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From the Rector
I am writing this short reflection and message on the feast of Saint Peter Chanel, the first Martyr in Oceania. Peter was a Catholic priest, who belonged to the religious society of the Marists. In the 1830s he was sent from France to bring the message of Jesus to the peoples of the islands of the Pacific, and landed on the group of islands known as “Wallis and Futuna”. It was on Futuna that Peter was clubbed to death, when the son of the local chieftain asked to become a Christian. Peter was only 38 years old. Within a short period of time, all the inhabitants of this group of islands became Catholic.
The Salesians have a direct link with the Marist Fathers and Brothers in the Pacific. It was the Bishop of Apia (Samoa), a member of the Marist Society, who first invited the Salesians to establish a school in Samoa. The land for the first school was purchased from the Marist Brothers. That school is called: “Don Bosco Technical Centre” in Apia, established in 1988. And later on this year, a group of students of that centre will be visiting Australia, and will put on a performance also at Salesian College Chadstone.
Now the Salesians run two secondary schools and three parishes on the islands of Samoa, and the Salesian Sisters also run two primary schools. These centres are staffed mostly by local vocations. (However, the Principal of the Don Bosco Technical Centre is Fr Chris Ford, who was the Principal here at Salesian College).
I have been privileged to be associated with the foundation of the Salesian mission in Samoa when I was responsible for the Salesians and their works in Australia, back in the 1980s. I have always considered the biggest challenge facing our mission in the Pacific “how to bring together the values of the gospel of Jesus and the culture and traditions of the local people”. Many years later I have to acknowledge that this challenge is not confined to the Pacific – on the contrary! This is the biggest challenge of our time, and place! Gospel values are often pushed to one side by culture (and sometime even clash) – political culture, consumer culture, pleasure culture, sport culture, individualistic culture, media culture…does not accept or agree with gospel values!
It is my hope that education at Salesian College will provide a suitable harmony and balance between the gospel and current culture.
Fr Frank Bertagnolli, SDB