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What We Did: The Facts


"Willingness to rough it" was the phrase that called out to me during the lead up to a two-day refugee simulation, experiential learning visit to Lee House organised by CAFOD. A leap into the unknown- a new adventure! Armed with sleeping equipment, lots of warm clothes (as instructed) and a bundle of mixed emotions, I arrived at Preston train station to be greeted by Sarah (CAFOD youth coordinator), Joe (Lee House Host) and a group of seven other youth ministry volunteers from all corners of the country. Lots of smiles and joyful greetings put me at ease and we began our transfer to Lee House kindly provided by Lee House volunteers. Once we arrived at Lee House, situated in a remote area of the Ribble Valley, we had a quick wander around the beautiful grounds before eating lunch together outside. After lunch the icebreakers began and we all got to know each other a whole lot better, laughing and joking as we shared experiences that brought us closer as a group. We then had a short time for reflection in the attic of the house, which used to be a hidden chapel during the time of Catholic persecution. Joe asked us to be open-minded and challenge ourselves to enter fully into the experience; this was followed by some time of silence and personal reflection. He also told us of the role we would play: an indigenous community based in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil. We left the chapel, our last place of indoor warmth for the evening and headed outside to the tepee and fire area to learn some basic skills to prepare us for the night ahead. Herbal medicine, water collection and purification, wood collection and shelter building were the skills the Lee House volunteers taught us- it was really interesting and were of great use to us throughout the evening.

The simulation then began with a prayer to the spirits and a tribe council meeting where we thought about the different elements of nature and how humans cause harm and damage to the surroundings. We each gave voice to a certain aspect of nature imagining what it would say to mankind if it could have a voice. This ritual was interrupted by the noisy arrival of Delta Logging Company and their chainsaw. The representative informed our community that we had to leave the land (which was our home) as his company had bought it for logging. We were left in a field with some resources to build shelters. Midway through constructing our shelter for the evening the local (Brazilian) police arrived to force us into a detention centre in an attempt to identify us. This was very scary as we were pushed and pulled around as well as being separated from our fellow community members; we were shouted at in Portuguese in an attempt to get us to fill in identification forms, which were in a foreign language. After this experience we were all blindfolded and marched through the grounds into a dimly lit basement cell. Gradually all members of the community arrived in the cell and we were left for a while.
After half an hour (ish) we were released and sent to the courtroom where we were put before a judge who outlined the charges against us. Our community was deemed to be trespassing on Delta Logging Company's land as they had recently made a claim to it deeming in uninhabited. We were then sent back to our shelter building and given the rest of the evening to formulate our defence of the land in order to reappear before the court the following morning. The evening was cold so after celebrating mass with the visiting missionary priest (local parish priest) we ate a few pancakes, the ingredients provided by the priest, briefly discussed our plan for the trial the following day and tried to get some sleep. The night was windy and cold but we all stayed dry and huddled together. We rose with the sun at dawn and made some nettle tea over the fire to warm up before meeting to discuss our defence for the trial to follow. We came up with two main approaches:
1. Legal- The logging company had no right to fence and claim the land as we inhabited it. According to the law the Logging company could only claim the land if no one inhabited it.
2. Environmental- Recognising the detrimental long term effects of deforestation linking to issues such as pollution and the chain of cause and effects relating to local plant and wildlife population.
Following our discussions we spent an hour in the courtroom building upon, and fighting our case from the point of the indigenous community. One of the volunteers Chris acted as our barrister and, supported by a CAFOD representative, we won our argument by emphasising our habituation of the land in question.

This signalled the end of the refugee simulation, and, after some food we were given time to reflect on our experiences and learn more about CAFOD's campaigns surrounding climate change and sustainability. We had time to share some ideas and learn new activities to share with our youth teams before departing for our home communities.




Reflection: How I felt


On a personal level, there was a transformative experience when we were all sat together in the cell after being forced through the detention centre. Once all the nervous laughter had settled and we became less aware of our participation in a simulation we began to recognise the difficulties that we had faced and felt able to empathise with other communities in similar situations. There were several moments of silence during this period where we reflected on our experiences and how they had made us feel. Many of us felt dehumanised, venerable and therefore incredibly challenged. Sat on the floor of the cell we spoke about these feelings and began to fell the pain and suffering of others. This gave me an alternative perception and seemed to hit a nerve deep within emphasising a need to, and a want to, change this and encourage a more sustainable, respectful lifestyle towards local communities.
Once the simulation had come to an end many of the group voiced their views on the experience, particularly highlighting the ways that it had been worthwhile and made a difference to their life. For me this time helped me to get a grip on the scale of environmental issues and the great effect that they will have on future generations. It confirmed the absurd need of humankind to attain material possessions over spiritual or community connections. An increase in individualism and capitalism has encouraged these wider issues concerned with global justice and through this experiential learning visit my eyes have been opened, in a very real and visceral way, to the dangers associated with environmental issues, particularly those concerning local communities.

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Posted by on in Updates from Novitiate

The Lord has risen, Alleluia Alleluia- Easter is my favourite time of year!

Hi all, hope all is well in the motherland. It's been a good few months since my last update, things have been busy here! From Bi-centennial celebrations, to province training/workshops, to vocation events, to school events, to archdiocesan events, madness has hit the novitiate!



Im going to try and keep this as short as possible, so I may miss some points but I can tell you about them when I come home. First thing I should probably mention is Fr Martin's visit - oh sorry it was an official visit so, the visit of the Fr Provincial! Joking aside it was an amazing breath of fresh air to have a fellow kingsman in the house (side note, kingsman, great film- go see it, so too is Fast and Furious 7- go see it, oh and American sniper!) Anyway, sorry Martin, seriously it was great to have him here telling us about the growth of the province and the updates for the summer celebrations, all sounds very exciting, I'm really gutted that I'm going to miss most things! We also had a good catch up, the guys here were shocked at how well myself and Martin get on- I told them in our province we respect each other for who we are not what we are- titles can be very important in certain parts of the world- actually even in our own country! We forget that behind the title there is a child of God who deserves more respect than any title! It was also great fun to have Fr Michael Casey (Irish provincial), he was a great laugh!

Once they left we started preparing ourselves for the LA religious education congress! What an amazing production. If you have never been I strongly recommend going. It is a really powerful, thought provoking celebration of Religious Education worldwide! The Salesians this year took over a section of the market space- Salesian stickers and Don Bosco faces were everywhere- Br Al Vu and his team really know how to get a show rocking! The LA congress brought me another gift- Gerry O'Shaughnessy came over! Again it was great to see him and have a good number of catch ups- talking about the Promised Land that is Bootle! Not forgetting one of the most beautiful Salesian parishes in the world (of course im biased) - St James'. A quick note to thank publicly all those that sent gifts through Gerry, you really shouldn't have, but thank you none the less.


A few other events that have happened are:

Helping to lead retreats at the centre here
Provincial leadership meeting- hosted in our community
A number of vocation talks
A media workshop given by Fr John Roche- director of Don Bosco hall, Berkley where Kevin O'Donnell is at the moment.
Camp St. Francis assignments and planning meeting and so on
As you can tell during our time here in the Novitiate, I have had a number of life changing experiences; having the courage to say yes and be here is one, two trips to San Francisco, visiting a number of the Serra Missions on the coast line of the state, partaking in retreats, workshops, province events etc but nothing will compare to the unforgettable time we've just had in Tijuana, Mexico.

