In these days of December, for all Italian Dehonians, the chronicle becomes one hundred years of history. A history that is clothed in poverty, according to the four worn and faded pages of a notebook that contains the first minutes of the newly founded Provincia Italica, just one hundred years ago on December 2nd.
The Provincia Italica, therefore, would be one hundred years old, but the current Provinces of ITM (Southern Italian Province) and ITS (Northern Italian Province), created by the division of 1960, are actually sixty years old. We note that our numbers have become smaller and smaller, and many of the houses of yesterday were instruments of growth for the abundance of vocations that are no longer there, and above all, vocations are very rare, to use a euphemism.
The same great works that were our pride and joy and allowed us to serve the Church, the People of God and Society in Italy and in the Missions are no longer there. Rather than generating thoughts of sterile regret or presumptuous disappointment, the memory of a rich past in good, and also in human errors, can and must become an occasion for gratitude, rethinking and repentance, if necessary.
Looking back on the past century; however, we also see much good accomplished by those who have gone before us, for whom we could quote the passage from Sirach: “Let us therefore praise the illustrious men, our ancestors by generation. The Lord has lavished glory on them, his greatness has appeared from the beginning of time (…), men renowned for their power, counselors for their intelligence and heralds in prophecy” (Sir 44, 1ff.).
We remember those confreres who consumed themselves in humble apostolic service, hidden and rich in fruits before God, those who died because of violence and illness: in the list, compiled year after year by the Provincial Secretariats until today, there are a total of 376. We also remember those who left to serve the Church in the diocesan clergy and those who, later in life, realized they were called to another vocation in society.
Among the Italian Dehonians, many have collaborated with the Holy See, the central government, and the Study Center; many have started missions ad gentes (Portugal, Argentina, Mozambique, Madagascar, Albania, and Angola), social works, provinces, and regions; many have taught children and young people, have been teachers of theology and Scripture; some have been and are bishops; many others have been cooperating brothers who share the same vocation, full of merit for the many jobs they have generously done. The publications of the publishing houses of Rome-Naples and Bologna have rendered great services to the Church and the country, and the same can be said for TeleDehon.
The division of the Italic Province and the rise of ITM and ITS, which occurred at other times, today probably commit us to renewed collaboration and, above all, to reflections free of preconceptions and presumptions. As Father General recently wrote, “we must not lose sight of the fact that ‘the quality of our religious life and the effectiveness of our apostolate depend, to a great extent, on our constant efforts to adapt and renew ourselves’ (Cst. 104). In this sense, our organizational structures should always be a help and never an obstacle. In fact, our Rule of Life offers us many possibilities in this regard, both in defining the juridical status of the entity itself and in its internal organization, considering, for example, the creation of territorial communities (cf. Cst./DG 73) or rethinking the status of houses (cf. DG 116.9) or other forms of presence. We, as the General Government, reaffirm to all entities our willingness to accompany them in discerning these processes. Let us continue on our way so that nothing will prevent us from enthusiastically living out our dedication to the Heart of Christ in the life and mission we share.” (cf. Prot. No. 0327/2020).
Dear confreres, let us also remember those who made our works and ministry in the Church possible with their contributions: benefactors and benefactresses, laymen and laywomen who believed in our mission and worked with us and for us in schools, social education, parish life, publishing, etc. Let us remember the members of the Dehonian Family, the Sisters of various religious orders who have given their precious service in our houses, as well as the many employees of our houses. We should take from them and for them, too, passages from Scripture about righteous men and strong women; we should probably apologize to them as well for having been at times distracted, bent over backwards in self-contemplation and in attributing to ourselves a good that was the work of all.
In the Heart of Christ we find the ever-living source of our spirituality to have a heart as open and compassionate as His, welcoming and in solidarity with all. May our life of consecration and our service be a daily contribution to the building of the Kingdom of God (Adveniat Regnum tuum) and to communion among ourselves and with others (Sint Unum).
May this centenary spur us on to a journey of fidelity and ongoing conversion so that together we may contribute to the mission of the congregation, in communion and “going out” with the whole church.
We join with the fathers who have preceded us in time and, with them, we give thanks to God for the good He has done through us and, at times, in spite of us.