Being of Service to the Young
Not too long ago, members of the 153rd Salesian Missionary Expedition departed Valdocco, Italy for remote regions around the world to serve ad gentes (meaning “to the nations”). During this month when we celebrate our patron saint’s feast day, it’s fitting to recognize these dedicated servants who willingly bring Don Bosco into the lives and hearts of youth who need it most.
They are from Madagascar and Thailand, India and Peru, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Korea, and dozens of places between. And they are following in the footsteps of the first fearless Salesian missionary, sent to Patagonia in 1875 by Don Bosco himself.
Collectively, their story begins on December 18, 2021, when Rector Major Father Ángel Fernández Artime appealed for new missionaries—and 37 young men enthusiastically responded. But their individual journeys launched far sooner, when each first felt called to Salesian life.
“During initial formation, young aspirants and novices learn that the missionary spirit is an essential element of Salesian charism,” explains Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “Of course, that doesn’t mean that being a missionary is for everyone. Those who demonstrate a deeper interest receive close spiritual guidance along their discernment path to ensure it’s a good and well-suited one.”
Boonmee Charusakon, 28, is among those who expressed deeper interest. Inspired by role models called by Don Bosco to Thailand—and guided by his desire to bring poor youth closer to God—he now serves in South Africa as the very first Salesian missionary from Thailand.
“Even if one comes from a country where Catholics are very few, like mine, one can still be called by God to be a missionary,” Boonmee explains. “I prayed, discerned with my spiritual guide, consulted with the Salesian Provincial, and I responded to that call.”
“You can live and bear witness to Christ anywhere, even in countries with a Christian minority,” adds Sébastien Anasamba Levilo from the DRC, also 28. Now assigned to Albania, Sébastien is doing just that while leaning on his own missionary role models. For him and many others, Don Bosco serves as the “example par excellence.”
“Just as Don Bosco left rural Becchi and experienced the fullness of his vocation among young people of diverse backgrounds and cultures in the metropolitan city of Turin, I would like to live the same way,” says Father Paul Hoon Kang, who recently arrived in Mongolia for his assignment. “I want to live more fully in the Salesian vocation itself. I want to find Christ through the eyes of Don Bosco in those I will face on the mission field. I want to encounter them with the heart of Don Bosco and become like the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.”
Ultimately, 25 of the original 37 young volunteers received their missionary crosses on September 25, 2022. Sent out by the Rector Major from the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, they now join nearly 30,000 fellow Salesian missionaries serving in more than 130 countries around the world.
Like Boonmee, they are currently acclimating to their new roles by learning a foreign language, studying a foreign culture and above all, heeding the advice he offers to his fellow missionaries: “Be open! Be generous!”
Or, as Sébastien says, “the missionary vocation is a gift of self to others—every time we do good to others, every time we make someone happy, we are performing a missionary act, and that is why we should never be afraid or fearful of going out to meet others, to make them happy or to give them a hand.”
The transformations these young men will spearhead on behalf of impoverished children and families around the world are the very reasons that Salesian Missions exists. And theirs is the work you support, each and every day, through your generosity and prayers.
We are sincerely grateful to you, our wonderful friends, for making our mission, your mission.