Sitting down to write this reflection has been hard; so many say, ''why is it hard, you sit and reflect all day anyway?'' However those that have been to Tijuana, have experienced the gifts so willingly given by the people there who do not have much, but all they do have they give, will fully understand where I'm coming from. My word for the week was Surrender, two reasons why;

Firstly - very practical - we had no idea what was happening! JC (Missions delegate) didn't tell us anything- the situation was very simple, when I know and you need to know, I'll tell you! Now for a person like me who knows things in advance, the idea of not having a clue what was going on should have killed me. It didn't - this is where the second reasoning behind my word comes in. It didn't kill me because we were being guarded by an overwhelming sense of peace therefore we didn't need to know exactly what was going on, the Holy Spirit took care of it. To be in Tijuana was a gift, however, to be in Tijuana during Holy week - no words can describe. As followers of Christ, holy week is the most painful but also most joyful week in our whole calendar - we celebrate the gift of family through our Eucharistic feast - we are filled with pain and suffering from the death of our brother - we mourn - then we praise and rejoice as our family is once again complete! I got to experience this great sense of YES during this Holy week in this beautiful place.


To be with the people of the Salesian places, young and old- SDB and lay gave me a rounded understanding of who I am, and what I am to do. My vocation is simple - to love. Tijuana has given me so much more than I could ever give for that I am sincerely thankful.

So that's it, for now - a number of months compiled into this brief note. This past week we have had the chance to settle during the spring break, we are entering into the final stages really - at the moment we are in the process of writing our evaluations of each other for the spring term, but more importantly we are in the very crucial stage of discernment as on May 24th - the feast of our Lady Help of Christians - we are due to hand in our letters of acceptance to profession. So please, continue to keep myself and all my brother novices and candidates (aspirants) in your prayers.

Love and prayers to all

The Lord has truly risen- Alleluia

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This blog is from Michael Thompson and his blog "Every Clour & Every Sound" 

If you would like to have a look at other blog posts here:



Growing up as an opinionated teenager in the 2000s, I always felt passionate about engaging with issues of social justice. Amidst the buzz of the Make Poverty History campaign in 2005 and dreaming of joining the marches in Edinburgh during the British-hosted G8 summit (only the sixth formers got away with skipping school to attend!) I knew that I wanted to do something to make a difference in a world that seemed crippled by poverty, famine and greedy corporations. I remember learning that around 20% of the world's population lives on less than $1 a day (around 65p) which shocked me so much it pushed me towards wanting to get involved in the work of development organisations like CAFOD.



To add to this, in our high school geography lessons we had classes on how huge global corporations rip off farmers in the developing world, paying them a pittance for the cocoa, coffee and fruit that they may produce. I wanted to find out what organisations were doing to pay farmers a fair price for their goods and so I became obsessed with looking for the Fairtrade mark in supermarkets and ate more Fairtrade chocolate than I care to remember. That year I bought all my Christmas presents from the Traidcraft catalogue and I became actively involved in setting up a Fairtrade stall in school which sold chocolate and fruit juice to the student body every Friday break time.

And then the reality of leaving school happened and my bubble burst. I became a volunteer for a year before I headed to university and ever since then, the words "budgeting", "sale" and "Tesco Everyday Value" have rested eternally on my lips. I no longer was conscious about where my clothes were made (I boycotted Gap no longer out of anger for the sweatshops but because I didn't want to spend a fortune on a pair of jeans) and I only managed a small smile when I noticed one day that Cadbury Dairy Milk, arguably the biggest chocolate brand in the UK, had become a Fairtrade Certified product. The only economic development issue I was concerned about was the economic situation of my own wallet.

So, imagine my surprise when last week I found myself high in the mountains of the Zambales province, Philippines tagging mango trees to aid the work of the Fair Trade Project here at the PREDA Foundation.

PREDA (People's Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance) have been working in Fairtrade now for over 40 years, originally by helping older youth gain skilled training and getting them into job placements. Many of these youth had been unjustly jailed and rescued by PREDA social workers because of their inhumane living conditions on the streets and in jails. Since then, PREDA Fair Trade has fully evolved into a fully certified Fair Trade Organisation which has helped set up livelihood projects in far-flung communities giving opportunities to indigenous Filipino people by providing a fair price for their mangos and other fruits.



Last week, I was lucky enough to visit one of these indigenous villages and meet the Aeta people as it coincided with a visit PREDA were making to take some solar-powered lights for their community (which would save them almost 4,000 pesos a year – around £55; a huge saving!). The houses, which weren't so big, were made exclusively of bamboo and had pointed thatched roofs. Plants adorned the areas surrounding the homes and there was a real warm feeling to the community which had houses dotted, almost randomly, around the area. And unlike the slum areas in Manila, there was a lot of space for the kids (and chickens) to run around. In what seemed to be the centre of the village, a large mango tree rose from the ground: a landmark and a perfect sanctuary out of the sun to discuss just how much the support of PREDA is helping in their lives.

They told us that the commercial buyers would charge as low as 5 pesos (around 7 pence) per kilogram of Pico mango, whereas PREDA pays between 10-12 pesos (15-18 pence) per kilogram of Pico and around 17 pesos (25 pence) per kilogram of Carabao mangos. Unlike the commercial buyers who would select the best looking fruit and reject half the crop, PREDA Fair Trade buy all the mangos produced (provided they aren't unusable or damaged), giving love to all the weird shapes and sizes that might fall from the trees each harvesting season. Even the skins and stones have a useful purpose: the skin is eaten by the animals and the stones are replanted. Everything is used, and nothing is lost!

The foundation also pay all of the money immediately upon delivery of the mangos and a bonus or profit-share is given back to the farmers for every kilogram of mangos sold. All of these fair, ethical business practices completely help to empower the farmers, providing employment and the vital funds to help send their children to school and buy food; things which I know I sometimes take for granted.



Following the visit to the community, I went with the Fair Trade team to tag some trees which is a requirement to receive 'organic status'. This had me up in the mountains, jumping and diving over wild crops to get to the trees in order to put a small number plate on each one. There are 8,000 trees to be tagged, so every volunteer who comes through the doors of PREDA is recommended to spend some time getting involved! It was a highly enjoyable day of beautiful scenery and seeing the actual trees which bear the fruit that will be eventually exported to Europe and beyond was something I never thought I'd see. I couldn't believe that I was right at the beginning of the chain and it made me see Fairtrade in a new and updated light.

Seeing how Fairtrade can affect people so directly has helped me to appreciate just how important it is. It is so easy to forget about the producers and farmers when purchasing goods at home; an invisible workforce who won't know that the coffee I'm drinking wasn't fairly paid for. Meeting real people who harvest real trees makes Fairtrade real. It's real because I have seen it; it makes a difference because the farmers themselves told me it makes a difference, not because The Fairtrade Foundation or Cadbury tells me it makes a difference. It is completely, utterly and without a doubt restoring the dignity of these human beings, like you or I, who have been struggling for decades against companies ripping them off. It is empowering them and it is helping them live their lives to the full.


From an overzealous teenager, to a penny-pinching student, I am happy to have had the flame lit once more inside of me. I am thankful to PREDA for letting me experience the wonderful work they are doing, and I can only hope that I can return home with a renewed consciousness of Fairtrade and slowly begin to phase out purchasing from the less-than-savoury companies seeking to make a quick buck from their "desperate" producers.

