence. In all our works (educational, charitable and parochial), there should be signs of welcome and interest in the poverty of the "desamparados" (abandoned).

Decision 29: Each province, within the next six years, sets up a new community (or at least creates a meaningful experience) that begins poorly among the poor.

            Certainly the speeches are complex, but on this strictly charismatic point either  we respond  in a practical way or else we end up offside. An Orionine who is not with the poor is offside and cannot achieve his charismatic goal. [17]


Even the way we love the Pope evolves because the context within which we are called to love the Pope has changed.

Don Orione said "My faith is the faith of the Pope, it is the faith of Peter." He wrote in his Plan and Programme (1903) that "This aim – to be united with the Pope to establish all things in Christ - is typical of our vocation. (...) The Work of Divine Providence, inflamed by great and filial love for the Vicar on earth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, has to be bound by a special bond to the Chair of Blessed Peter." [18]

We know that our fourth vow of "special faithfulness to the Pope" [19] does not only have doctrinal or disciplinary aspects, but demands an active, incarnate,  pastoral love, "in order to attract and lead the people and youth to the Church and to Christ. Then we will remove the abyss that is appearing between the people and God, between people and the Church. " [20]

To be on this " chasm ", especially at the side of the poor, and to "remove" is the charismatic place of the Orionines.

This chasm has been produced throughout history by various factors: for example, the Roman question and the Church-State separation in the times of Don Orione, socialism which seduced the masses, liberalism, atheism, and then various political ideologies and cultural movements were involved, up to the recent phenomena of secularism and individualistic relativism.

Today, how can one "help to strengthen, inside the Holy Church, the unity of the children with the Father (the Pope) and, in the exterior, to restore the broken unity with the Father ... and this through the apostolate of charity among the little and poor ones, by the most suitable institutions and works of mercy"? [21]

To answer we must look to the forms of division and the "abyss" that exist between the poor and the Church, between the people and the Pope.

Let us think  of Don Orione: he lived in a liberal, anti-clerical and Masonic climate inspired by the enlightenment; it  was the climate of marginalization of the Church as opposed to the socialist messianism that conquered people and the poor; it was a time of aggressive hostility towards the Pope as a person and the Church as such.
Today the direct hatred and hostility towards the Pope, present at the time of Don Orione, is no more.  On the contrary, today we see the Pope praised and revered across the globe, with squares filled by millions of young people like in Madrid or huge crowds in the apostolic journeys. All the big ones of the earth rush to express and sometimes to flaunt their allegiance to the Pope.

Today people dig other  chasms of separation and hostility. The attacks on the Pope are not so much public, doctrinal and addressed to his person. They are rather practical, indirect, taught and implemented in the ways of life.

"The USA love singer, but not the song" (The singer being the Pope, the song what he says) were the headlines in the  American newspapers after the very successful World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II in Toronto. It is the dominant ditch of today.
In these circumstances, we will be not Don Orione like if we only join the many who clap their hands to the singer, but if we love the song and will sing it again with our words and activities among the people and the poor.

The Pope is not attacked for his role as Pope, as in "Gallican" Piedmont and in Italy in Don Orione’s time. Today, the primacy of the Pope is not disputed, but reduced to a social symbol. People easily give him a stage, also because of the good media and financial results, but then, the Pope and the bishops with him, are ignored or attacked on the ground of values ​​and moral issues, socially brought about and sharply opposed: social and family values, sexuality, economics, international relations and domestic policy issues.

Apart from some wishful thinking, no one attacks the person of the Pope and the Church's presence directly. It would be "unpopular". No, one simply shows the world of the Church  as foreign to the modern times, with a faith and ritual folklore that are obsolete, while the life of the people goes somewhere else, beyond a distant abyss.
A small detail. We know the tremendous media coverage that the World Youth Day in Madrid has had. Hours of live broadcasting around the world, pages and pages of newspapers. But then, a major Italian newspaper, describing the kit of the young people at the WYD ended with the list saying "and of course a box of condoms." It is like saying that the Pope made great speeches, they cheered him, but then morality and life go their own way, a distant abyss.

These hints at examining the context within which we are for the pope, today, help us simply to ask in what ways and in what fields, or chasms, must our commitment be practiced  to "remove the chasm that is appearing between people and God, between the people and the Church. "

Even our being for the pope must  be acculturated and actualized.


It is another factor in the overall development and it involves the whole Congregation. The change of the members and new vocations of the Little Work entails some important changes for the inculturation of the charism at present and in the future.

