THE FIRST CONGRESS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF THE SALESIAN COOPERATORS TIMOR-LESTE PROVINCE

On 18 March 2020, the Rector Major Fr. Angel FernΓ‘ndez Artime, SDB published a decree on the establishment of the Association of the Salesian Cooperator Province of Timor-Leste which will be part of East Asia Oceania Region. In response to this decree, on the 30th of August 2020, the Salesian Cooperators of Timor-Leste held their first Provincial Congress to elect the Salesian Cooperator Provincial coordinator and council members. The congress took place in the conference hall of Don Bosco Post-novitiate Community Comoro, Dili, Timor-Leste. There were around 300 participants in this first congress which consisted of the Salesian Cooperators, the Salesians who take care of cooperators from local centers, FMA sisters who have been taking charge of the formation of Salesian Cooperators, observers and other invited guests. Aside from that, the president of the National Federation of Don Bosco Past-Pupils Timor-Leste, Dr. Azevedo MarΓ§al also graced the occasion with his presence.

At 08:00 the participants of the congress were arriving. Then all the participants gathered in front of the Post-Novitiate House to welcome Rev. Fr. Apolinario Maria Ornai Neto, SDB, the provincial of Timor-Leste Salesian Province with Sr. Sebastiana Costa, FMA who took the place of the FMA provincial Sr. Alma Castagna, FMA who is currently in Italy. Then, all those present continued to the conference hall.

The congress proceeded accordingly. It began with an opening prayer led by a Salesian cooperator and the singing of hymns to Don Bosco conducted by Youth Cooperators. Furthermore, the opportunity was given to the steering committee of the congress to make a report regarding the preparation for the congress. Sr. Sebastiana was given a chance to address those present on behalf of the provincial of FMA. She read the message of Sr. Alma, who encouraged the Salesian cooperators to labor wholeheartedly for the mission to take care of the young people particularly those who are poor, abandoned and in danger. Fr. Apolinario the Salesian provincial gave opening remarks. He reminded those present in the congress, the importance of the Salesian Cooperators in the world, the Church and among members of the Salesian Family. He emphasized on the necessity of working together as a Salesian family, keeping the Salesian spirit alive and at the same time retaining and respecting the autonomy of each branch of the Salesian family group. Then, the president of Don Bosco Alumni Dr. Azevedo was given the opportunity to make an intervention. On behalf of the Salesian Past Pupils he congratulated the Association of Salesian Cooperators and encouraged them to open for a wider network with other members of the Salesian Family. Afterwards, Fr. Apolinario officially opened the congress.

The whole morning session was dedicated to the election of presiding officers of the congress and the discussion and approval of the rules and regulations of the congress. In the afternoon the election of the provincial coordinator was held. Mr. Cancio F. dos Santos was elected with absolute majority as the first provincial Coordinator of the Association of Salesian Cooperators of the Province of St. Calisto Caravario Timor-Leste. Both the superior of SDB and FMA also presented to the Salesian cooperators the provincial delegates from SDB and FMA, namely Fr. Lorenço das Neves, SDB and Sr. Ermelinda Silva, FMA. These two are going to journey with the Salesian cooperators at the provincial level.

In the everning, Eucharistic celebration was held in the chapel of Don Bosco Training Center. It was presided over by Archbishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva, SDB, the bishop of Archdiocese of Dili. In his homily drawing inspirations from the readings he invigorated the newly elected provincial coordinator and council members to offer themselves as offering to God because their vocation to be Salesian cooperators is impelled by the charity of Christ. It was within the Mass the first provincial coordinator and council members made their oath. The celebration terminated with the blessing of the temporary office of the Salesian cooperators. After that an agape meal was served.