This next two weeks is known as Fairtrade Fortnight which is an annual, international campaign aiming to raise awareness of Fairtrade and encourage people to buy their goods. Perhaps over the coming days, look out for PREDA products (branded as Forest Feast) in stores. I am told they are stocked in Sainsbury's, Waitrose and in other shops nationwide. If you decide to purchase them, or indeed any Fair Trade product, simply take a moment to think about the man, woman or child living in a remote village thousands of miles away who would thank you over and over again for helping them to proudly support themselves in dignity and for making that one, simple but life-changing choice.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

1.INTRODUCTION: following my last report time has moved very quickly. I had some sickness during the week and hardly ate for three days but am much better now thank God. I resisted the temptation to visit the hospital because I had medicines with me- need I say more. I will try to give you a flavour of life here in Moshi.

2.TYPICAL DAY: the Brothers rise at 6.00 most days followed by meditation, morning prayer then mass. I have been sleeping longer than usual – must be the heat- so I usually join them for mass. I then go up to the school to meet the children before their Assembly which is at 7.55am. I have already had a couple of inputs. I then return to the college for some breakfast- usually toast and tea but on Fridays we get a boiled egg for some reason! I then do some prep work for my English teaching lessons to the 21 First Year Brothers. I have three lessons each week for 1.5 hours each. I have had to plan a programme helped by an initial self assessment exercise I gave them. I give a weekly test and a weekly homework on Fridays. Marking and prep takes up most of my time. Their scores will count towards their final degree so I have to be pretty conscientious.

Lunch is at 1.15 and supper at 8.00. In between these times a variety of things can happen. There is a chance for a little rest ( yes believe it or not) and maybe a little walk then a bus ride into town, maybe a beer on the way back. There is Rosary together early evening and evening prayer before dinner. After dinner we have night prayers and the traditional Salesian "Good night" – which I was asked to give twice last week.

This week the 3rd year Brothers went to Dar as Salaam including a day trip to Zanzibar staying with the Salesians in Oyster Bay. On Saturday they had a Salesian family day as we had in Chertsey as part of the Bi Centenary Celebrations of Don Bosco's birth. The 2nd Year Brothers are all on teaching practice during this semester so this week I have got to know the First years quite well. We have had the Novena to Don Bosco and they copied my leaflet for the purpose. On Friday the school had its weekly mass and the big surprise was a first year girl reading the First Reading. Her English was perfect. Fr. Philip, the Administrator saying mass complimented her at the start of his homily and we all clapped for her. Later in the day I gave her a gift of a spare white Rosary Beads I had been given. This morning in Assembly, Fr. Delphinus, the Head praised her and gave her some exercise books and pens

3. SPORT: as you might expect the brothers are sport mad – they each have their favourite English premier team- one in particular supports Liverpool so you can imagine my delight and his dismay when Bolton drew 0-0 in the FA Cup which I managed to watch live At the moment though it is all about the African Nations Cup with great rivalry being displayed as they get to watch most of the games in between times

I did suggest that the school organised themselves into the 16 nations but the numbers have been slow to pick up since they returned on 13th January so it has not taken off. Today it looked as though most are now back –they were not allowed until fees had been paid.

4.FEASTDAYS: this month has really been one Feast after another including Blessed Laura Vicuna and St Francis of Sales. We still have Don Bosco's Feast day on Saturday 31st – more about that later.

5.GIFTS TO THE SCHOOL: I have been waiting for my two DHL boxes to arrive after several days delay. The small one containing 300 mass leaflets in English from the CTS arrived today but we had to pay custom duty on them – fortunately there was money to pay from the cash I gave the Rector from the monies I had received in Truro and elsewhere. It has been a learning curve dealing with DHL- I have made 3 visits to their depot in Moshi only to be told the box was in Dar. If I had to do it again I would only bring what my 2x20kgm allowance would allow me and then use the money to buy things here – hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The other big box is another story! It arrived in Belgium eventually and then was sent back to my home address because some powdered paint was leaking from the box. My wife, Maria, has kindly had to handle the situation and is claiming the money back because the staff in Staples Truro supervised the packaging so we have a good case ( I hope). If so then Maria will send the box again.

6. THE RECTOR: Fr. Augustine has been away a few days for a holiday and for the wedding of his niece in India, We expect him back before Don Bosco's Feastday. He and I will need to have a meeting soon regarding the planned extensions to the school so that I have a very clear picture in order to assist my fundraising when I return to the UK.

7. CONCLUSION: I will finish now hoping you are all well whatever the weather, We do not talk about the weather here as it is always the same – we have to look for other ice breakers ( if you will pardon the pun).

So cheerio for now and take care. Let us keep each other in our prayers.

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Posted by on in BOVA

1.BACKGROUND: this is my 4th visit to Don Bosco, Moshi my first being in June to September 2012. On that occasion I was asked to fundraise for them so that the secondary school could have two Science Laboratories. To date we have raised over £10,000 for this account but we still have a long way to go. Over the visits I have contributed in a variety of ways to the life of the school including teaching Mathematics, Bible Knowledge and English. Other activities have included drama productions, sports competitions, sports days and draughts competitions.

During this time there have been two Rectors, three Administrators and two Headteachers but throughout there prevails a deep love for Don Bosco and the mission to the young. I feel very comfortable here and very much "at home" as a Salesian Cooperator who feels called and privileged to work in a missionary way.

2.THE COLLEGE: there are 54 Salesian Brothers studying here for their Degree in Philosophy which is part of their preparation for Salesian Priesthood.(25% increase on last year). Three or four of the brothers are not clerics and they will work as Brothers in the rich field of youth ministry. There are 22 in year 1, 16 in year 2 and 16 in year 3. They come from eleven different countries as follows: Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Swaziland, Lesotho, South Africa, Republic of Sudan, South Sudan, Malawi, Sri Lanka and Japan. After their studies here they will go back to their own Salesian Province for 2 or 3 years before returning to Nairobi to start their 4 year course of Theology prior to ordination to the priesthood.

3. THE SCHOOL: it caters for disadvantage children mainly, many of whom are supported financially. However several of the families who can pay have not done so for the last academic year let alone this year which started on 13th January. The fees are equivalent to £360 a year. At the moment only about 50% of the children have returned to school as they are not being allowed in until fees are paid. The school is currently carrying a deficit of over 20 million TZS (Tanzanian Shillings) which is roughly equivalent to £7000.

The nominal roll of 250 students follow a 4 year secondary course with ages ranging from 12 to 22. Even in the same class there can be a wide age range as many cannot continue from Primary school until they have enough money. Thornleigh Salesian College in Bolton is currently sponsoring two young people aged 22 and 20 who both have two more years to go. One wants to be a Doctor and one a Banker. They have been performing well and in their Form 2 National Exam they have achieved A Grade with Distinction.

The school day starts with Assembly at 7.55 and finishes at 4.00pm. Given the hours of daylight, many leave home in the morning to walk to school in the dark and return home in the dark later. Given that, it is amazing how clean their clothes are and the first thing they do on arrival is clean their shoes under the water tap prior to assembly.

4.GIFTS TO THE SCHOOL: in the past I have brought stationery items and a set of draughts boards with milk bottle tops for counters. This time after consulting with the Headteacher, Fr. Delphinus, I offered to bring some art equipment as there is no art on the curriculum. The response from my parish of Our Lady of the Portal and St. Piran in Truro, Cornwall,Truro High School for Girls and Truro Arts Centre was overwhelming. Apart from items eg. Paints, brushes, art books etc. Over £800 was donated. This was fortunate because I had to send in advance by DHL two boxes which have yet to arrive! I was allowed 2 x 20kgm cases with Turkish Airways-1.5 contained art materials. I have checked where the boxes are-one is still in the UK and one is in Dar as Salaam requiring custom payment of about £60. Fortunately enough money was donated to pay for these extras but lessons have been learned through this experience.

