Cambridge woman to begin Salesian mission work

byMichael Mendl, SDB Special to The Pilot

Salesian provincial Father Thomas Dunne, places a blessed mission cross on Virginia Van Credle of Cambridge during a Mass Aug. 8. Van Credle will serve for at least a year as a Salesian Lay Missionary in Ethiopia. Pilot photo/ Courtesy Salesians of Don Bosco

Virginia Van Credle, of Cambridge is one of 18 young women and five young men who were commissioned as Salesian Lay Missionaries (SLMs) on Aug. 8 after four weeks of orientation.

Father Thomas Dunne, SDB, provincial superior, presided over an early morning Mass at the Don Bosco Retreat Center in Haverstraw-Stony Point, N.Y. The Mass also marked the closing of the annual retreat for about 30 Salesians.

During the Mass the missionaries were presented with blessed crosses as a sign of their commitment to personal conversion and to the mission of carrying the love of Jesus Christ joyfully to their various sites.

The Salesian retreat coincided with the final week of the SLMs preparation, which had a retreat atmosphere and stressed Salesian spirituality, the Preventive System, and such specifics for their upcoming apostolic work. Mingling with Salesian priests and brothers at meals and recreation times, sharing the sacred liturgy with them, and listening to good night talks from Father Dunne and other Salesians, also helped the young people with their orientation toward Salesian mission.

Earlier weeks of orientation saw the future missionaries gather at Maryknoll in Ossining, N.Y., for training in culture, missiology, and the practicalities of going overseas, together with volunteers from Maryknoll and other groups. There was also a week of participation in the summer day camp program of the Salesian parishes in Port Chester, N.Y., in which the Salesian volunteers saw and practiced working with youngsters as Salesians do.

Van Credle, originally from Smithfield, Va., is a member of St. Paul Parish in Cambridge and a 2006 graduate of Boston University, where she earned a B.S. in advertising.

Since graduating from Boston University, Van has had several jobs. One she found particularly valuable was with BUs technology lab, assisting students with disabilities. She enjoys putting her creative side to work on behalf of people.

Van Credle likes to travel and to work with people. She has already put those two likes together through volunteer work with the Missionaries of Charity in India last winter, which she found both challenging and rewarding.

Ready for a larger commitment, she applied for Maryknolls lay missionary program, but too late for this year. They pointed her to the SLMs, a choice endorsed by her spiritual director.

Van Credle and one other SLM will serve at a Salesian work in Ethiopia. She hopes it will involve street children, but that is yet to be determined with the site director, and she is quite willing to leave that determination in Gods hands.

She has committed herself for one year but hopes to stay longer.

The two SLMs will be joined at their Ethiopian site by two young volunteers from the Salesians Austrian volunteer program, Jugend Eine Welt, by a family sent by the Salesians Italian volunteer service, Volontariato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo (VIS), and by a Spanish woman.

The rest of the 2009 class of SLMs will be missioned to five sites in Bolivia; three in India; one each in Manaus, Brazil; Johannesburg, South Africa; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Tijuana, Mexico; and Rwanda. They may be helping in orphanages, teaching catechism or academic courses or agriculture, doing manual work, providing medical assistance, or other forms of spiritual and material apostolic work.