The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

Every reason to celebrate - A special anniversary

Thursday, 13 May 2021, 10:51 Last update: about 2 months ago

Richard Ebejer SDB

The Salesian Community in Senglea had every reason to celebrate - the 22nd of April 2021 marked the 240th Anniversary of the consecration of their Church popularly known as San Filippu, by Bishop Vincenzo Labini in 1781. It was an opportunity to bring the local community together as well as to highlight the role that this church has had over the years in Senglea.

A Thanksgiving Mass commemorating the Dedication of the Church was presided by the Rector, Fr Aurelio Mulè Stagno. In his homily Fr Aurelio spoke of the significance of marking such an occasion, for it reflects the building up of the people of God.


Keeping Local History Alive

The Church of St Philip's was built by the Congregation of the Oratory, known as the Oratorians. These were a remarkable group of priests, most of whom hailed from Senglea. Inspired by St Philip Neri, the apostle of Rome, they came together in 1662 and asked the local bishop to start something new.

It was indeed a bold venture for the time and in their 265 years of their existence, the Oratorians were renowned for their pastoral outreach and, as evidenced by their library, for their learning.

To mark the anniversary, two large information boards about the Oratorians and their history were placed near the exit so that these could be viewed by people on their way out. These were prepared by three ITS students who are currently having their placement in St Philip's as part of their course.


Care of the Earth

The 22nd April also happened to be Earth Day, an international event set up by the United Nations to raise awareness of the care of our environment. The Mass was an excellent occasion to involve the young members of Clean and Green, a group started by the young themselves to promote the environment. During the offertory, two of the youngsters presented a beautiful green plant which was placed atop a pedestal under the commemorative plaque of the Church's consecration.

Senglea Youth Involvement

Youth leaders, Martina and Amy took an active part in the liturgy; they read the bidding prayers and after communion shared a beautiful reflection about the connections between St Philip and Don Bosco and how they shared the same zeal for the welfare of young people.

The Salesians of St John Bosco were asked in 2008 to take over the administration of St Philip's Church to continue the pastoral outreach initiated by the Oratorians. Their founder St John Bosco, inspired also by the example of St Philip Neri, worked with young people in a spirit of joy and optimism. "Run, jump, make as much noise as you want, but do not commit sin", is a maxim that Don Bosco adopted wholeheartedly from Philip Neri.

Salesian Creative Fidelity

Ever since taking over, the Salesian Community - following in the footsteps of their founder - has been ever creative in taking on new initiatives in reaching out to the young. The Senglea Salesian Oratory is now very active, reaching out to local youth and beyond with the collaboration of a youth group set up for the purpose (YES) and young Salesians in Formation. Through their regular weekly meetings - now on Zoom because of health measures - they remain in contact with the young, helping them to grow in Christian values and civic responsibility. 

On their part, the Salesians take seriously their responsibility as custodians of the cultural heritage of St Philip's Church. It is for this reason that they have been in a process of listening to experts in the field and initiating several projects to ensure the conservation, as well as the promotion of the rich cultural heritage of the Oratorians. One such project is that of the conservation of their renowned library which a group of trained volunteers regularly attend to.

A Future that Beckons

The religious community that breathes life in this beautiful church, a distinctive feature of Senglea's skyline, has always been an integral part of the local social fabric. Over the centuries, it has contributed to the spiritual and cultural milieu of the area as well as  of the wider Maltese community.

It was therefore befitting to mark the 240th anniversary of its Consecration in a special way to raise awareness of this rich national cultural patrimony. It is consoling to know that, despite the many challenges and dangers it has faced over the centuries, St Philip's still remains home to an active religious community that keeps alive the original inspiration of the Oratorians. The Salesians of Don Bosco look to the future with faith and optimism as they continue the mission entrusted to them to reach out and welcome people, especially the young with a truly oratorian heart.

Richard Ebejer SDB can be contacted on [email protected]

For more information on the Salesians of Don Bosco go to website 


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