Calvin Ototo Akunga M.Afr.

23 November 2017 - Avdat - Negev Desert

As the vegetation became progressively sporadic on our drive down, and the reflection of the light off the vast tracts of white sand made the ambience brighter than it should have actually been, it became obvious that we were in desert land. When we learned that the south received not a drop more than 39mm of rainfall last year, it did not seem an exaggeration. Nevertheless, the masterfully sculpted terrain on either side of the highway was idyllic. Here and there, a group of trees would proudly defy the laws of nature and stand tall, boasting their green bushy torsos.

Makhtesh Ramon was our starting point. This crater, whose formation began around 200 million years ago, has a length of about 40km long and a width of between 2 and 10km. This impressive feature sat in still silence, as if it knew it was the subject of our contemplation. Still waters run deep. The crater is home to five different habitats and most of the animals have an adaptation that certain students insist on trying: being nocturnal. That is why we could not see a large majority of them. Anybody willing to sponsor an STS candle-lit picnic? That aside, who among us knew that they would one day come face-to-face with a black cobra or a Palestinian viper? The day finally arrived. We stood there and stared them down unflinchingly, separated by no more than a meter. If we’re honest, it was probably the thick solid glass that encased them rather than our temerity that allowed this. On their part, they just laid there, oblivious that their species were endangered and that we were a curious lot. One of them was so unconcerned that a certain goalkeeper (probably in need of new snake-skin gloves) asked, “Are they dead?”

It would not be far from the truth to say that few things evoke a combination of national pride and sadness than the name Ilan Ramon; a man who literally put Israel “out of this world” when he became the first of its citizenry to visit the extra-terrestrial realm. The tribute in his honour had some people reflecting on certain existential matters.

In order that our second site be efficiently appreciated within the shortest time possible, the picnic mentioned at the beginning was offered as the carrot at the end of the Avdat stick. This site, the 62nd station on the “Incense Route”, is probably the sole piece of evidence of an erstwhile flourishing people. Our guest PhD student confirmed the almost mythical nature of the Nabateans before he somehow disappeared and immersed himself into his subject matter, the Byzantine ruins, especially the churches, forts, milestones and roads. The unanswered question was the value of incense, given that come hell or high water (life and tax notwithstanding!), they just had to have it. This unshakeable determination led to the mixing of people, cultures and ideas. It would be ludicrous to posit that mundane items from the local shop can lead to a revolution. The matrimony between archaeology and history begs to differ.

Makhtesh Ramon’s and Avdat’s breathtakingly beautiful sites, sights, and sounds at some point seemed to threaten Br. Hilario’s trusted camera into submission but he soon sorted the problem out and was happily clicking away in a bid to immortalise some memorable moments of the day. In a month’s time we will be back for more.

The visit to Makhtesh Ramon began with a visit to the animal sanctuary
The group for the November Excursion
Beginning the tour of Avdat
Fr Piotr explaining the history of Avdat


Michal Jeske SDB

9 November 2017 - Tower of David Museum – Jerusalem On November 9, another episode of the Topographical Visit series took place in the Jerusalem Citadel, home of the Tower of David Museum. This impressive building, partly from the times of Herod the Great, houses exhibits which showcase the extremely rich history of this city. On this journey through the different periods of Jerusalem, students and staff participants were guided by Fr. Leopold Vonck M. Afr, Guest Professor of Topographical Visits.

At the very beginning, the group ascended to the top of the so-called Tower of David, from where could be admired the beautiful panorama of the Old City, as well as the present-day Jerusalem. After that, as the group walked through the rooms, they got to know the different faces of this city and its history: Israelites, Persians, Romans, Crusaders, Mamelukes and many others who left their characteristic mark on what we call Jerusalem today – especially its culture and architecture.

As students of theology, we paid particular attention to the details of the realities of Jesus Christ and of Christianity itself. In this context, there were interesting exhibits presenting the Second Temple - its architectural uniqueness and important place in the consciousness of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Another point worthy of note was the history of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre and its changing shape over the centuries.

A visit to the Tower of David Museum certainly helped students have a clear idea of the periods in the history of Jerusalem and Israel. The knowledge gained will certainly facilitate the orientation of theological study in the dynamic history of the Bible and to understand better the reality of the Holy Scripture.