This letter has already become very long, so I will jot down just three indicators of change.

1. There is a consistent, stable and locally diversified decline in the orionine religious vocations (members and aspirants). [22]

2. There is a geographical redistribution of Don Orione vocations. What has happened in the Church has also happened in the Congregation. 50 years ago,  the members of the Congregation were 70% European and 30% of other nations, and now the proportion is exactly reversed. [23]

3. There is a growth in lay orionine vocations. The Orionine charism becomes increasingly embodied with lay and secular dress, however it does not relativize but empowers the religious. [24]

These changes in orionine vocations are very important for the inculturation of the charism in the near future.

"With courage far superior to our forces"

I conclude these notes on some changes that affect the inculturation of the charism calling everyone to "enlarge a courage far superior to the forces that we feel, because where we end up, there begins the action of God who is with us! Confidence in God!” [25] This famous text of Don Orione continues with the recommendation: "stay united in the love of Jesus Christ." It is really about fraternal union that I would like to say the last word: it ensures the presence and action of God with us and gives value to ​​all the personal talents.

To make that movement / renewal that is necessary for the inculturation of the charism is required that we form one heart and one soul, a well-articulated body.

Therefore, let us care for each other in the Lord and hold each other in high esteem. Cultivate the family spirit and rekindle the good conscience to give our lives for a good cause: God, the Church, and Souls. Let us love Don Orione and that which Don Orione loved.

A thought for the elderly: foster the family unity and, with your history, fuel the family spirit. Although many new features pass you by or you do not feel to face up to them, do not isolate yourselves from the path of the Congregation in a self protective and hopeless way. Cultivate openness to others and what's new. Quidquid minimum, but forward, just one step or even the desire to "not putting the lamp under a bushel."

A thought to the young: avoid unnecessary and ideal fights; do not frustrate energies on secluded and soon interrupted paths. United, you will accomplish and will help to make the community and the Congregation to develop in a possible and lasting way. Don Orione used to narrate movingly of Jacob who “ had with him his wife, children and even his little lambs, and seeing that they could not follow his brother (Esau), begged him to have mercy on them and to measure his steps to theirs:  a great example, great teaching of Holy Scripture. " [26]

Today we need a lot of brotherhood and unity, compassion and patience, crucial to holding together our poor limbs, the brothers of the Congregation, in the process of inculturation to which we are called at present.


As always, by signalling some events of recent months, I would like to ask you to stay informed of the life of the Congregation by visiting the official website, updated daily, and also the particular sites of the individual provinces.

Kenya. From September 16 to 24, with Fr Malcolm Dyer, I made the canonical  visit to the two  Don Orione communities of Kenya, Nairobi-Langata and Kaburugi. It was an important moment of communion, but also to make plans for this section of the Congregation that is growing. In the house- seminary in Langata there is a good group of young aspirants and there were 4 first professions.

The Confreres of Langata are in charge of the parish of Kandisi. This is a rural parish, poor and not far from the capital, in the region of the  Masai,  who are pastoralists. People are preparing, with their savings, the house for the religious community. They dream of a school for their children who currently have to do 5 miles to get to the nearest school.

A Kaburugi, the Confreres are responsible for an extensive rural parish and a small but exemplary rehabilitation centre for children with severe disabilities. Even with few financial resources, they help over 40 boys and girls, from initial help to a secure job placement in greenhouses and gardens of the Centre. Throughout Kenya people talk of  this small centre because it is a role model. "With this small centre - said P. Alex Ruiz – the way of looking at the handicapped in Kenya is changing: previously they  were considered only a curse and useless." Of the same opinion  were  the Apostolic Nuncio, Charles Lebeaupin and the Bishop of Muranga, James Wainaina Kungu, who offered two grounds for another work for the physically disabled, who are numerous in the diocese and are kept hidden.

The many demands and opportunities for development  stir us and even puzzle us. Lord, send labourers into your harvest.

During the visit  we launched the Don Orione for Marsabit project to help the people of the North East of Kenya affected by famine and hunger.

It was designed by Fr Malcolm, delegate superior of the mission in Kenya, Fr Eldo Musso, councillor  for the works of charity, Fr Alessio Cappelli, head of the Don Orione Foundation, and the Confreres of Kenya; the Mother General, Sr. Mary Mabel, assured the availability of the Little Missionaries Sisters of Charity living in Kenya. The aid to the people in the dramatic situation of famine and hunger - often mentioned by the Pope - is also an opportunity for us, Don Orione people, to renew the "first aid" attitude, voiced by Don Orione and many confreres in the ancient and recent history of the Congregation. It will also provide an opportunity to make  the young Orionine Family in Kenya feel that in the world there is a great supportive family ready to help.

