Father Chiarello, Scalabrinian General Superior: “Ready to reinvent what he started”
Rome, May 31, 2021 – On June 1st, 1905, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, founder of the congregation of the missionaries of Saint Charles, died in Piacenza. On the occasion of the celebration of the Father of Migrants, the Superior General of the Scalabrinian Congregation, Father Leonir Chiarello, reflects on the figure of the Blessed Bishop and on the fundamental call of missionaries to be religious assistants to the laity. Here are some excerpts from his message entitled To Seek a New Flock.
The Fundamental Collaboration with the Laity
“The missionaries continued to go beyond the borders, looking for new flocks. It is a search that cannot stop because migrants continue to go to other borders, and they call us. This year, dedicated to the announcement, that announcement that the Great Shepherd asked that it be brought to the ends of the earth, it’s a call that we cannot ignore. (…)
We did not call ourselves to work in the Lord’s vineyard and we did not draw its boundaries. It is also a question of reminding ourselves that our role is only one of service and ours is only one of the many ministries that the Spirit awakens in the people of God. It is, therefore, necessary to know how to collaborate with others. The first others are the laity, who have their specific role in the salvific mission of the Church. Scalabrini knew this well and it is not necessary here to recall the various initiatives that he has implemented with the laity.”
Training, Mission, Organization
“The XV General Chapter made it clear that our role is that of religious assistants to the laity. In this respect, we have to work in three directions.
Training. Aids have been prepared for the formation of the laity, which also contains methodological indications for the conduct of the meetings. This is the basic material, in various languages, that each assistant can develop according to the needs of the group and the context in which they are. (…) It is good to remember that formation is also a personal encounter, discussion in the group, reading of situations. It is a presence alongside those who seek to live their baptism in an adult way. It is a testimony.
The mission. (…) With the guidance of the religious assistant, the laity becomes more aware of their role as leaven, ‘treating temporal things and ordering them according to God,’ as Lumen Gentium reminds us. The laity are not workers, but travel companions in the proclamation and witness of the Gospel with migrants, refugees, and seafarers. (…)
The organization. (…) On a general level, given that we live in a digital world, it will be convenient to grow in the sharing of meeting spaces, to mature in participation in the Scalabrinian charism, to increase the circulation of initiatives, to get involved in the opportunities for intervention and to encourage the encounter between people.”
“For us Scalabrinians, the initiative of Pope Francis [who recently established the lay ministry of the catechist, ed] is particularly significant because he immediately connects us with our Founder, the Apostle of catechism. While we remember the Founder in the year of the announcement, we see the invitation to the evangelization of the children of poverty and work, religious assistance to the laity who share the mission among migrants, and collaboration with catechists merge, ‘the Brothers catechists’ that Scalabrini had wanted from the beginning.
(…) There is no shortage of reasons to admire, on the day we remember his death, the extraordinary relevance of Blessed Scalabrini and this fills us with joy. But he must also push us to be sons worthy of such a father, ready to reinvent what he started, to collaborate with those we meet along the way, and to raise the curtains to look for a new flock.”