In addition to the art materials I bought 48 bicycle repair kits from Poundland- a real bargain. We plan to start a cycling club with self help maintenance.
I also purchased from CTS 300 glossy mass leaflets in English which will be a great help at the weekly school mass on Fridays and on Sunday mornings when several people attend the College Mass.

5. CONTRIBUTING TO COLLEGE AND SCHOOL LIFE: for the first time I am having a formal input to the College. As one teacher told me I am now a "Professor" and it comes with a room which is en suite, with a study, hot water and the internet! I teach English to the First Years which is proving challenging but great fun. Four of them I knew as aspirants or pre pre Novices when I first came here in 2012 when they were in Moshi for one month before going to Nairobi for 12 months pre Novitiate training.
At the moment I have been going up to the school each morning for the assembly but have not had any input yet. I have discussed ideas with Fr. Delphinus and hopefully will report on activities later.

6. CHRISTMAS: the decorations have only just been taken down but they were lovely. They had flashing lights everywhere and a very basic crib based on a bed of soil.

7.PROVINCIAL VISITATION: I caught the tail end of the provincial Visitation by Fr Gianni Rolandi, an Italian. In his final report about the community he acknowleged the 12,000 euros that have come in from the UK by way of fundraising for the School Science Laboratories. The entire Community have expressed appreciaition and gratitude for the support to date.They keep us in their prayers.

8. CONCLUSION: I will finish now otherwise you may be wondering did I actually arrive! Please keep me in your prayers as I will you. I do think of you all and thank you for your support so that I am able to do something I really enjoy but also helps other less fortunate than us. God bless and take care

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Posted by on in Updates from Novitiate

I imagine people have enjoyed their Christmas and New Year celebrations, at least that's what I get from all the comments and pictures on Facebook, twitter, Instagram etc - anyway, the last short update I sent was around 'thanksgiving time', end of November. Since then it has been all systems go!


From Thanksgiving to Christmas I don't actually think we stopped! From decorating to vocation drives, to classes to 'apostolate', a very busy time - plus I had to do the thing I dislike the most in all the world.... Christmas Shopping! Of course, as most know, I'm one of them that leaves it all to the last minute, yes, I went shopping Christmas Eve! You think shopping at home is bad? Try shopping in America! During this time I had my first international visitor, David O'Malley came over to spend some time with us - he gave a number of fantastic workshops and reflections on the preventive system. His visit was a great breath of fresh air for me and the other novices were really grateful to get his insights on religious and Salesian life.

Within our schools all the young people were under enormous pressure as they were completing their end of semester finals - I'm sure you can imagine when the bell rang to the start of the break, our young people shot through those doors like cats chasing mice!

For the Christmas season, we celebrated Midnight Mass with families of the area at 8pm, then as a Community we unveiled our 'secret Santa's' after which of course we welcomed Jesus into the world the only way we could...Karaoke! It's become our year's fun thing to do! So that took us well on in to the night.



Christmas day was very special - after speaking to my family and friends, we welcomed to the house all of the SDB's that live here in the south of California for our 'family' Christmas Meal. What a great experience that was, all of us coming together to celebrate! I know Kevin in his house in the north, Don Bosco Hall, did something similar. As you can imagine, Christmas was quite hard for us novices, as for most of us, this year was the first time we'd spend the holidays away from family and friends but thankfully the SDB's out here really made us all feel a part of the family.

Once the cleaning was finished our holidays started! Boxing Day we took the 6 hour drive up north to Berkeley and San Francisco; whilst there we visited all the Salesian places including the Provincial house and the first Salesian house ever in the States. A great trip that has really refreshed us and got us ready for the next semester of study and continued discernment.

We are now in our second week back, normality has set in and the 'project of life' in firmly in my hands as I study it day in and day out! Its full steam ahead now to February when we'll be seeing Martin Coyle and the other 4 Provincials as they gather together to discuss our progress and next steps! Fun!

Happy Feast of Don Bosco to you all when it comes.

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Posted by on in Updates from Novitiate

So, it's been over a month since I last wrote. Time has certainly flown by! It only feels like yesterday that the novitiate started but yet we are already a quarter the way through, which is actually very scary to think about!


The last time I wrote, we were preparing to head up north for effectively our half term break, though actually out here they don't get half terms like us, instead they have 'mid-terms' which I thought was just an American way of saying half term but it's not, they actually spend the week doing tests! Examinations! Practical and theory! They seem to work hard out here, however saying that, the schools seem to have a lot of days off and half days, so really those days must add up to a half term, would you not agree?

Anyway our visit to the north, the purpose of the visit was 3 fold; 1. To give us novices a little break from studies 2. To go on a small pilgrimage around the Californian coast line missions 3. To see the site of Camp St. Francis and the Watsonville Community.

Let's start with point 1. We needed time off, my goodness; doing the same things over and over each day can really drive an extroverted soul up the wall. (Hey I know, believe it or not I am extroverted!, well I'm on the border [this make me sound ill; I'm not ill]) anyhow, yes so we needed the break.

2. The missions pilgrimage; in short on our way up and then back down the coastline we stopped at a number of missions; the missions were founded predominately by Fr Serra, a Franciscan priest to help the faithful receive an education in the faith, a decent knowledge of life etc. a lot of them are still active parish communities. To see a few of them 1 or 2 was quite nice, get a feeling of the culture back then, see how the poor and less fortunate lived and so on. The only problem is, as the missions were mainly founded by the same guy, they all pretty much looked the same, so by the 8th mission, those of us that don't appreciate culture as much as others got extremely bored! You got it in one, I got so bored!

3. Camp St. Francis! For those of you that have been there I'm sure you'll understand when I say WOW! What a place, it's on top of a hill that leads down directly to the beach! Great place! So that was our trip up north in a nutshell.

Once arriving back at the novitiate, we, of course were thrown in to the deep end with a 3 day workshop on Fides et Ratio (faith and reason) written by JPII on religious life and Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) written by Pope Francis - to be honest, it was worth it. Two great documents written by two amazing leaders of the faith! The month of November has just since then worked its way to an end. We have continued with our; studies, apostolate, faith growth and all that good holy stuff novices are meant to do! We have been extremely lucky - normally a novitiate community may get a visit from one of the general council (big bosses in Rome) MAY GET being the big words here, however we have pushed the boat out and have had two general Councillors visit us, within the space of a week! Fr Guillermo Basanes SDB Councillor for the Missions and Fr Tim Ploch SDB Councillor for the Inter-American region both made a pit stop on their journeys back to Rome for the December meetings. A privilege to meet both of them, especially Fr Tim who was previously the Provincial of USA West, the province we are in!


Also within this month, I have had the honour of being a part of the retreat team, guiding 172 young people through a day retreat! My Lord, that was amazing! The young people just seemed to really enjoy the day and really took an interesting in what they were being asked to do! Amazing, great guys! I also got the chance to be a part of the vocations team for an event of sharing - these events happen all over the place out here, the religious and diocesan clergy are not afraid to ask young people, ''is God calling you?'' - in the UK I think we need to learn from the Americans on this one especially at this time as we celebrate the Bicentenary of our father and teacher AND the year of Consecrated life! We need to stand up and say, yes we live a great life; yes we love God; yes, sometimes it's hard; no we will never give up! Food for thought maybe... can you tell I'm in discernment! Things seem to become so clear but at a click of your fingers your mind is blown to pieces! IT'S GREAT!