Fr Vonck explaining the locale of the Citadel and its history
Fr Vonck outlining the topography of Jerusalem
The museum was filled with important and enlightening information for Theological Study
The group for the Topographical Visit


Written by Michal Vojtáš, this book starts with the development of Salesian youth ministry in the post-Vatican II period. The change from a faithful and repetitive education towards a critical and future-centered approach brought multiple risks. Focusing on organizational aspects, we analyze the underlying theories and their anthropological paradigms, especially Management by Objectives. Then we turn back to the original and permanent criterion for any renewal – the experience of Don Bosco in the Valdocco Oratory. His leadership and management qualities, recent leadership concepts, solid bases of the Salesian Youth Ministry and creative experiments are sewn creatively together in an innovative proposal: 1. Creation of an integral anthropological framework; 2. Development of a set of virtues-qualities at the level of action mentality, shared leadership and operative management; 3. Proposal of a transformational project cycle that merges planning, community building and discernment.

Michal Vojtáš is a Salesian of Don Bosco from Slovakia and member of the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the Salesian Pontifical University (UPS) in Rome.  His research interests focus on Salesian Pedagogy, Youth Ministry, Spirituality, Educational Projects and Leadership.  He is also the Director of Don Bosco Studies Center at the UPS.

Available for online purchase at http://www.lulu.com/shop/michal-vojt%C3%A1%C5%A1/reviving-don-boscos-oratory-salesian-youth-ministry-leadership-and-innovative-project-management/paperback/product-23389268.html


At the 2017 Dies Academicus, Fr Gustavo Cavagnari SDB, President & Principal of Studium Theologicum Salesianum, announced the release of Christian Muslim Dialogue: Festschrift in Honour of Prof. Pier Giorgio Gianazza SDB by STS Publications.

The following is taken from the back cover description of the book:

Christian-Muslim Dialogue: Festschrift in Honour of Prof. Pier Giorgio Gianazza SDB treats the very important theme of inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims, the two most populous religions in the world today.  Without openness to dialogue and mutual respect among these religions, world peace is impossible.

The book is published in honour of Professor Emeritus Rev. Fr Pier Giorgio Gianazza who has embodied in his academic career qualities essential for dialogue, such as, deep faith, charity, respect, knowledge of the faith and love for the common good.

True dialogue requires in addition to qualities of the heart, suitable training through serious and extensive study of one’s own faith and those of others.  Chapters written by highly respected Christian and Muslim authors enrich this book with perspectives from both faith communities.

Contributors include Abu Sway Mustafa, Al-Hafi Amer, Aveline Jean-Marc, Fitzgerald Michael, Gianazza Gianmaria, Houshmand Shahrzad, Hussain Amir, John Bosco Vincent Raj, Khoury Rafiq, Lahham Maroun, Lemarié Paul, Michael Biju, and Mokrani Adnane.

More information can be found on the STS Publications page of the STS website.


John Langan, SDB, & Romero D’Souza, SDB

October 28 2017 - STS - Jerusalem – On Saturday, October 28, 2017 the Studium Theologicum Salesianum (STS), the Jerusalem Campus of the Faculty of Theology of the Salesian Pontifical University, held its annual Dies Academicus.

Guests of honour were Rev. Dr. Fabio Attard, SDB, General Councillor for Youth Ministry of the Salesian Congregation, who delivered the Lectio Magistralis on “The Preparatory Document for the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and Salesian Youth Ministry – Points of Convergence”; Rev. Dr. Damasio Medeiros, SDB, Dean of the Faculty of Theology in Rome; and Rev. Dr. Gianni Caputa, SDB, who was honoured with the conferral of the Silver Medal of his Emeritus Status. Rev. Fr. Munir El Rai, SDB, the Provincial of the Salesian Province of the Middle East Province (MOR), representatives from other theological faculties in Jerusalem, other priests and religious were among the esteemed privileged guests together with the professors and students of STS.

The principal of STS, Rev. Dr. Gustavo Cavagnari, SDB, welcomed all present to the Dies Academicus. He introduced and welcome the guests of honour, and gave an outline of the day’s proceedings. He made special reference to Blessed Michael Rua (the first successor of Don Bosco, whose liturgical memory occurs on 29 October), the one who authorized the Salesian presence in the Holy Land, recalling the events of Don Rua’s first visit to the Holy Land.

Next Fr. Medeiros delivered his address, extending warm greetings to all present. He emphasized the importance of studying Theology, today as it was yesterday, which means to embark on the experiential path of the intellectual charity towards God, human beings and creation; and its importance of other sciences in order to bring about a true cultural vision in the vital synthesis of theological studies. Finally, with the words of Blessed John Newman he concluded inviting all into the “Circle of Knowledge” and wishing the staff and students a fruitful academic year.

The STS choir provided a musical backdrop by performing the hymn “O Holy Mother of the Redeemer”. The Lectio Magistralis followed.

