(ANS – Rome) – The work for young people and with young people, Salesian concreteness, the oratorian heart that throbs in Valdocco, the Salesian for today’s young people… The new Vicar of the Rector Major, Fr. Stefano Martoglio, talks to us about it all.

How to answer the question asked by the Chapter: “Which Salesians for today’s youth?”

If we “unpack” the theme that generates the chapter, “Which Salesians for today’s young people?”, we have three strands of intervention: the mission, which expresses the presence of God in the midst of today’s children, and the formation of the Salesian who cannot be a single person, a loner. There is a community dimension that integrates different states of life: the consecrated Salesian always works with lay people, the third element of the Chapter’s reflection. We Salesians cannot do everything, we must not do everything, there is lay co-responsibility: it is a question of putting Vatican II into practice and making it vital, alive, although 50 years have passed.

Pope Francis invites the Salesians to be men of God, but also concrete people. What does it mean to be concrete in your works in war-torn Syria?

In the most terrible contexts, the first element of concreteness is testimony. To be concrete in a country at war like Syria is to remain: while everyone leaves, the Salesians who remain are a sign of hope for the people.

For example, in Damascus we are trying to start a Vocational Training Center: it is a simple, concrete way, as Pope Francis says, to give hope and, as Don Bosco invited us, to “teach the future”. Here, then, is Christian humanism: and vocational training is an instrument that is worthwhile in Damascus as in Turin.

Father Stefano, what do you bring of Valdocco with you when away from Turin?

You always carry Valdocco in your heart: here, even the stones speak to you of the faith of those who lay them. Living for years in these courtyards, I have often heard the confreres call us to the centrality of relationships without feeling [oneself] “masters of the harvest”, but feeling [instead] “useless servants”: Blessed Filippo Rinaldi, third Successor of Don Bosco, had this “holy” habit: after the compline prayer, the last of the day, like a young boy he wrote names, situations, problems on some sheets of paper he placed under a statue of the Madonna he kept on the bedside table. It is a simple but highly spiritual gesture that says to us “Lord, I get this far. Holy Virgin, I will never get out of all these problems alone: ​​I give them to you because I am unable to find solutions by myself and then because it is you who illuminates my life and my heart. Tomorrow morning, I shall take back the sheets but you keep them tonight: I entrust these people to you, help me to give answers.” That is the Salesian for today’s young people: a man who has a vertical relationship with God. That’s how you save yourself, because everything passes through there.