Can you describe the Province?
We are about 115 Salesians, including some forty young people in formation. We have 11 houses in Croatia, plus one in Zepce, Bosnia, founded in 1995.
What are your activities?
We work mainly in parishes and oratories, but we also have two high schools for general education and sports education. In Zepce we have a high school and a vocational school. We also have some hostels for students. Among our core activities are undoubtedly the summer camps. Each community organizes them during the summer break, and last year the number of participants exploded: from 300 to 500 young people everywhere. We are the only ones to offer this type of activity.
How is the life of faith in Croatia?
Under communism people went to church and the faith was practised secretly. (...) When freedom came, people became a bit relaxed in religious practice, but in families children are brought up in a Christian way and they are aware that faith is important. There is a strong spiritual sense and people are trying to make their own journey in the faith: they do not want to believe just by tradition. Every Salesian community has a prayer group. We meet here every Tuesday with 60-90 people.
What is the Salesian influence in the country?
Since the end of the war there has been a growth in the Salesian presence and the country began to get to know us well. The Salesians have come out of the sacristy to offer educational activities and a Salesian spirituality to the youth of the country. There are Salesian chaplains in schools and prisons. They run summer camps, pilgrimages, retreats, and so on. The visit of the relics of Don Bosco brought many spiritual fruits. The bishops recognize the richness of our presence and are counting on us to reawaken faith among young people.
What is the challenge for you religious, today, in Croatia?
To help young people to keep the treasure of faith and help them on their journey as believers. The war has left consequences, but we are here to help. They can make their own choice of Christian life, in a society increasingly influenced by consumer values.