How did you exercise your apostolate as an educator and professor involved in the government education services over the past 42 years?
I have been working in four different schools: as educator in the reformatory for girls, as principal in handicapped children’s school, as pedagogical assistant in the hospital with young and old alike. Lastly, until my retirement 8 years ago, as university professor in the departments of Education and Theology with Education Ethics as my major. After a licence in my country (1990) it was a good chance to contribute to the formation of good citizens at the moral level. I was involved in the teachers and university professor formation (formation of formators) and I perceived this work as a deep evangelization. With a contribution to the integral human growth, I tried to form teachers who would be able to reflect about their life and eventually also accept Jesus Christ. It was a 15-year experience, the best in my professional life. I learned a lot about mutual help and respect, dialogue and open relationship. This commitment had an impact at all public schools in Slovakia (5 million population).
What was the most beautiful experience in your Salesian consecrated secular life?
I was deeply touched by the SDB Assistant relationship toward us. Some of them just came out of the communist prisons, but they were strong fatherly figures and lived for us. They were able to suffer for us, enjoy our life, but first of all they helped us in our vocation growth. At present, there are about 160 VDB in Slovakia, with 12 SDB Assistants and another 7 SDB Assistants already in the Salesian garden of heaven.
Moreover, I’m grateful for the sharing of gifts within the Salesian Family. For example, since 2010 our Central council held joint meeting with the FMA Sisters General council twice a year with much mutual enrichment.
What is the vocation situation of the VDB Secular Institute around the world?
After 100 years, the Volunteers of Don Bosco are getting older and more mature. But old age is not a diagnosis of our health. We treasure the great experience of our own history. From this long charismatic experience we draw a wisdom for our present development in other cultures and times. Our tradition is not something rigid but a very dynamic gift! At present, all is changing - culture, man and world – but only God is never changing. We try to share God’s experience with other people and witness to God through our life.
There are all together 1202 VDB in 46 countries, grouped in 23 regions with more than 20 starting sub-centres. We are growing especially in Africa, not so much in membership but in the variety of local groups. But the majority of our members are still living in Europe and Latin America. We have more than120 aspirants also in some new countries like Indonesia, Timor Leste and Cambodia.
What are your dreams about the future of the VDB?
Each VDB carries a dream in her own heart. I dream that God will transform us, so we can transform the world! God has His own agenda in each secular environment. What is important for us are the needs of the Church. We try to be very sensitive to the prophetic voice of God’s people. We listen especially carefully to Pope Francis and we try to live closer to the least and poorest in society. We are not afraid of the diversity, of those who are not in touch with the Church or those who even dissent within the Church. God’s Kingdom is greater than the Catholic Church! God loves all! I dream that our members will be present in every marginalized environment. We want to follow this vision of Pope Francis!
What do you expect from the SDB Ecclesiastical Assistants?
Regarding us, we expect them to be effective formators, to help us in our formation, offer us their priestly ministry and stay with as brothers and fathers. Their fatherly and brotherly presence helps as a lot to grow! But first of all we are looking for those Assistants who believe in our vocation and nurture a strong desire to lead us to holiness.
And your wish for the large Salesian family with other 30 groups?
I expect mutual respect as in each human family. This is the first condition of charity, it creates a true family spirit where we respect, help and appreciate each other. I dream of a family where we think and speak well about each other. It’s nothing special, but only the main characteristics of Don Bosco our common Father!