The Salesian priest or deacon brings to the common work of promoting human development and of educating in the faith the specific quality of his ministry, which makes him a sign of Christ the Good Shepherd, especially by preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments. (Con. 45)
The Salesian priest is different from a diocesan priest in that he is first and foremost a person consecrated to God by his religious profession, and as such he is “a living memorial of Jesus’ way of living and acting” (VC 22) through the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. He lives, prays and works in community together with his Salesian confreres.
He is committed to the mission to young people, especially those who are poor and abandoned, working for their total salvation after the example of Don Bosco.
To this mission he brings his specific contribution: acting in the name of Christ the shepherd he carries out the ministry of the Word, of sanctification and of pastoral care.
To act in the name of Christ the shepherd means to have a heart full of pastoral charity which “prompts him to seek through his every word and gesture to be an authentic pastor with the heart of Christ himself. It is his first and chief task!”
- Through the ministry of the Word he brings Christ’s word to the young in very varied situations and using different forms of communication – preaching, counselling, guidance, dialogue and the new media – he tries to awaken and strengthen the faith of the young people so that will transform their lives.
- Through the ministry of sanctification which he exercises in different ways, he seeks to bring young people to life in Christ, introducing them to liturgical and personal prayer, and through the celebration of the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.
- Through the ministry of pastoral care he supports, directs and guides every young person in his effort to live his Christian life with joy and commitment, to discover his vocation and follow it, and to participate fully in the life and mission of the community of the Church. Examples of pastoral care are the animation of youth groups, retreats for young people, and vocational promotion and accompaniment.
The Salesian priest extends this threefold ministry to all his confreres, and those in formation. But his service has an even wider scope: it embraces all those who belong to the community. It includes, for example, the formation of the lay people who work with him. It includes also the animation of the Salesian Family and the Salesian Movement. Together with his confreres, the Salesian priest strives “to preserve unity of spirit and to promote dialogue and fraternal collaboration for his mutual enrichment and greater apostolic effectiveness.”
The ministry of the Salesian priest is not limited to Church environs. It extends to all Salesian pastoral environs, many of which are secular in themselves, as for example the school and the playground, which he enriches with the tasks typical of his threefold priestly ministry – proclaiming the Word, sanctifying and pastoral care. And even if he has to perform secular duties, he does them always with priestly concern and solicitude, or we might say, with a priestly heart.
He has before him the example of Don Bosco who used to say to his Salesians:
“A priest is always a priest, and such he must always appear in speaking. To be a priest means to be duty bound constantly to further God’s interests, the salvation of souls.”
In this regard it is very instructive to read the episode related in the Biographical Memoirs when Don Bosco went to the Pitti Palace to meet Minister Ricasoli, and said to him: “Your Excellency, I want you to know that Don Bosco is a priest at the altar, a priest in the confessional, a priest among his boys, a priest in Turin, and a priest in Florence. He is a priest in the house of the poor and a priest in the palace of the king and of the Ministers!” The minister assured him that he need not worry on that score, since “no one had any intention to suggest anything contrary to his beliefs.”
(The Vocation to Salesian Consecrated Life in its Two Forms: Salesian Brother, Salesian Priest)