The first major event of the Dies Academicus was the lecture of Fr. Attard, in which he focussed on the background of the Preparatory Document for the 2018 Synod on “Young people, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”. Drawing on the centrality of the Second Vatican Council to the current ecclesial reality, he rapidly traced the Synodal journey that the Church has taken. Referring to the Preparatory Document as “our compass on this journey”, he indicated four points of convergence between the text and Salesian Youth Ministry. The first point is to know the story of the young. The second point is to educate taking in consideration four fundamental dimensions (education to faith, educational and cultural growth, group experience and vocational discernment). The third point of convergence he presented was a call to recognize the urgency of a serious and proper human, spiritual and charismatic preparation of all those called to embrace this pastoral mission. From the third part of the Preparatory Document he reflected on the agents and processes and presented the fourth point of convergence: to plan out an effective and practical educative and pastoral project. In his concluding remarks, Fr. Attard presented the Church’s action as a providential invitation for us to face the following challenges: to deepen the knowledge of our charism, to draw closer to the educative and pastoral heritage, to improve the processes of formation, and to examine how our educative and pastoral proposals can be a response to the lives of young people today.

Rev. Dr. Stanislaus Swamikannu, SDB, chaired the following session of Questions and Answers where time was given to all the participants for seeking clarification and comments on the matters under discussion.

A string ensemble by Bros. Paolo Negrini and Lenny Carlino titled “Chiesa del Risorto” provided a suitable interlude to the proceedings.

The next major event of the Dies Academicus was the Conferral of the Silver Medal from UPS on Rev. Dr. Gianni Caputa, as he becomes Professor Emeritus. Fr. Eric Wyckoff read out the letter sent for the occasion by the Chancellor of UPS, Rev. Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, SDB, which placed on record the appreciation of the Salesian Congregation for the tireless and generous service of Fr. Caputa over the past 37 years. Brief mention was made of significant milestones of Fr. Caputa’s career (academic degrees, participation in important ecclesial and academic events, publications). He expressed his gratitude and tendered some salient advice to all present.

The Vote of Thanks proposed by Sr. Angela Ridout, the Registrar of STS, brought the program to a close.

(From L to R) Frs Damasio Medeiros, Fabio Attard, & Gianni Caputa
Fr Damasio Medeiros giving his remarks
Fr Fabio Attard delivering the Lectio Magistralis
Fr Fabio Attard sharing a laugh with the audience during the question and answer session
(From L to R) Frs Damasio Medeiros, Gianni Caputa, Gustavo Cavagnari & Fabio Attard
Fr Gianni Caputa expressing his gratitude after receiving the honour of Professor Emeritus
The STS choir
The STS Student body and professors present at the Dies Academicus 2017


Alfred Nishanth SDB

19 October 2017  - Israel Museum - Jerusalem “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers,” said Pope Paul VI. The specification of contextual witness is of particular importance as a formative element with regard to the Study of Theology at STS. Consequently, first year students of the STS made a topographical visit to the Israel Museum on 19th October 2017, facilitated by Fr Gustavo Cavagnari, SDB, President of STS, and guided by professor Fr Leopold Vonck, M.Afr.

The visit offered clarity of different themes in archaeology through the model of Jerusalem in the second Temple Period, evolution of different ages and civilizations, artistic creative elements, cultures of different countries like Egypt, Ancient Near East and Greece. Archaeological objects which were discovered in excavations, Dead Sea Scrolls and archaeological outlooks dating from prehistory to this day were well projected and explained. An interesting part of the visit was to the art wing. This gallery includes collections from Israeli art, arts of Africa, Europe, and Asia, modern and contemporary arts.

Students could perceive a sort of comparative element, evident from the displays and presentations of the museum. Some galleries presented different lifestyles from birth to death, rites, economy, inventions of weapons, costumes and jewelry. An enormous amount of importance was given to Hebrew manuscripts, Torah scroll ornaments and Torah arks. A comprehensive understanding of history, scripture and social contexts were explored at the end of the visit.


Lenny Carlino SDB

14 October 2017 - Nazareth

Early on the morning of October 12, the 15 new STS students departed for a 3-day excursion to the Galilee region of Israel. Accompanying them were Fr Stanislaus Swamikannu, professor of Salesian Studies and Rector of the Salesian Community of Ratisbonne, Br Hilario Seo, member of the Salesian Community of Ratisbonne, and Fr Roman Mazur, Professor in Sacred Scripture and guide for the excursion.