Anyway, I think I've taken up at lot of space here! Sorry Jonny, sorry Bob :P

Just a last thought, tomorrow, today, yesterday, last Thursday (really depends when this gets put out and you read it!) we celebrate, celebrated etc Thanksgiving a holiday out here were everyone stops... gathers together... and gives thanks. It's actually a really beautiful concept, stopping... Coming together.... Giving thanks

Thank you for your continued support through prayers for me and my brothers out here

Thank you for everything you do for the Salesians

Thanks you for being you

Thank you

Peace and love


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This is my last installment from the XXIII FMA Chapter, which actually concluded on Saturday 15th November with a wonderful mass celebrated by the Rector Major, Don Angel. He has accompanied us at various times over the last two months. Using the icon of Emmaus which was presented in the Working Document and re-chosen to accompany the Chapter Document, 'Broaden your horizons... With the young...' he re-connected our Chapter journey to that of the disciples asking us to do as they did after their encounter with Jesus...leave without haste for our provinces and communities to share the Chapter journey.

To be honest the whole experience has been one of communion, friendship and seeing our FMA family with a worldwide view. As the departures started on Sunday and Monday there was a definite delight to be going home and a sense of looking to the future mingled with a sense that we had shared a very unique experience and had come to know each other and our various realities very well indeed.


We invite you to join us, as we share the Chapter findings, insights, suggestions and choices which came to birth as the 194 Chapter members looked at challenges presented today in our work for the young and the necessary changes of mentality required to meet needs and make choices.

Sr. Connie and myself will be sharing the Chapter journey in four places up and down the country. All members of the Salesian Family are welcome just let us know so we can have enough tea ready to share as well as some great insights into our wonderful FMA journey...

Have you heard?

We have only been home a week and already we have shared the Good News of the XXIII FMA Chapter with the help of Becky who also attended our Chapter along with Adelle.


We had great meetings in Battersea on Saturday 22nd November, in the lovely newly refurbished Sacred Heart Parish Centre and where 45-50 members of our Salesian Family attended and on Sunday 23rd November in the lovely Elmthorpe Community setting, between 50-55 members of our Salesian family attended! There was a great buzz and energy around! There was a great response as we shared the challenges, changes and choices which emerged from our Chapter. We are looking forward to sharing our message with our Salesian Family north of the border. Our next two venues are in Blundellsands, Liverpool on December 4th from 7.00pm-9.00pm and in Newlands, Glasgow on December 10th from 7.00pm-9.00pm. If you live in those areas why not get in touch and come along. To be honest it is a case of 'miss it...miss out' big time and we wouldn't want that!

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The long awaited day for the FMA General Chapter’s audience with Pope Francis had arrived…

It was a truly wonderful experience from the moment we walked up the stairs past the Swiss Guard, something I have always wanted to do, into the interior of the splendid surroundings of the Vatican. After being led up several flights of magnificent marble stairs we arrived in the even more wonderful Clement VIII room where we were to await Pope Francis. I am sure you can imagine the huge emotion of all 194 of us and the chatter and excitement as we waited for the Holy Father to arrive. We had a false alarm when a cardinal scuttled through, smiling broadly as he acknowledged our expection that he was the Holy Father.

Finally, the side door was thrown open and Pope Francis came in, his presence filling the whole room which had erupted in warm cheering and clapping.

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Mother Yvonne made a short address going over some essential elements of the Chapter work, as well as assuring the Holy Father of our fidelity to the Church and our desire to continue sharing our charism for the good of many young people who are suffering in so many ways today. Pope Francis and Mother Yvonne shared a few homely moments. Mother Yvonne shared our great desire to see Laura Vicuna cannonised but he said we needed to produce a miracle, she replied saying we had submitted many but the doctors did not accept them so we were now praying for the doctors…he laughed!

Pope Francis then made an address showing that he knew all about the Chapter and our contribution to the world of the young. He thanked us and asked us to make sure we stayed in Patagonia, part of his mission to the Church in Argentina!

He did not have time to greet us individually unfortunately, but he did sit and have a group photo, but I doubt if Sr. Connie and I will be visible since we were right at the back by a strange quirk of fate which we will be willing to share with anyone who is interested when we return in the near future!

We arrived home really happy to have had this wondeful opportunity and can assure all the members of the Salesin family that we held all present during the Apostolic blessing which we were fortunate enough to receive.

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I am sure you all know that there is no such thing as half term here in Italy?


All 194 of us have been very busily engaged in the elections of our Mother General and General Council (visit ) for all the details. It has been a time of grace and lots of prayerful discernment,but no easy process. We were assisted through the process by Fr. Cisto Rey a wonderful Claritian father, who very gently guided us.

In thanksgiving we went to St. Mary Major Basilica, apparently this is where Pope Francis goes to ask for the help of Our Lady and to thank her on his return from his visits outside Rome. It is a lovely church we felt blessed to have the opportunity to go there on pilgrimage. There has not been a lot of time to see around Rome so this was a very welcome break.

We are now entering the final phase of the Chapter with lots of open files to be sorted and the final document to be agreed stage by stage. However, we are blessed to have an audience with Pope Francis to look forward to on Nov. 8th an unique opportunity. We promise to remember all the members of our Salesian family at home during the event. One thing that is very apparent here is that we do genuinely feel the warmth of belonging to a big Salesian family. The local SDB have been fantastic celebrating mass daily with so much goodness and fraternal affection. We have met many SDB Cardinals, it is heart warming to see such great bonds between the whole Salesian Family...Don Bosco must be pleased in this his bi-centenary year.

Now, we are looking forward to seeing everyone when we get back and would like to extend an invitation to all to come and share our experience of the General Chapter. There are 4 venues:


  • Battersea November 22nd, 11am-1pm,
  • Cowley November 23rd, 2pm-4pm
  • Liverpool Blundellsands 4t December. 7pm-9pm
  • Scotland Newlands 10th December 7pm-9pm.

We do hope many of you will manage to come along and hear about this event which really touches all our Salesian family, Church and many young people throughout the world. It will be a lovely opportunity to catch up with everyone. We hope to see you at one or other of the venues! Until then...

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I have to say that as the weeks go by more and more things are happening. We are now almost midway through the Chapter and it was good timing to be joined by about 40 laymen and women as well as young adults. Each group present had either attended the Provincial Chapters before the General Chapter or had meetings with a wider group and so they came carrying a wealth of experience and represented different realities. Those invited had been asked to reflect on various aspects of the Working Document of the Chapter and to share their reflections here in Rome.

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Being honest, what they had to say was like a fresh mountain spring, their presence has re-energised us all and we have been given some very honest, straightforward comments and challenges for the future. They were helped to feel really at home here in the Mother House and despite the short duration of their visit they made a huge impact on us all. As far as I know this is the first time since the very first Chapter in Mornese that young people in particular have been present for part of the Chapter.

Saturday night we were treated to a musical on the life of Mother Mazzarello presented by a youth group from Livorno. It was full of energy and with its modern style and fresh approach had us all on our feet to thank them for such an inspirational presentation.

I decided to collect a few comments from those who joined us with the hope that they might give a flavour of those who joined us felt:

“I am glad to be here from Slovakia because I can get a chance to see how the sisters think and compare what I see here with what I see in Slovakia. I thought being with a big group of sisters would be boring but I’m surprised to see how happy they are and I feel a similar happiness in me!” - Julia

Daniele from Italy commented

“Having the possibilty to spend these two days here with all the Chapter members has helped me experince what it means to belong to a Christian community. I feel welcomed, accepted for myself and in the name of all the young people I represent it is a real experience of living Salesian Family not just talking about it!”

