One disturbing revelation of yesterday's meeting was the fact that while Don Bosco began his apostolate with a wandering oratory, along the way he made an explicit choice to settle down with the boarding school set up... a shift from an evolving and growing channel to a structured formula... from festive oratories to boarding schools.
I know that Don Bosco found no other means of helping the boys than through opening up institutions which would cater to their every need. But how then did he not sacrifice or atleast begin the process of compromising the strategies and ideals of the initial festive oratory? The 'curse of institutionalisation' was initiated by Don Bosco himself... or did he? Can one continue the spirit of Don Bosco without subscribing to his final 'boarding school' method?
From my little experience in the Salesian congregation I wonder if this sort of 'liberty' is still present and encouraged. Down the centuries we have built up this 'institutional' model of Don Bosco's apostolate with great fervour, commitment and zeal... but what if someone wants to adopt the festive oratory model? Does our formation process envisage and promote this possibility at all or is it nipped in the bud itself?
One such apostolate at a tangent was/is the Street children work. (It too has been very much institutionalised... but that's another issue). But anything more or different than that? For the rest, we are all stuck to Parishes, schools, colleges (barely), technical institutes and of course, boardings. To say that the spirit of the festive oratory (as it was) is vibrant and very much alive in all these would be a slight exaggeration.
Will someone with the initial mind of Don Bosco find a place in the Salesian congregation anymore? Will a Salesian atleast with such a mind, find space and support?