The group began by visiting the city of Jericho, specifically the Tell es-Sultan archaeological site. There students could hear explanations of the archaeological work as well as biblical events which took place on Mt Nebo and the Mt of Temptations. After a short stop at a sycamore tree and spiritual reflection by Fr Roman on Zacchaeus, the group visited the river Jordan and renewed their baptismal promises. The drive and visit were filled with biblical, political, and historical insights into the locale. The morning finished with Mass at the main chapel in Magdala and lunch in Kibbutz ein-Gev where “Peter’s fish” was served.

After lunch, the participants took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It was a beautiful experience to hear the Gospel of the storm at sea on that very sea of the event. A ride in to shore and a short visit to Kurzi later and the participants departed for their housing for the night. The Salesian community of Nazareth living on the campus of the Salesian Technical School and Church of Jesus the Adolescent offered hospitality for the three days and two nights. After dinner, the Rector of the Salesian community invited the participants for a private tour and presentation on the history of Salesian presence in Nazareth as well as the contemporary mission of the school.

The theme for the second day could have easily been “In Jesus’ Footsteps”. Each site had a clear Gospel passage with which it was connected. The day began at the Wedding Church at Cana with a church tour and archaeological lesson by Fr Roman. Afterwards came a visit to the Hermon Stream in Caesarea Philippi. Fr Roman wonderfully explained that the “On this Rock” statement’s the topographical and geographical context deepened its meaning. It was by the rocks of the Temple Pan that Peter confessed Jesus to be the Son of God. Continuing on the theme of Peter, the group ventured to Capernaum to see the house of Peter’s mother-in-law, the active archaeological site and the Temple. A short trip down the road to Tabgha was next with visits to the Church of the Primacy of Peter and the Heptagon Church of the Multiplication. The day concluded with Mass on the Mt of Beatitudes, dinner with the Salesian community of Nazareth, and a moment of encounter with some young people of Nazareth at the school.

The third day of the trip saw some of the most spiritually as well as academically enriching moments of the trip. The group began its day at Zippori National park to learn about the history of that locale and to have some specific insights on mosaic study. A return to Nazareth was next with a walk to the Well of Mary followed by the Synagogue Church. The group received an unexpected opportunity when the custodian of the Church invited the group to see the interior of the Greek Catholic Church of the Annunciation and reverence both the book of the Gospels and tabernacle. Time was short, and the group had to depart for visits to the Basilica of the Annunciation and the Church of St Joseph. After a final lunch with the Salesian community in Nazareth, the group visited Mt Tabor and celebrated Mass in the Chapel of Moses within the Church of the Transfiguration.

The 3-day experience was not only academically enriching, but spiritually and holistically fulfilling because of both the grace of the places and the leadership and insights shared by Fr Roman.


Andrea Lupi, SDB

5 October 2017  - St Savior Parish - Jerusalem 

On the 5th of October 2017, the professors, students and staff members of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Studium Theologicum Jerosolimitanum and Studium Theologicum Salesianum gathered together around the altar at Saint Savior Parish Church to invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit on the new academic year.

The Eucharistic celebration was presided by Rev. Fr. Claudio Bottini, OFM, President Emeritus of the SBF, who addressed the homily: “Dear students, you should not consider this demanding time of formation as a burden. Only a serious commitment to study, along with an attitude of prayer, will make the mission you are longing for meaningful and effective. Look at the life of Jesus, he spent 30 years in the silence of Nazareth before beginning his mission, let him be your model!”.

During the celebration, the new Presidents of the STS (Fr. Gustavo Cavagnari SDB) and SBF (Br Rosario Pierri OFM) were welcomed by the lecturers and students, who entrusted to the Lord their ministry as leaders of their respective institutions.

The diversity of charisms, nationalities and languages stood as a sign of the richness and plurality that constitutes the Church of Jerusalem. At the end of the Eucharistic Celebration all were invited to share a time of fraternity in the Hall of the Custody.

Congregation and Concelebrants at the Mass of the Holy Spirit
Fr Claudio Bottini OFM presiding, Fr Gustavo Cavagnari SDB STS President/Principal second from right
Music for the mass provided by (from L to R) Br Leonard Carlino SDB, Br Michal Jeszke SDB, Br Paolo Negrini SDB
The First Reading being proclaimed by Br Craig Spence SDB
The intentions were read in different languages. Pictured above Br Calvin Ototo Akunga M. Afr.


Lenny Carlino, SDB

12 September 2017  -  STS - Jerusalem On the September 12, 2017, the 2017-18 academic year at the Studium Theologicum Salesianum (STS) Jerusalem Campus of the Salesian Pontifical University was opened by Fr Gustavo Cavagnari, SDB, Principal of the STS. Current Staff & Students gathered at the Salesian Monastery – Ratisbonne for a Celebration of the Word of God and Opening Ceremony. All of the festivities took place under the auspices of Our Lady on the optional memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary. The Celebration of the Word of God in the main Church of the Salesian Monastery – Ratisbonne, led by Rev. Fr. Odilo Cougil Gil, M. Africa, the new Rector of the Missionaries of Africa’s Jerusalem community. Fr Odilo focused his homily on the “Word become flesh” and its relation to the study of theology and life of faith in the light of revelation.