Barbara from the USA remarked:

“My experiecne of being at the General Chapter has been one of great joy. To see, to hear and to actally be with Salesians of such diverse backgrounds, has been a tremendous education. The collaoration of the FMA laity and youth of the world has been a unique Salesian Family encounter.”

If you want to see what Adelle and Becky thought you will have to wait a while but, in the meantime why not go to their post at!


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Today [22nd September]. the very solemn and moving opening of the XXIII FMA Chapter took place.


Even though Sr Connie and I have been here for quite some time much has happened before this homely, yet dignified great event. We had a wonderful retreat with time to enjoy the peace, cool and inspiration of Mornese, while being equally challenged by the wise sharing of Bishop Thomas from India. The closure of the retreat in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians was unforgettable, with the final act being the renewal of vows of all the FMA present and a dedication prayer at the urns of Don Bosco and Mother Mazarello, possibly topped  by a heartfelt rendering of 'O Qual Sorte' - a kind of world wide hymn thanking the Lord for our good fortune to belong to this fantastic congregation dedicated to young people.

On September 18th we went in pilgrimage to Lu Monferrato, about an hour and a half away from Mornese, to help this small town celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Sr Angela Vallese, the leader of the first Missionary expedition to Uruguay, aged 24! The rain and the warm welcome we received helped us feel so at home. Despite being small, the mothers of this little town meet regularly to pray for vocations and believe it or not, in one hundred years have given one tenth of their children to the Church as either priests or sisters in various congregations! Notable among this number is Don Rinaldi.


After the long journey back to Rome we had some days of intense, prayerful and helpful reflective preparation on what a Chapter really is, and what our roles as Chapter members entails.


There are 110 out of the 194 Chapter members attending a Chapter for the first time; one for her 7th! The average age of those present is 56, while the average number of years profession, about 33. During this time we have also been helped to get to know each other. Much emphasis has been laid on our need to have an openness to a world view of the Institute and huge dependence on the Holy Spirit, as well as our need to be women of faith when we enter more fully into the world of our youth and of our communities.


So you could say that now the work begins . . . tomorrow we will have Mother Yvonne's Report on the last six years of the Congregation, and will have time to 'chew it over' in silent reflection as well as sharing in various groups. . .  

Hoping you are managing to check things out on our International website  

If things continue as they have started this is going to be a really wonderful experience of family, church and a kind of Pentecost experience! 


Sr Pat Devine FMA 

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Now 192 of us from all continents have arrived, despite a strike at the airports here in Rome it is time to fill you all in on what has been happening.

Today we begin the pre-Chapter work starting with the presentations of all 13 Conferences, groups of Provinces - this was led in a very Salesian way by a magician and three clown helpers. While it was light hearted it gave us all a really good look at how extensive the Congregation is and how diverse in culture, language and dynamics...

In the afternoon we all gathered in the Chapter meeting room for a brief introduction given by Mother Yvonne and then went into the 13 commissions. We will be working in these groups a great deal so this was our first get together and an initial introduction too.

I think the pictures tell the tale better than words... we worked very hard finishing with Mass and vespers at 6.45pm!

I will pick up the threads again again on my return.

For those who want a little more detail go to the FMA International website which has a daily update:

Be sure of prayer for all our Salesian Family.

Sr Pat Devine FMA

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Day two of our pilgrimage and time is slipping away. I was up fairly early this morning ready for a day at Valdocco, the heart of the Salesian family. Our day started there with morning prayer led by Jess Wilkinson. We were each given a pair of white rosary beads as a gift and we used these reciting the glorious mysteries, something Jess reminded us Don Bosco would have prayed many times here himself. After the rosary we split into groups and were given a guided tour of Don Boscos rooms. I had no idea what these were but all was soon explained. These rooms were once upon a time where he lived. Entering the first floor we were greeted with a large painting of Don Bosco, it was placed there as a welcome to everyone who visits. Although modernised, it felt like stepping back in time as we wandered around the rooms trying to get a feel of how Don Bosco lived all those years ago. There were lots of writings, in glass cabinets, a room with the original furniture belonging to the man himself, we even saw the bed that he died in. I can't really explain at this stage as to how I felt! At 1pm we went to celebrate mass in the Great Basilica of Mary Help of Christians. I was struck by the amount of marble, it did look beautiful. The basilica was built by Don Bosco after having a vision of our lady. Fr Martin yet again had me in an emotional state. He told us that we are all Don Bosco in Great Britain, something to live up to when we get home. After mass we all had lunch together, everyone expecting bread, cheese and ham etc, but we sat down to three courses of lovely Italian food. We assembled for our prayer service in the St Francis de Sales chapel. This was an extra special service as Lynn, Gina and Kate were about to make their promise to become cooperators for the Salesian family. It was very moving and it did make me think about whether it is something I could do and live up to. At the end of the service Bob gave us our good afternoon. All I can say is Bob, you are amazing.


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'Friend of the Young' 

So the BiCentary celebrations have begun and being part of a pilgrimage from the GBR Province I have just spent our first full day at Colle Don Bosco, the place of Don Bosco's birth, about an hours drive from Turino. Today was the day to get to know the young Don Bosco, his life and his family. You can read book after book about Don Bosco but to actually stand where he lived and listen to people who had so much knowledge about him. So much more real and fulfilling. Several times my mind wondered, several times my mind wanderd and thought about St Bernadette and the similarities between the two saints. How they both came from very humble backgrounds, both families removed from their homes and had to lived in cramp accomodation, and finally both of them lived in a beautiful part of their country surrounded by mountains. Mama Margaret (Don Bosco's Mum) what a woman! You knew by listening that she was a loving mother and taught don bosco well until he was twelve years of age. Her prescious advice to her son was 'learn the joy of praying, sharing and self sacrifice' we were fortunate to celebrate mass in Don Bosco's temple, Fr Martin's words and beautiful singing had me close to tears. We all joined in, in a group photo before having lunch. A few of our 'Younger' pilgrims decided to join in with the French youth dancing. I was able to take a few photos of this joyful gathering. After lunch I went in search of the souvenir shop to see what they had on offer, but to also take part in the challenge Soo set. I think I did good! Final prayer session in the lower Bascilica but before this I was able to have a look round. Behind the sanctuary is a relic of Don Bosco. It was an ideal oppotunity for me to say a few personal prayers. My day today has been such a wonderful experience and I cannot wait for tomorrow to learn about the great St John Bosco!

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We’re currently in the process of moving our office up to Bolton, so we’re sorry for the lack of updates lately. Sadly, this will probably continue for the next few weeks. But hopefully by Mid-September we should be back up and running at 100%. So thanks in advance for bearing with us.

Anyway, it’s been a while since we had Bob’s “Ramblings from Rome”, so we thought that we would let people know, what we have planned for the next few months.

Next week, Salesians from all walks of life, across Great Britain, will come together in Turin, Italy to visit the birthplace of St John Bosco.

Salesian Link are taking a team of 5 people (thanks to Sam Legg, Luke McIntosh and Tom Sellars for helping us out) to cover all the events happening in Turin.

We will be taking photos of the events as they happen and hope to stream videos of the Masses at the end of the day. Keep an eye out on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, the Website and RuaLink for more information. It won’t be live because we’re overseas and don’t have that kind of equipment or budget.

