RMG - Salesians: 159 years since its foundation by St. John Bosco

18 December 2018

(ANS - Rome) - In 1854, speaking to the group of young people with whom he founded a religious congregation, Don Bosco said: "Our Lady wants us to found a Society. I have decided that we will call ourselves Salesians. Let's put ourselves under the protection of St. Francis de Sales." Several years later, in 1859, Don Bosco founded the Salesian Congregation, which today is 159 years old.

The Salesian Congregation was born in Turin, December 18, 1859, with 17 members in addition to the founder, Giovanni Bosco, and with the name of "Pious Society of St. Francis of Sales."

Since that distant 1859, the Salesian Congregation has not ceased to grow and expand in and across the five continents, with a clear educational charisma towards the most disadvantaged minors and young people and an evangelizing missionary spirit without geographical limits.

Don Bosco had made several attempts to found a society to ensure the continuity of his work of the Oratory, which grew from day to day. And although none of his attempts had ever materialized, he never gave up his idea; so that fateful December 18, 1859, a Sunday, around 9 am, he finally succeeded in founding what would become the Salesian Congregation.

His famous dream as a 9-year-old marked the life of little Giovanni Bosco. In the Turin seminar, Don Bosco began to gather a group of abandoned young people in the city, in what he called a festive oratory. The first boy was called Bartolomeo Garelli.

Don Bosco, who worked and wrote a lot, but did not sleep much, also taught in an evening school for young workers and, since the oratory was always full, he opened two other centers in as many districts of Turin. He then began to offer lodgings for abandoned children and in a short time there were already 40 boys, most of whom were apprentices, who lived with Don Bosco and his mother, Mamma Margherita, in Valdocco.

The founder of the Salesians soon realized that all the good he was doing for his boys risked getting lost because of the bad influences of the outside world; and so he decided to build his own apprenticeship workshops.

Over time, his work, the Salesian Congregation, grew and expanded, and at great speed: in 1863 there were 39 Salesians and at the time of Don Bosco's death in 1988, there were already 768.

Today the Salesian Congregation is present in 136 countries on all five continents and is the second largest male institution - the maximum size was reached in 1967, with 22,810 members.

The Salesians, brothers and priests, are 14,659, who are active in 1,873 presences, with 424 novices and 134 bishops.

At 159 years from their foundation, the Salesians are as current and relevant as they were two centuries ago, and with one goal: to save the young, the poorest and the most disadvantaged.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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