“We look upon missionary work as an essential feature of our Congregation” – says art 30 of our Constitutions. Missionary Sensitivity is an integral part of the Salesian DNA. “Without missionary work the Congregation would not only be impoverished, but would be distorted and alienated from its true nature. In it one could no longer recognize the Salesian Society as its founder had visualized and wanted it” (Project of Life p. 307).
Cagliero Institute at Ivrea in Italy, during its 43 years of existence (1922-1965), supplied over a thousand missionaries to all the parts of the world. What we are today is to a great extent the result of the hard work and sacrifices of missionaries who came to India from as many as 25 different countries, over a period of 100 years. It is amazing to note that at the death of Don Bosco, 20 per cent of the Salesians were in the missions (SGC 471). In these past 140 years, there has been 146 expeditions, from which some 11,500 Salesian missionaries left from the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Valdocco to various mission lands. It is proof enough of the Congregation’s commitment to mission ad gentes.
For us Salesians, missions ad gentes are not just one work among many others; they represent something very much deeper: an essential aspect, a particular dimension of our identity as Salesians of Don Bosco in the Church. It may be true that the Congregation is not listed in the Pontifical Yearbook among the “missionary institutes” strictly so-called, that is, those dedicated solely to the foreign missions. But our founder wanted that there be in the Congregation a true commitment to missions ad gentes. GC19 expressed the same thing when it said: “The Salesian Congregation… revives the ideal of Don Bosco who wanted the work of the missions to be a permanent preoccupation of the Congregation to the extent of being part of its nature and purpose… it therefore reaffirms the missionary vocation of the Salesian Society… and intends that it be known as such in the Church as well as to its own members and cooperators (GC19, pp 178-179).
To be a missionary is a call within a call. God extends a special invitation to those whom he finds suitable to serve Him in far away places. Blessed are those who receive such call and we should be prepared for it at anytime. But this special invitation of God does not stop anyone form doing the work of God wherever we find ourselves. We are sent by God to the people in our own localities. Hence, all of us are called to play the role of missionaries wherever we are. Fr. Pascual Chavez once said, “There is no missio ad gens, if there is no missio intra gentes,” which means, you can't be a good missionary, if you are not already a missionary in your own context. Let us then take up our missionary call and serve the Lord with the spirit of a missionary.
(extracted and edited from the INM provincial circular, November, 2015)