With the financial help coming primarily from the generosity of houses and provinces of the Congregation, there has already been an initial expedition of three weeks in October. In January - February a second mission of solidarity is scheduled, that in addition to material aid, will also offer pastoral assistance. The Bishop of Marsabit, Peter Kihara, has assigned to us the house of the parish of Kargi, a village about 75 km from Marsabit, long empty and without a priest, in an area of ​​great poverty and neglect. In this expedition, which begins Jan. 24, will participate Fr Victor Muzzin, the Kenyan tirocinante Ian Katah Kiprotich and Anthony Gachau (postulant), three Sisters and three lay people, two of Pontecurone and one from Madrid. From Kargi, the group will take aid (food, medicines, small cisterns to collect rainwater) and will work to meet the people, visiting families, meeting children and sick people and celebrate the liturgy in the parish church.

Using the site  I have informed you of my journey in the Argentine Chaco, the  region of Itatí and Ñeembucú, Paraguay.

This visit was one that I really felt in a spiritual way, since I recalled the visit - the only one in this land - of Don Orione and also because of what I saw on the ground. All the stages,  Saenz Peña, Itatí, Rosario and General Lagos, Barranqueras and Ñeembucú were full of meetings and moments of faith and human and priestly emotion. I can still see the great, joyous and devout celebrations, but also the visit to the many small communities-with-chapel: the faith and the small church constitute a veritable wealth for these people. But too many people are still net being reached.

Last year, Sister Maria Plautilla Cavallo was declared "venerable", that is, she has completed the process of beatification and we only expect a miracle for her to be proclaimed "Blessed". In her honour there were many celebrations of thanksgiving, mainly in her birthplace, Roata Chiusani (Cuneo), and at the Shrine of the Guardia, Tortona. The speakers were the Bishop of Cuneo and Fossano Mgr. Giuseppe Cavallotto, the Mother General, Sister Mabel Spagnuolo, and Don Aurelio Fusi, postulator. A new biography written by Don Aurelio Fusi, Sister Maria Plautilla. A reflection of the face of Don Orione, is available in the bookshops, printed by  Pauline Publications, Milan 2011, p.232. In the preface, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, has observed: "What was really great in her - since the echo of her life is still heard today - is the inner atmosphere of the divine, that brightened the insignificant monotony of her work. But of this atmosphere, only God is able to report. And we know that God, especially in his favourites, likes to keep the nuptial secret. "

We have heard that the process on the life and martyrdom of Fr Ricardo Gil Barcelon and the postulant Antonio Arrue Peiró received the positive vote of the Theological Commission. Now only the vote of the Congregation of Cardinals is needed and the publication of the decree by the Holy Father. This process is practically concluded and we look  forward to their beatification, soon.

This year we have recalled with particular devotion the 60th anniversary of the death of the "venerable" Don Carlo Sterpi with celebrations at Gavazzana, his hometown, and at Tortona. For his beatification we need the recognition of a miracle attributed to his intercession. We have to pray.

The Orionine Family Mission Conference (20-23 November) rallied about 100 representatives of the two Congregations, the MLO and ISO for three days, on "All in the mission. As the Father has sent me so I send you." The conference’s purpose was to inform, to discern and give directions on how implement the decisions of the General Chapters and to develop the missionary project of the next six years. It ended with the sending of missionaries Paulin Preka, Albanian Orionine, departing for Mozambique and Sister Maria Silvina, PSMC, from Argetina, leaving for Côte d'Ivoire.

A short, concluding paper gathers the guidelines of missionary project for the six year term, some related to one or other Congregation and others for both.

The Administrative Conference (24-27 November) had the general theme "Providence and industriousness: operating guidelines for the management of charismatic works." Reports and group reflections took turns on the main themes: the dynamics of management and the quality of apostolic works in today's society, poverty and community property in a globalized world, legal entities and their own dynamics, new resources, fund raising and benefactors, community property and common funds, and others.

