Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime, a Spaniard who most recently served as provincial in southern Argentina, was elected rector major of the Salesians of St. John Bosco March 25.
“I abandon myself to the Lord,” Fr. Fernandez said upon his election. “We ask Don Bosco and Mary Help of Christians to accompany us and to accompany me, with my brother Salesians and with the Congregation, and I accept with faith.”
Fr. Fernandez was born in Gozon-Luanco in Spain in 1960, and made his first profession in 1978. He took perpetual profession in 1984, and was ordained a priest in 1987. He holds a doctorate in pastoral theology, and a licentiate in philosophy and pedagogy.
He has served the congregation as youth ministry delegate, director of the school at Ourense, member of the provincial council, and as vice provincial, and then provincial from 2000 to 2006, of Leon.
In 2009, he was appointed Salesian provincial for southern Argentina, a post he held until his election as rector major. It was in this capacity that he came to know, and worked with, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.
He had been appointed in December as head of the new Seville province, though it has been impeded by his election as rector major.
According to a source in the Salesian congregation who spoke with CNA the day of the election, Fr. Fernandez was chosen with respect to his knowledge of Pope Francis and of the Roman Pontiff’s sense of mission, with the congregation demonstrating its desire to follow in the Pope’s missionary path.
Fr. Fernandez was chosen on the first ballot of the Salesians’ 27th General Chapter, the theme of which is “witness of the radicality of the Gospel: work and temperance,” focusing on missions.
According to the source, the discussions in the general chapter were around two possible profiles for the new rector major: the first was of someone able to perpetuate the charisma of the congregation, and who would at the same time show an affinity with Pope Francis.
The second profile was to choose someone from a young Church, as happened during the last general chapter, when Fr. Pascual Chavez Villanueva, from Mexico, was elected.
The discussion about possible candidates was initially stuck on the names of Fr. Francesco Cereda, regulator of the general chapter, and Fr. Fabio Attard, general councilor for youth ministry, considered the most important post in the Salesians, after that of the rector major.
As rector major, Fr. Fernandez will oversee the Salesians’ celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of their founder, St. John Bosco.
The celebrations will begin Aug. 16, 2014, and will end Aug. 16, 2015. In the midst of celebration, an exposition of the Shroud of Turin will take place, and it is possible Pope Francis will visit Turin next May to venerate the Shroud and take part in celebrating St. John Bosco.
The Salesians are present in 132 countries, and have more than 10,00 priests and 15,000 religious.