We will also be sending out RuaLink on Saturday and Sunday evenings with a news and photographic summary of what happened that day, and we will also be using this blog to get the views of some of the pilgrims from Youth Ministry about their feelings and experiences and offering a reflective view of the pilgrimage.

We also hope to have our first “podcast” while in Turin too. This will include comments from a cross-section of the pilgrims that have travelled to Turin. The podcast will include conversations from a cross-section of pilgrims as well as reflections and comments.

When we come back we will be uploading our videos to YouTube so you won’t miss anything that we do.

After the pilgrimage to Turin, we will then be covering the two Masses of Thanksgiving in Southwark and Glasgow and we aim to stream these too again after they have taken place. 

There is also the Bi-Centenary Expo to look forward to. The Bi-Centenary Expo will contain a fantastic theatrical piece by the RISE theatre on the vision of Don Bosco. The Expo will also have a contemporary prayer service and an exhibition of photographs on the theme of “Vision of Life”. We hope to give you the details of where the Expo will be travelling to and when it will be there as soon as we possibly can.

Hopefully that will give you a little taste of what is coming up. You can find a list of the official Bi-Centenary events here.

Also in March 2015, Flame 2 is taking place at Wembley Arena and the Salesians will be going again! If you want to go, then contact Sue at Salesian Youth Ministry, ( and she will be able to sell you some tickets.

It was a fantastic event and a brilliant experience in 2012 and it promises to be just as fantastic in March! So if you’re able to make it down to London then you won’t regret it!

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I might even have to wear a clerical shirt - if I can find one :)

. . . was how I left you last time!!

Did it happen, did it happen, did it happen? I know you want to know - well, to be honest I think you all know it did judging from the crazy response on Facebook et al to a boootiful picture of yours truly with the big man in white! Normally our pictures on SalesianLink Facebook get 35-140 hits - why was it that the one with me in a clerical shirt got ALMOST 900!!!!! Shame on you all.

Anyway, i'm ahead of myself. . .

We had a brill trip to Assisi - now I've done relics of saints (DB's arm, Oliver Plunkett's head, a feather from the wing of Angel Gabriel (titter not, it was in Ushaw!!), but somehow praying in the chapel in front of the tomb of St Francis of Assisi put me in another place - knowing first that the magnificent frescoes (destroyed in the earthquake of a few years ago) had 80% been saved (8000 volunteers picked up every piece of everything to help restore them - amazing!!), and seeing the simplicity of the tunic of St Francis makes you want to stop and think about the bigger picture. It was an easy place to pray - and lets be honest we all need a few of those!!

The Salesian Community pulled out all the stops to feed and refresh us - and then led us on a whistlestop tour of the city of Perugia - beautiful place on the top of a hill (everything seems to be on the top of a hill recently - my feet haven't stopped aching for weeks!!) - but the pinnacle of the visit was another RELIC - yes, indeed - I saw it with my very own eyes - the WEDDING BAND of Mary and Joseph. I tried to take a photo, but a grumpy old man hit me on the back and said "no!"
One has to smile as they stole it in 1488 from the nearby town of Chiusi. The band, kept in a chapel is the size of a large bangle and is kept under lock -- 15 locks actually!!

During the week, life was hectic - what with all the work in the Chapter Commissions - we were discussing, voting, voting on voting, voting 'iuxda modem' (look it up!) - debating etc etc But to be honest, we're definitely getting there and whilst the final document isn't perfect there should be enough for all of us to work on for the next 6 years or so.

Then we all piled on to five coaches and headed into the Vatican - we had some time to pray in the Basilica, and then we were herded by the Swiss Guards into a very posh looking meeting room (frescoes to die for once again) - what can I say about the moment Pope Francis walked in through the door? Oh dear Lord, my heart swelled with so much affection for this Argentinian papa - I don't have the words - literally - as we queued up to meet him, I organised a little speech in my head - when he took my hand in his, I opened my mouth, and said nothing (yes my dear readers, struck dumb for once in my life!) - he just looked at me and smiled - and I managed to mutter, 'thank you, thank you'. At that moment, I truly realised what this man has done in one year for us all.

Ok emotional ramblings over - for the sport minded among you, North Europe made the Final of the Football by beating Asia 6-3. I have the scars on my knee and elbows to prove it!!

Saturday afternoon we all fled to the buses to get out of the Pisana - I headed into Rome and spent the afternoon at the Colliseum - a few weeks ago I told you about the Pantheon; oh my - did the Romans pull out all the stops for this building? It's even survived two serious earthquakes. If you haven't been, even if you are a cultural/historical ignoramus - please JUST GO!!

Well that evening was a right bundle of laughs - a good meal followed by a bus ride home, or at least near home; then a wait in the cold around midnight for a bus that might or might not come!!!! Fortunately the bus stop was outside a 'Holiday Inn', so when a certain Provincial said we could walk it home (20 minutes he said - it takes the bus 20 minutes!!!!), I said I would walk to the Holiday Inn (I'm good that way).

Then we saved a teenager!! Well he spoke in Italian to us - we smiled and said 'go away!" - he did, and then came back, and asked in faltering English whether he could use a phone to call his dad - naturally we negotiated the situation; and I kindly pointed out to the Prov that no one would want to steal his phone!! (neither of us felt like chasing a 16 year old up a darkened street) - anyway the boys dad arrived and everything was sorted (the bus came as well!!!)

On Sunday we felt like a change of scenery - so we headed into Rome to the train station and caught a train to Civitavecchia, which is the port of Rome and about an hours journey away. To be honest it felt a bit like Blackpool with Italian accents, but once we found a little taverna overlooking the sea we all cheered up. Four hours later, and a grappa or six, we were very much cheered up!!

Well my faithful readers this is going to be my last ramblings from Rome, as please God we will be back in blighty on monday evening. Thanks for being such good sports, and long may the Roman sunshine, shine.




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- boy, do we need your prayers so that we elect the one God has already chosen!!

. . . was how I left you last time!!

Greetings again from your intrepid wanderer in Rome; hope you have all had a good week!! Busy, busy, busy is my thoughts - we've been busy, busy, busy!!!


Hopefully you recognise the new Rector Major, the 10th successor of Don Bosco (he's the one on the right hand side!!) - the process delivered the product as they say, but nothing is as straightforward as it might look. So, now that we have a boss and a Council, what actually happened I hear you ask . . .

Well on pain of death, I cannot reveal my sources - well I certainly cannot reveal anything about the votes, and how many the Provincial got for the new role of secretary to the secretary of the RM (50 quid anyone??)

But I can tell you that we did actually spent quite a bit of time in prayer and discernment (I thought we should just put everyone's name in a hat and draw it out, but I was over ruled sadly) - we reflected on how we were being called to walk in the light of faith, and to enter into a serious process of pastoral conversion (seriously that is what the document said - interpreted by me as 'this is an important time - get it right!!!!) - but we did want to know what challenges the Congregation is currently facing, and what qualities should the Rector Major have (I said a knowledge of English (!) - we promptly voted a man with almost none - lol)

But it became very apparent, very quickly, that Don Bosco's successor was Angel Fernandez, and we thank God for him!! The party was a little hip, was a little hop and also a little crazy - singing nuns, singing baby salesians (novices for those not in the know), dancing confrere from India - and an RM who wowed us all with his guitar playing and singing.

I should also have said something about ice cream, 'cause we got some - and I think that I never mentioned the ice cream and Bailey's provided by our Irish Confrere for the feast of St Patrick (I'm getting old and forgetful!!)

. . . and so the elections continued during the week - I won't bore you with the details, but I do think we sort of felt quite content with our work this week - and so I'm gonna leave that and move onto our travels.