The new Provincial Councils in Latin America have been appointed. Provincial Councils for the 2012-2014 term in the province, "N. S. de la Guardia "(Buenos Aires), N. S. de Fatima (Brasilia), N. S. da Anunciaçâo (S. Paulo) and N. S. del Carmen (Santiago de Chile). Best wishes and prayers for the Confreres who will perform this service, so valuable for the loyalty to the religious vocation and for the unity of the Congregation. Don Orione used to say to the superiors: "The perfection of the government is included in these five words: to watch and to love in Domino, to endure, to forgive and feed in Domino."

The meeting of the Councils General FDP, PSMC, ISO and MLO (2-3 December), each year, is an important time of fellowship and planning. Ample time was given to mutual information, to the issues of cooperation of the two religious Congregations, the evaluation of the Statute of the MLO which will be presented for the canonical recognition of the Congregation for Consecrated Life, and finally the calendar.

The decree of erection of the new Mother of Divine Providence Province, dated November 20, 2011, concludes the legal process of unification of previous San Martian (Tortona), San Benedetto (Genoa) Provinces and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (Rome)Province. On June 29, 2012, the new province will come to life and will be headquartered in Rome, in "Red House" Via della Camilluccia 142. This is a necessary and difficult, legal and organizational change, ensuing from the hard reduction in the number of religious in Italy, birthplace of the Founder of the Congregation.

Reasons of prayer

As always, I commend to your prayers our dead who have reached the Lord to receive the reward of the good and faithful servants.

The dead Confreres are  Frs Joseph Andrea Alice, Timothy Peñalver and Ignatius Cavarretta (99 years, was the oldest), the Sisters: Sister Maria Estela, Sr. Maria Quirina, Sr. Maria Bertila, Sr. Maria Eustella, Sr Maria Aurelia, and Cettina Lo Cascio, a consecrated ISO member.

With gratitude, we entrust to the goodness of the Lord, our deceased relatives: the father of Fr. Mboche Paul Mwangi, of Student Sebatião Bertoldo Tigre Filho and of Fr. Hugo Rubén Camino, and the mother of Student Nab Dabire Mathias, of Fr. Francisco de Assis Silva Alfenas and of Bishop Raymond Ahoua, Bishop of Grand-Bassam (Ivory Coast), and the brothers of Fr. Vicente Di Iorio, Fr. Ignatius Terzi (predeceased) and Fr. Damian Danut Ciobanu, the sisters of Br Orlando Boggio, Fr. Giovanni Bianchin (predeceased), Student Ignacio Carlos Espinola Pereira and Sister Mary Thecla of the Sisters of St. Camillus, sister of Fr. Severino Didonè.

In every house and province, we recall the Friends, Benefactors and Helpers closer to us and to our work.

Many of our brothers are particularly tried by suffering and illness, they need our support, esteem and prayer.

Best wishes!

I conclude with best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2012.

The Fathers of the Church said that the ox and ass are all of us. The ox, in particular, represents the people of Israel who had the yoke of the law and the gift of the Word, and yet could hardly recognize their Lord. And the donkey? The donkey represents all peoples who did have the light of the Word of God, but had creation and the nature, but have not recognized the Creator. Therefore, Jesus came among us to open our eyes to recognize the Father, the Lord God.

We know that our Founding Father said that it is  charity which opens the eyes of faith. It is the love of Christmas that opens our eyes to know Jesus, recognizing Him as the Son of God become man, to acknowledge him as the face of the Father who is in heaven and the face of every brother who is on earth.

My wish is that the love of God manifested at Christmas may open our eyes of faith, the eyes of charity and the eyes of hope.

And the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit descend upon us and remain with us forever.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year 2012!

Fr Flavio Peloso, FDP
(Superior General)

[1] On this topic I had already shared some thoughts during the meeting of the Superiors of the Italian Provinces, at the Tortona’s Mater Dei Centre, dedicated to “Superiors today in a changing world”.

[2] The topic is becoming more and more the subject of study; see for instance, in Don Orione e il Novecento (Acts of the Study Convention, Rome, 1-3 March 2002, Rubettino, Soveria Mannelli, 2003) the inputs of G. Canestri, Don Orione incontra l’Italia, 99-114; A. S. Bogaz, Don Orione incontra il Brasile, 115-140; E. Giustozzi, Don Orione in Argentina, 143-160; A. Weiss, Don Orione incontra la Polonia, 161-178; R. Simionato, Ragioni e atteggiamenti dell’abbraccio dei popoli, 179-198.

[3] Writings 75, 242.

