A Congress That Will Go Down in History
The first international congress on the history of the Salesian work in Africa and Madagascar entitled "History and Salesian Identity, production and use of sources, conservation of the cultural patrimony" organized by the Association of the devotees of Salesian history (ACSSA) was held in Nairobi from October 11-14, 2011. It was presided by the Director of the Salesian Historical Institute, Fr. Francesco Motto, and the Secretary of ACSSA, Fr. Stanislaw Zimniak.
There were 30 participants, 15 SDB and 15 FMA.
Thanks to the SDB provincial of AFE, Fr. Gianni Rolandi, who offered hospitality in the new wing of the complex of Nairobi DB YES (Don Bosco Youth Educational Centre), the Congress took place under excellent conditions.
The greetings of the Rector Major, Mother Yvonne Reungoat, and the President of the ACSSA, Sr. Grazia Loparco, FMA, officially opened this historical moment through a message that was sent from Rome.
With a well-planned itinerary that was not heavy, relationships were formed, and communications and workshops took place.
On the first day Sr.Maria Rohrer FMA helped us to reflect on the question "Why write the Salesian History ?" On the second day two missionary confreres from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fr. Marcel Verhulst and Fr. Léon Verbeek confirmed through their historical-scientific research the importance of this work. These confreres have already gathered many "oral and figurative" sources in addition to written sources, and have published interesting historical research not only on the Salesian work but also on the local culture and the history of the Church in the Congo.
There followed communications on the biographical review from a few specific contexts prepared by Sr. Inácia Chaquisse (MOZ), Fr. Albertt Kabuge (AFO) and Sr. Alphonsine Tshabu Fwamba (AFC).
On the third day, after an interesting visit to the Historical Museum of Nairobi, reports were presented by two non-Salesian historians: "To Protect and Preserve the Sources", by Fr. Albert de Jong CSSp, and " Historical and Ecclesial and Civil Models in Africa", by Reginald D. Cruz, CFX.
In the evening there were three more presentation: "The State of Historiography on Don Bosco ", by Fr. Franceso Motto SDB, "Some Annotations Relating to Salesian Historiography" by Fr. Stanislaw Zimniak SDB, and "The Phases of Historiography in the FMA Institute", a contribution presented by Sr.Piera Cavagliá FMA, Secretary General of the Institute, who participated in the whole Congress.
In genuine Salesian tradition, the "Good Night was not lacking. It was creative, and documented the reality of the two AFE Provinces of the SDB and FMA.
The General Councilor for Africa and Madagascar, Fr. Guillermo Luis Basañes, concluded these days by encouraging the participants to feel the responsibility to produce and conserve significant sources for Salesian history and to work to create an historical-Salesian culture in every province. His concluding words were : "I see Salesian Africa stronger, with more solid and stronger roots after this Congress, and this could make us more vocationally attractive."