Why the World Needs Salesians

Interview With Superior-General of Sisters of Don Bosco

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By María de la Torre

ROME, FEB. 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Salesian charism has a special task in today’s world, marked by what Benedict XVI calls an «educational emergency,» says the mother superior of the order’s feminine branch.

Mother Yvonne Reungoat was elected the superior-general of the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in October.

At the beginning of the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the Salesian family, ZENIT spoke with Mother Reungoat about her new mission and the importance of her charism.

Q: What did you feel upon being elected mother superior of the Salesian sisters?
Mother Reungoat: When I was elected, I was surprised. I did not expect this election. However, if one knows that when one gives one’s life to the Lord he can ask whatever he wishes, which often is not what we ourselves want, in a religious institute he can ask for any mission.
It was a moment of surprise, but also of some disconcert, yet always of much confidence. Up to now I have tried to make my life a gift for him. What is most important is that my life belongs to the Lord. He has often led me to hear him, unexpectedly, and this time he has come to me and I could not say no to what the Lord was asking me.

When one feels small and poor before a mission, at that moment one feels more strongly the need for confidence and help. It was a moment of great trust in him and in Mary Help of Christians, because Don Bosco and our founder, Mother Maria Mazzarello, always said that Mary Help of Christians was the senior founder of the institute. So I felt that she took me by the hand and heard her say: «You are the vicar, the real superior,» and this has given me much confidence. I feel her present in my life and I count on her.
I had the experience, at the same time, that the Lord was asking me and giving me the gift of a new maternity: to carry in my heart all the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians worldwide, and there are many of them. And along with them so many young people, so many laymen who share the mission with us in the whole world. This is a most beautiful experience.
Q: Did you ever imagine it?
Mother Reungoat: No, I never imagined it. I couldn’t imagine it because I did not feel able to live a mission such as this one, despite knowing that it could happen. Our constitution says that any Daughter of Mary Help of Christians can be elected mother-general after a certain number of years of profession, but honestly, I had never thought about it really.
Q: What has changed in your life since then?
Mother Reungoat: From the personal point of view, for the time being nothing has changed much, but my sense of responsibility has changed. Now I cannot think of myself, as every moment of my life becomes a gift for others, a gift for my sisters and for the whole institute. I have had the experience of a great call, first of all to holiness, because I think that what is most important is the quality with which one gives one’s life to the Lord, letting oneself be enraptured by him to be able to be a channel of his through which he himself can pass.
Then one feels the responsibility of being a bond of communion in a great family such as ours, which extends to every continent, with sisters who belong to different cultures, with a great diversity, called to be a continual interrelationship and to carry out together in unity a common mission to the young generations.
Q: What do the Salesians offer today’s world?
Mother Reungoat: What we Salesians can offer today’s world is an educational mission, a commitment in the field of education. There is so much talk today, and Benedict XVI has mentioned it many times, that we are living a moment of educational emergency. We live the experience of this emergency as something that is true in all parts of the world. We feel it, increasingly, as our responsibility and as the current task of our charism: to educate the youth of today, taking into account the great challenge of a society that constantly changes at great speed; to be in constant search in order to answer these challenges, having in mind the plan God has for humanity.
This means to build the human family and we think that education is at the base of the construction of the society of the future. Benedict XVI reminds us of this in many of his addresses.
This educational mission is a great responsibility for us, but also a great stimulus, a challenge that commits not only us, but also many laymen that collaborate with us. That is why a synergy must be created, we must enter increasingly into a synergy with other institutions that seek to make an effort in this world of education.
Q: What does it mean to continue the way of Don Bosco and of Mother Mazzarello?
Mother Reungoat: To continue the way of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello today is this, to make this educational charism actual today: to live the pedagogical style, which is the style of the «preventive system.» It means that it is based on confidence in young people, in weakness, to make young people feel loved, but not only that they know it but that they are shown this love so that they can come to believe that God really loves them and help them to discover and develop all the resources so that they become leaders in the construction of the society of today and of tomorrow.
I will try to proclaim Jesus to young people. Don Bosco had this great passion to help young people to grow as human beings, to find their place in society and in the Church, and to discover God’s place, the presence of God in their lives. To believe that they are loved by God and not only this, from this experience to become preachers of Jesus for the rest of young people. This is an important challenge for us: to make young people leaders of this proclamation so that they become missionaries in the midst of other young people to help them find the meaning of their lives. The young people of today need love, they need to know the meaning of life, which in reality they can find in God and we, all together, must be witnesses to be able to help them to find God, a living person, who is close to them, who gives meaning to their lives.
Q: Where do you yourself find the strength to carry out this responsibility?
Mother Reungoat: Several elements strengthen me. One is knowing that I am not alone. I said at the beginning that to trust in God and in Mary Help of Christians is a very great strength. I feel supported by prayer, commitment and the affection of all my sisters worldwide. I feel part of a family: we support one another. I have seen the commitment and dedication of so many Daughters of Mary Help of Christians worldwide who with so much courage, joy and love give their whole life with passion to their mission.
Another element that supports me is the vocations that the Lord continues to send to the institute from different parts of the world. Vocations are more numerous in some parts and less in others, but worldwide every year a certain number of young people enter who continue to hear this call from God and who choose to say «yes» to our family. This is a sign of God’s confidence in us, of the importance of our vocation and a constant renewal, because they bring us the wealth of today’s young people and this is a great support in living this mission.

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