[4] By “works of charity” we mean the whole range of works indicated by Don Orione in the famous Chapter 1 of the 1936 Constitutions and the others that “according to the needs of the countries and of the times it would please the Holy See to point out to us, as the most suitable” have arisen in various countries. See the Circular Which works of charity?, Acts and Communications 2005, No. 217, p. 111-132.

[5] I expounded on this fundamental aspect of our charism in the circular “Which works of charity?”

[6] These are frequently recurring qualifications. See especially Decisions 16 and 17 and the Operative Guideline 20

[7] Let it be clearly determined that the Little Work is for the poor: Acts and Communications 2010, No. 231, p. 3-11.

[8] See art. 36 of the Constitutions.

[9] Poverty must be like a solid wall of defence of the Congregation. Even well known Congregations, founded by Saints fell or were suppressed …. because they had abandoned the observance of poverty”. Spirit of Don Orione V, 73-75. Cf. L I, 558; Meetings, 58; cf. also 77.

[10] I recall the comment of Fr Ignazio Terzi on the future of the charism, which cannot disappear since it is centred on the basis Pope and the Poor. “The poor will always be with you”  (My 26, 11) and of the Church it is said that “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16, 18). The Congregation shall have a future if it practices the charism that has a future.

[11] This topic was dealt with more thoroughly in the Circular Religious life at the centre, on the front line: Acts and Communications 2005, No. 215, p. 283-310.

[12] Spirito f Don Orione II, 71

[13] Writings, 108, 55.

[14] The Sons of Divine Providence live through the mercy of God, only by a life of work and of poverty; we must be for the poor, for the most poor, those rejected, for los desamparados (the abandoned ones) of society”; from Spirit of Don Orione V, 107.

[15] Art 119 of the Constitutions: “Given to the poor and needy, we wish to consider it as privilege to serve Christ in the most abandoned and rejected”. Norm 120: “The spirit of charity proper to Don Orione ought to lead us to the solution of the most urgent and pitiful cases which Providence may send us, even at the cost of risks and inconvenience. In the larger centres we must set up a disused room for emergency overnight stays. With regard to admissions, then, we shall give absolute preference to the poorest cases, without allowing ourselves to be influenced by financial considerations.

[16] Writings 64, 322

[17] It means destination, aim, objective.

[18] Cited in Letters I, 11-23.

[19] The Little Missionary Sisters of Charity make a fourth vow “of charity”, aimed at being united with the Pope and the Church in order to Instaurare omnia in Christo; cf. art. 3 and 45 of the Constitutions.

[20] Letters I, 21. See also the Circular Which love for the Pope?: Acts and Communications 2005, No. 216, p. 3-15.

[21] This expression is found in the most important charismatic texts: in the “Plan and programme” of 1903, at Chapter 1 of the 1936 Constitutions and in art. 5 of our Constitutions of 1988. The text can be found also in “On the footsteps of Don Orione” pp. 233-235 and 295-298.

[22] The Sons of Divine Providence have gone below 1000 members, whereas for over thirty years they were always between 1000 and 1100. At the moment they are 925; a drop of 40-50 members in the last six year term and this will occur again, probably, in the present term, due mainly to increased deaths (of many who joined at the time of Don Orione), defections and the (lower) number of entrances (112 perpetually professed in the last six year term). The reduction of the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity started early and is more marked.

[23] In Italy, in 1965, there were 802 religious, whereas now there are 221. In 1965  2/3 of the religious were Italian; now they are 31.8% of the religious, of whom 7.1% work in other countries. Other centres of consistent entity  have grown: Brazil (215), Argentina (110), Africa (89); smaller: Spain (23), Madagascar (23), Chile (22), India (16), Philippines (16), Romania (11), Venezuela (10),  Uruguay (8); Paraguay (8); small (starting or diminishing): USA (6), Mexico (7), Kenya (10), UK (6), Albania (6), Mozambique (5), Byelorussia (4), Jordan (4), Ukraine (2), Eire (2)

[24] Here we mean the orionine vocations of lay people and not just the helpers, however much trained in the Don Orione spirit. A lay person is an orionine vocation when he/she assumes the orionine charism as his own spirituality and way of life, expressed in testimony and belonging. The growth of the Don Orione lay vocations cannot be clearly defined as to its numbers and quality, but it is obviously a new, comforting and global phenomenon of our Congregation.

[25] Letter to the Brazilian Confreres of 12.1.1930; Letters II, 76.

[26] Don Orione is referring to Genesis 33.

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