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Salesians

SALESIANS

(SDB, Official Catholic Directory #1190); the Society of St. francis de sales (Societas Sancti Francisci Salesii), popularly known as the Salesians, or Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), is a religious congregation devoted to the Christian education of youth. It was founded in 1859 by (St.) John bosco; its members include priests, clerics, and lay members called coadjutors. Since Vatican II a secular institute of consecrated women, the Volunteers of Don Bosco has been formally approved. Salesian youth work is developed in oratories (recreational and cultural organizations concentrating their activities at an oratory or chapel), in technical high schools, schools of arts and trades, preparatory schools, grade schools, parishes, and foreign missions; and by the spread of good books through graphic-arts schools and editorial guilds.

Origins. Don Bosco was 26 years old when in 1841 he began his great work by befriending and instructing an orphaned child-laborer in the church of St. Francis of Assisi in Turin, Italy. Five years later he located his first oratory in a shed in the Valdocco section of Turin where the motherhouse now stands. As his boys increased in number, Don Bosco decided to prepare the best among them to assist him and to continue his work. In 1859, with 17 members, he founded the Salesian Society, which received the decretum laudis of Pius IX on July 23, 1864, and papal approbation on March 1, 1868. The constitutions were approved on April 3, 1874. Official recognition stimulated expansion outside Italy, to France, Latin America, and Spain. In 1875 the first missionaries left for Argentina, led by the Reverend Giovanni Cagliero, who later became the first Salesian bishop and cardinal. At the death of the founder (Jan. 31, 1888) there were 1,039 Salesians in 57 foundations in Italy, Spain, France, England, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. Don Bosco was beatified in 1929 and canonized on April 1, 1939.

Growth. The society continued to develop rapidly under Don Bosco's successors: Michael Rua (18881910), Paul Albera (d. 1921), Philip Rinaldi (d.1931), Peter Ricaldone (d. 1951), and Renato Ziggiotti (d. 1983). This development has not ceased in the post-conciliar period, under the leadership of Luigi Ricceri (d.1989), Egidio Viganò (d. 1995) and Juan Vecchi. In 2001 there were more than 18,000 Salesians in 1,800 houses spread through 116 countries.

Don Bosco also founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (1872), popularly known as salesian sisters. This institute has the same end and applies the same educational methods in the apostolate for girls, as does its male counterpart in the education of boys. Its cofounder was Mother Maria Domenica mazzarello (183781), canonized by Pius XII in 1951. Don Bosco's third Salesian family, the Cooperators, is similar to the older third orders, with the difference that, whereas these latter seek Christian perfection principally through practices of piety and penance, the Salesian Cooperators seek it through the exercise of charity toward needy youth, according to the spirit of their founder. They are canonically associated in a pious union approved by Pius IX on May 9, 1876. The secular institute of consecrated women, the Volunteers of Don Bosco, was granted diocesan recognition in 1971, and is of pontifical rite since 1978. The Salesian Bulletin, published in 32 editions, is the official organ of the Cooperators. In 1909 the Salesian alumni movement, which goes back to the time of Don Bosco, was organized and later formed national federations and a worldwide confederation, with hundreds of thousands of members.

Activities. Following Don Bosco's norms, Salesian education is based upon reason, religion, and love. Its method is to evaluate and employ all that is humanly useful in character formationstudy, work, associative organization, and sports. At the heart of the system is Don Bosco's notion of "the preventive system." Young people are to be accompanied and guided in growth, rather than educated in any repressive way. The earlier Salesian mission fields in Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Venezuela, India, China, Thailand, and the Congo have exploded in the postconciliar period. Following the society's first postconciliar general chapter in 1978, the then rector major, Viganò, launched "project Africa." This new missionary outreach reached further, especially into Asia and the Pacific. There are Salesians in Angola, Benin, Cambodia, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Fiji, Gabon, Ghana, Japan, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, East Timor, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia.

Like most religious congregations, the Salesians undertook a large-scale renewal of their self-identity and mission in the postconciliar period. Four general chapters (1978, 1984, 1990, 1996) attended to the renewal of the constitutions and the Salesian way of life (1978 [provisional constitutions], 1984 [definitive constitutions]) and the Salesian apostolate among the young (1990 [educating contemporary young people to the faith], 1996 [the association of the lay people with the Salesian mission]). In the chapter of 2002, the issue of the administrative structure and coordination of this vast society was scrutinized. All postconciliar leaders of the Salesians have increasingly drawn the Salesians into the question of the radical change of culture that highlights the present era.

Following the lead of Don Bosco, who in 1853 began the publication of the monthly Catholic Readings, the Salesians continue a worldwide involvement in publications and mass media. Works edited by Salesian publishing guilds are literary, scientific, technical, fictional, and religious. Of particular distinction are the International Publishing Society (the Societè Editrice Internazionale, or the SEI) of Turin, Madrid, and Buenos Aires, and the guilds of Tokyo and São Paulo, Brazil. A significant international contribution is made to catechetics and religious education (a major concern of the Salesians, and their university in Rome) by the publishing house LDC (Elle di Ci) in Turin. Many rich Salesian resources can also be found on the Internet, where Salesians all over the world participate in the increasingly important cyber technology.

Notable members of the society include (St.) Dominic savio, a pupil of Don Bosco's oratory, Bishop Aloisius Versiglia and Father Callisto Caravario, martyred in China in 1948 and canonized in 2000, and 99 Spanish martyrs beatified in 2001. The society also boasts of a tradition of scholarship, exemplified by G. B. Lemoyne, A. Caviglia, E. Ceria, Jules Cambier, Francis Desramaut, and a number of contemporary Salesians who direct Salesian universities in many parts of the world, and who play leading roles on the faculty of other international Catholic universities. Other significant figures have been the explorer A. M. De Agostini, the musician G. Pagella, and theologians L. Piscetta and A. Gennaro. Closely associated with the name of Father Gennaro is the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome, Italy, an ecclesiastical university with schools of theology, philosophy, education, and canon law. The Salesians have also given to the Church numerous cardinals, bishops, and archbishops.

In 2001 Salesians served in 116 countries and were divided into 71 provinces. In the United States they began work in San Francisco, California, in 1897 at the request of Archbishop Patrick Riordan and ministered to the Italian immigrants of the parishes of SS. Peter and Paul, and Corpus Christi. In 1898 the Italian immigrants of New York came under the society's care when Archbishop Michael Corrigan of New York entrusted to them the parish of St. Bridget. After 1940 the work of Don Bosco spread more rapidly into many other states. By 2001 there were 41 Salesian houses in the United States, divided into two provinces, with more than 400 confrere.

Bibliography: st. john bosco, Memoirs of the Oratory: The Autobiography of Saint John Bosco (Paramus, N.J. 1988). m. wirth, Don Bosco and the Salesians (Paramus, N.J. 1982). p. braido, Don Bosco Educatore. Scrittie testimonianze (3d. ed. Rome 1996).

[w. kelley/

f. j. moloney]

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