The opening ceremonies took place in Don Bosco Hall and were led by Br. Javier Orengo Quiñones, SDB (ANT; 4th year student) who acted as Master of ceremonies. The ceremonies began with Words of Welcome by Rev. Fr. Dr. Stanislaus Swamikannu, SDB, Rector of the Salesian Monastery & Professor of Salesian Studies. After welcoming the staff & students, Fr Stanislaus offered two dispositions that everyone should have for the upcoming year. “First”, states Fr Stanislaus, “to make this year both successful and fruitful, we need a desire for learning, reading, researching, reflecting, and writing.” According to Fr Stanislaus, these five characteristics will ensure that we are “doing” theology, an act of the whole person, rather than simply “studying” theology, an act only of the intellect. Second, Fr Stanislaus emphasized that our study and reflection of Theology should deepen and mature our faith through experience. Fr Stanislaus concluded his comments by entrusting the whole year to Mary, Seat of Wisdom.

Following Fr Stanislaus was the Presentation of the report of the 2016-17 academic year by Rev. Sr. Angela Ridout, SJA, Registrar of the STS. Sr Angela outlined the demographics of the student body and staff, the main events of the academic year (including the Dies Academicus, the Diploma classes & visit to the Temple Mount, 1st year study trip to Galilee, physical renovations to the STS offices, visit to the Galilee Yeshiva School, Teaching Staff Study Day, Cultural Initiative Day, & Football tournaments). Fourteen fourth year students successfully defended their baccalaureate syntheses at the end of the year, thus gaining their bachelor of theology degree. Sr Angela also highlighted the departure at the end of the year of Fr Andrew Wong, SDB, Rector of Salesian Monastery, Fr Karol Kulpa, SDB, Fr Moses Wanjala, SDB, Fr Aloysius Ssekamatte, M.Afr., and Fr Biju Michael, SDB, Principal of STS. St Angela presented these statistics and observations in light of Pope Francis’ writing on happiness.

Rev. Fr. Dr. Gustavo Cavagnari, SDB, President of the STS, was next to address the gathered body. Fr Gustavo took the opportunity to thank Fr Biju Michael and all the previous Presidents of the STS. Describing the role of the STS, Fr Gustavo said, “If the fundamental mission of every faculty is a continuous quest for the truth, through its research and the preservation and communication of knowledge for the good of society, a Catholic academic community is distinguished by the Christian inspiration of individuals and of the community itself, in the light of the faith that illuminates us […] This is particularly relevant when we talk about the theological formation of candidates to the priesthood.” Theology is and must be connected to one’s personal and social life.

Rev. Fr. Dr. Matthew Coutinho, SDB took the stage next to distribute student awards and present the new professors. Br Tiziano Conti, SDB (ICC) received the award for the highest cumulative grade in the 3rd year with a 29.64/30.00. Br Fernando Jude, SDB (LKC) received the highest marks for the 2nd year with a 27.88 and Br Parfait, M. Afr. received the award for highest marks in the 1st year with 29.90.

After the awards, Rev. Fr. Dr. Eric Wyckoff presented the 13 new students (10 SDB, 2 Missionaries of Africa, 1 OFM cap.) and looked at the demographics of our STS community this year. In total we are 58 students from 7 religious groups and 27 countries. Rev. Fr. Dr. Andrzej Toczyski, SDB presented the new professors and their work.

To conclude the ceremony itself, and on behalf of the UPS and the academic council of the STS, Fr Gustavo declared the 2017-18 academic year open. And so a new year begins here in the Holy Land.

Fr Gustavo Cavagnari SDB, President & Principal of STS giving his remarks at the Opening Cermony
Fr Stanislaus Swamikannu SDB, Professor in Salesian Studies and Rector of the Ratisbonne Salesian Community, shares a word of welcome
(From L to R) Dcn Matthew Valiyakattel SDB, Fr. Odilo Cougil Gil M. Afr, Dcn Gnanam Rayappan during the Word of God Service
Fr Eric Wyckoff SDB, Professor of Biblical Greek, Liturgical Ministry and Homiletics, sharing statistics on the student body for the 2017 - 2018 Academic Year
The Ceremony was followed by refreshments in the Ratisbonne Salesian Community Residence
The 2017 - 2018 STS Student and Faculty Body