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Friday, December 9, 2016
In memory of Fr Juan Vecchi
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¬†Fr Juan Vecchi, the Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco died on January 23rd after a long illness. Juan Edmundo Vecchi Monti, was born at Viedma (Argentina) on 23 June 1931, the youngest of seven children of a family of Italian emigrants. The family had moved to Argentina from Emilia Romagna in Italy some time between 1898 and 1906. It was a period when many Italians dreamed of escaping from the poverty of their own country by finding work and tranquillity in foreign parts. His father Albino Vecchi came from Boretto (Reggio Emilia), and his mother Maria Monti from Montescudo (Forlž). They met in Argentina and were married there. Juan got to know the Salesians in Viedma and decided to follow a Salesian vocation. He made his first vows at Fortžn Mercedes, 29 January 1947, and studied theology in Turin, Italy, where he was ordained priest on 1 July 1958. In the same year at Turin he obtained the licentiate in theology. He returned to Argentina to work as a Salesian priest. In 1965 he was appointed Rector at Viedma, a responsibility he held until 1972. In 1972 he began his long service, some 30 years, as a member of the General Council. From '72 to '78 he was Regional Councillor for the Atlantic part of Latin America. From 1978 to 1990 he was Councillor General for Youth Pastoral Work. From 1990 to 1996 he was Vicar General. Finally on the 20th March 1996 he was appointed Rector Major, the eighth successor of Don Bosco. He will be remembered as an innovator in youth pastoral work, but also for his outstanding gifts of government. He could listen and give due weight to all suggestions and opinions, and to individual needs. He had a strong sense of fatherliness and of fidelity to the founder's charism. He was moreover a gifted leader who believed in teamwork. He was, above all, sensitive and open to signs of the times. As Rector Major from the time of the 24th General Chapter, the Chapter on the laity, Fr Vecchi always believed in working with the laity. He was keen to show confidence in the thousands of lay people who take part in different ways in Don Bosco's mission for the service of the young. He was also aware of the need to share responsibility with them. Noteworthy too was his post Vatican II sensitivity, in which he followed his predecessor Fr Egidio ViganÚ in believing that the Church should be with the poor and at service of the poor. He wanted his Salesian Family to recognise all cultures and to reach out to the poorest and most marginalized of every continent. Those who have known him will bear witness to his great spirituality demonstrated by his enthusiasm and optimism. He was convinced that only one who is spiritual, one who believes in Him who gives life and identity, can pass on Christ to the young. To the twofold aspects of spirituality and pastoral work, Fr Vecchi always added the witness value of Salesian religious and community life. Credible communities that are spiritual and pastorally committed are the fruitful expression of that love of God for young people of which Salesians profess to be 'signs and bearers'. This is a point in which Fr Vecchi always believed, even to the extent of choosing as the theme of the 25th General Chapter which he convoked, an expression which places three components in a close relationship: the testimony of spirituality, community life, and action among the young. The eighth successor of Don Bosco was also a man of communication, a pastoral sector in which he firmly believed and to which he gave strong encouragement. In the program of his six years as Rector Major. He was convinced that communication should play a part in every aspect of Salesian work. He insisted on the renewal and relaunching of the 52 editions of the Salesian Bulletin. Fr Vecchi was without any doubt a great worker, a man of faith, and a faithful reflection of the charismatic understanding of Christ that the Holy Spirit entrusted to Don Bosco. A man who was a good listener, and attentive to modern culture. He believed in the possibility of a meeting between faith and culture, between lay and religious aspects. He had the great ability to get to the heart of questions without any lack of respect for the point of view of others. He was was a leader with his own clear ideas, but open to the ideas of others. Once he had decided, in consultation with others, new horizons, he had the optimism and energy to drive a project to fulfilment. Fr Juan Vecchi, born Viedma (Argentina) on 23 June 1931, died Rome January 23rd 2002. May he rest in peace.
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