Saturday we were bussed to the UPS (In English - the Pontifical Salesian University of Rome) - it was a hard afternoon, because none of us wanted a two hour lecture, but I did get to see Fr Josh (of Oxford fame) who made us a welcome cuppa, and the Social Communications department, where I made a list of all the new stuff I wanted (the answer was 'no'! ) - oh, oh, oh the library has a fancy thingy that gets the books for you (technological me!) - you put in the number and a metal thing gets a metal box with your book in it - very clever - sort of a robot!!!! (a very big one).

Sunday we hit the bus and headed into Rome - a bit of shopping, a bit of sight seeing, a bit of the Angelus in the Pope's round square (!) and then a bit of lunch in an amazing place. As we awaited our food, the heavens opened and it rained for a week - so we stayed in the restaurant and had a small grappa for digestion purposes, least that was what a Provincial told me - by then there was a couple with me!!

And so as the rain stopped, and the sun gradually set we were gently aware of a very satisfied feeling among us - of a job well done this week (either that or it was the very fine red wine we enjoyed!!) And we look forward to our up and coming travels to Assisi, Perugia and an audience with the Pope - YES YES YES - the big man is meeting us in his house - just how good is that on a scale of 1 to 10????

I might even have to wear a clerical shirt - if I can find one :)

Have a great week!!

Ciao for now


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And speaking of prayers, we're off to Florence this week - pray I can get up to be on the bus at 6.15am (yes in the morning, on a SUNDAY!!!!)

. . . was how I left you last time - hope you have all had a good week!!

I'm sitting at my desk writing these thoughts to you, and the rain is lashing against the window . . . the holiday I thought I was coming on is turning out to be something very different!! Trades description Act needs a rewrite.

Hope you are all well - my we have had an interesting week here in the 'happy house' (not the 'happy valley' you Bollington people!!) - and most of it has revolved around Michelangelo. First we headed off to Florence last Sunday - early start(!), coach (really just a posh bus) so life was difficult enough - but what a city. No volcanoes, or earthquakes, just magnificent things to look at, and a dinner out of this world in the Salesian House. One of the wonderful things we saw wasRFRPieta

a Pietá by Michelangelo in Florence - he had worked on this starting in 1547 and then smashed it in 1555, because one leg had broken off and because the block of marble was defective, and because he was having a bad hair day - we saw this in the Florence Cathedral Museum - after having broken the statue, he let his servant take the pieces. Later the servant sold them and the new owner had it reconstructed following Michelangelo's models, so that the work has been preserved.

We've had a number of votes this week - nothing particularly radical - how do we get a new Rector Major; how do we elect Regionals etc, but it did allow us to practice voting on our 'all singing, all dancing' computer systems. It was so good, we invited some Salesian Sisters to witness this technological wizardry - and yes you guessed it, it promptly failed to work when they arrived - you couldn't have made it up!!! But there was a lot of excitement over the make up of the European regions - meetings, straw votes, more straw votes, dramatic interventions, Presidential speeches ... I could barely sit still through it all!! Anyway, the three regions of Europe are now two (drum roll!!) - we welcome France to our merry club.

But, but, but - before we say adieu to Europe North - our gallant correspondent has been keeping goal for our football team - latest scores, we thumped the Italians (and Middle East) 6-3, and saw off the mighty South Americans 5-1!!! Rumours of limping north europeans are very true!!

And now for some serious stuff - how about two and a half hours in the Sistene Chapel!!!!!!!!!!! We were invited to come for a Concert given in our honour by the Vatican Choir (conducted by its Salesian maestro) - we were driven in through the back of the Vatican and strolled through the gardens and through hundreds and hundreds of years of history - omg - It was like Christmas and Easter all in one - I was as high as a kite, quite frankly - the poor provincial was distraught as I ran round like a five year old. "Don't touch things!!" he kept crying.

I have to make the picture large - it's the only way - again I was so gob smacked at the extraordinary talent of Michelangelo. And it was my first time EVER there - it was amazing (as you might have gathered now, the astute ones among you!!)RFRSistene

Phewww - I'm quite exhausted now after re-living that all over again - I believe if you are queuing to get in, you get about 10 minutes with thousands of people crushing you - 150 minutes with a soft chair listening to beautiful music; really what more can I say? makes the hours of sitting in Assembly almost worth it!!

Speaking of which, the documents are coming together - but, everything is on hold for the coming week as we are spending a couple of days in discernment, and then electing a new Rector Major - boy, do we need your prayers so that we elect the one God has already chosen!! - don't forget your intrepid wanderers here, and we both look forward to being back with you in three weeks time (or so!!)

Have a great week!!

Ciao for now


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ps/ there are rather a lot of churches in Rome - my two favourites so far visited - St Agnes in Agony (mainly because I kept thinking of the line - 'some saint in pieces'!!) - and the Pantheon - which is just amazing - you have got to hand it to the ancient Romans - clever, clever dudes.

. . . was how I left you last time - hope you have all had a good week!!

We all know the phrase 'blowing your top' I'm sure - and it's definitely one that comes to mine this week. To start with, we started to get stuck into the documents of the Chapter - both in our smaller commissions and in the Assembly - and we had speeches and interventions (now interventions could be of up to five minutes or three depending on when you clicked your computer!!), and there was passion and emotion and resolution and agony etc etc

But 'blowing your top' not only comes from the speeches, but from our visit to Naples on Sunday (yes we had a trip out - for good behaviour, I think!).

Let me introduce you to Vesuvius ('Vu' for short!). . .


and Naples underneath it!! - Vu lacks it's top - it literally 'blew it off' - the fact that there were a serious of earthquakes there a couple of weeks ago, left your correspondent feeling a wee bit easy as we strolled around the streets of Naples. But what a day!! Glorious sunshine, small streets packed tight, backsides pinched twice (yes, even mine!! :)) and a glorious if not madcap introduction to every church, chapel, cathedral in the city!! Finished off with a stupendous fish dinner in the Naples yachting club (yes, let's be honest - we've all wanted to do that, haven't we??)

And going back to our week in Assembly - we learned how to vote using our computers. I say learned 'cause it took a while - example:

Moderator - "please press only the yes button" - result - 185 yes, 17 no!!!!!

Moderator - "I said, please PRESS only the yes button!!" - result 192 yes, 10 no!!!!!!

Rector Major - "I think I have to ORDER you all to press only the yes button" - only two said 'no' that time!!

So we've been examining and reflecting and studying the chapter document - the Salesian, mystic, prophet and servant of the young - lots of differing opinions on this one; and straw votes - plenty of them - looking at the composition of the General Council, and how we get to a new one, and especially a new Rector Major - can't tell you the results, else I will have to disappear forever. (note, it's looking stronger and stronger that the GBR Province will be keeping their Provincial and Delegate - phewwww.)

And then wonderful Saturday arrived (we have a half day off!!) - and we headed back into Rome and all the wonderful ruins etc.

Dinner, wine - more food, all concentrated the mind as we sat out in the streets watching Roman life go by - you should try it some time!!

Here's a picture of a lovely dinner that I noticed as I watched life go by!!


Well, we're getting close to half way - and starting to talk more and more about what the Holy Spirit is telling us about our Congregation and the next successor of Don Bosco. It's just under the surface as we work, as we pray, as we chat. . . keep us in your prayers.

And speaking of prayers, we're off to Florence this week - pray I can get up to be on the bus at 6.15am (yes in the morning, on a SUNDAY!!!!)

Ciao for now


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