MANILA June 29, 2014 — One occasionally hears the lament that we (Salesians) do not have the popular style writers we once had – a skill and a tradition that goes all the way back to the Founder himself. Is that really the case? There may be some truth to it. But it is good to recognize talent when we see it, and Thoughts from the Seedbed is clear evidence of young Salesian talent that is going somewhere.
Thoughts from the Seedbed is the work of a team – a talented writer and at least two, though possibly more, talented graphic artists; let’s just know them as Donnie (writer) and Jerome and Paul (artists). They are young Salesians in various stages of formation, Bro. Donnie Duchin Duya is a theological student while Bros. Jerome and Paul are in the postnovitiate.
They can be ‘followed’ in various ways, as is common today for the digitally-minded, and you pick up the flavor of all three of them, I think, from how one of them describes himself online: “I write. I read. I design. I speak. I play. I pray. But there is more than what you see in me. There is more than what I do …“.
And in keeping with the desire of today’s youth to share and share alike, the author of the text, in a brief note to austraLasia, says: “We are hoping that this output will also whet the appetite of confreres in the region to come up with materials which we could pass around that enrich and edify.” To further this aim they have chosen to place the work under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike license, which means that they deserve and request appropriate credit but you may remix, transform or build upon this material, except for commercial purposes and so long as you put it under the same license.
But back to Donnie the writer. If Don Bosco made a tradition out of his mother’s nightly practice of a few words, then Bro. Donnie has turned the Goodnight into a literary genre. You find umpteen dozen collections of homilies around, but not so many collections of Good nights! This brief collection may be very helpful, mutatis mutandis, in various parts of the region and indeed elsewhere.
The genre requires, we know, that one be pithy and succinct, and these are not easy to maintain in a consistent way in a literary form, let alone in speech, but Donnie has achieved this across some 20 Good nights given to young aspirants and prenovices (known as ‘sems’ or ‘seminarians’ in Filipino Salesian lingo).
We find interesting and thoroughly imbibed doses of Salesianity – the sense that the author ‘knows’ his Salesian story and loves it – in each of these brief items, a handing on of the tradition that just suits the age and stage of young people aspiring to Salesian life. One notes, too, that they fulfill one of the other needs of a Goodnight in a youth context – the ability to hand out occasional bitter medicine in a palatable way. The item on New Media delicately prepares the aspirants for the fact that their internet ‘gate-keeping’, while still their responsibility, is also helped along by some judicious control! But they are left with a clear message: “Two words. Just two words. Authenticity and Transparency.”
Personal testimony has its place in the Goodnight. At one point Donnie tells his vocation story, describing himself as a ‘returnee’. There is some youthful, rueful good humor in the telling, but one learns a lot about the teller – his earlier experience in educational publishing for Korea and Japan, but more importantly, what drew him back to his Salesian senses, as we might put it: “The warm brand of brotherhood that bonded us as one batch.” There’s a hint of the gifted sentence there too.
There may be a few things yet to do. The ‘team’ is looking at publishing opportunities and will almost certainly produce an epub version, amongst others. There are one or two minor syntactic issues that can be fixed and a print version would benefit from a Table of Contents. But this item as it stands will be of immediate interest and value to anyone who picks it up. No doubt we will be seeing/hearing more from this group.