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Founded in Turin (Italy) on 18 December 1859, the Salesian Society now numbers almost 16,000 members who work for young people in 130 countries.

The Salesian Society was a big step on Don Bosco's way to realising his boyhood dream. He saw himself called to be a priest who would bring the Gospel and the teaching of the Church to life, particularly for the young worker. He spent his energy educating them and bringing them to Christ. Youngsters like Dominic Savio, Michael Magone, Francis Besucco reached the heights of holiness. A host of boys who shared Don Bosco's early experiences in Valdocco eventually decided to 'stay with Don Bosco' and give continuity to his work.

If you take my advice, Urban Ratazzi told Don Bosco in 1857, choose some layfolk and clerics  whom you trust, unite them within an organised society, fill them with your spirit, and train them in your system, so that they may become not only your helpers but also the ones who will continue your work after your departure.

Set up your society, Pius IX advised Don Bosco in 1858, in such a way that the government cannot interfere with it. .. I think we now need a new type of religious congregation find a way to make each member a religious in the eyes of the Church but a free citizen in the eyes of the world.

Don Bosco went through several drafts before he finally got his "Constitutions" approved by Rome in 1874.


Don Bosco's work spread beyond Turin and Piedmont to the rest of Italy, with a concentration on boarding schools. Before his death in 1888, Salesians had started work in France in 1875, Spain in 1881, England in 1887.


The apostolate of the press blossomed too. Don Bosco's own writing began when he was 29, with a biography of his companion Louis Comollo, in 1844. For more than 40 years, he wrote a great many books, all aimed at his apostolic and educational ideal. He even started his own press and printing school. It took about seven years for his vast number of publications to be examined in his cause for canonisation!  

In 1877 he founded "The Salesian Bulletin". Today it is published in 52 different editions throughout the world, in a total of 30 languages.

Salesian Family

The Salesian Family developed further:

- the Past Pupils Association owe their origin to their 1870 celebration to mark Don Bosco's feastday. It is now a world-wide Confederation.

- the Salesian Sisters (Daughters of Mary Help of Christians) eventually developed through the efforts of Mary Mazzarello  and her companions, and Don Bosco in 1872.

- the Salesian Cooperators , a kind of third order, except for its emphasis on the active life devoted in particular to helping the homeless young rather than on exercise of piety, had its Regulations approved in 1876.

- by the year 2010, the Salesian Family had grown to include 27 groups that were officially recognised as belonging to the Salesian Family of Don Bosco. More than another 20 groups await such recognition.

The Missions

The Missions were never out of Don Bosco's mind and dreams. While not able to go himself, Don Bosco sent the first group of Salesian missionaries to South America in November 1875. The group of ten was led by John Cagliero, the first Salesian to be made a bishop and a cardinal, and Joseph Fagnano, the great apostle of the land of Magellan.

During his lifetime Don Bosco sent off eleven such missionary expeditions to South America. By 1888 there were almost 150 Salesians and nearly 50 Salesian Sisters working in South America.

On 27 September 2009, the Rector Major of the Salesians Fr Pascual Chávez presented to Salesians, Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and some lay people who made up the 140th missionary expedition in the history of the Salesian Family their missionary mandate. During past 12 months almost 100 confreres answered to the appeal of the Rector Major. There are some 70 more doing their missionary vocation discernment journey in view of future expeditions.

Members of the Salesian Family sent by the Rector Major (2009)
Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (6 FMA)
Daughters of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (1 HHSC)
Lay missionary volunteers (16 – Italy, Poland, Czech republic, Spain, Slovakia) – representing some 250 young people of different European missionary volunteer groups who offer at least 12 months of their life commitment for the Salesian missions.

PRIORITY NEEDS OF THE SALESIAN MISSIONS 2010 (Updated by Rector Major, 29 July 2009)
Listed by Province-country; 
Necessary language; 
Characteristics – environment and necessary personal qualities


Middle East MOR- Turkey (n.1) Arabic countries (n.2) 
Turkish, Arabic. Arab – Muslim environment, multi-religious, great need to rejuventate the Province; witness of life – need of robust vocations

FRA Marocco French, Arabic. – Muslim environment, educative works (vocational school, secondary school), life witness, impossible explicit evangelisation

IRL Tunisia French, Arabic – Muslim environment, educative works (vocational school, secondary school), life witness, impossible explicit evangelisation

MDG Madagascar French, Malgasy – First evangelisation – Bemaneviky, few SDB

ATE - Chad, Guinea Equatoriale... French Few SDB – multi-religious and islamic environment

AFE Sudan English, Arabic, Tribal languages – dinga  Few SDB in the Delegation, South-animist, first evangelisation, North – Muslim environment (re-building after the war)

AGL Uganda English – Few confreres, need of vocational ministry


INC Bangladesh English, Bengali – Muslim country, foundation in 2009 (Francis Alencherry) - Utrail

CIN China  Chinese, English  – Need to help to rejuvenate the province (Macau, HK, Taiwan) with young confreres; need of lay brothers, robust vocations-motivations

FIS Pakistan English, Urdu – Few SDB, challenging Muslim environment, education ministry, technical and professional school, need of lay brothers

VIE Mongolia English, Mongolian – Few confreres, first evangelisation – founding the Church community, vocational training center staff, challenging  cold climate

PNG&SI Delegation English, Pidgin English – Islands of the Pacific, after 30 years few local vocations, technical school and vocation-formation ministry

THA Laos English, Laotian – Vocation training centre started in 2004, run by the past pupils, need of lay brothers in the beginning, communist regime

SLK Azerbaijan Russia or English, Azeri  – Just 400 Catholics, moderate Islam; request to internationalise the communities: Non-Slovak confreres


BMA – Amazon region Portuguese, Indigenous languages – Missions among different ethnic groups

BRE – North East Portuguese – Need of personnel (requested to the RM in 2009

ARS - Patagonia Spanish – First Salesian missions, few pastors, rural missions among indigenous groups (Mapuche and others)

PAR Vicariate Chaco Spanish - Guarani Vicariate of Chaco, only few aged SDB, need to strengthen the missions

PER Vicariate Pucallpa etc Spanish, Indigenous languages Amazon Region – Vicariate with few SDB; Ashuar; Missions among the “Kichua” people, Valle Sagrado- (Cuzco)

VEN Vicariate Amazonia Spanish Indigeneous languages Amazon region – Vicariate entrusted to the SDB, few confreres, Yanomami and other ethnic groups – Alto Orinoco

ECU Vicariate Mendez Spanish Indigenous languages Amazon region – missions: few young confreres, Ashuar-Shuar; Andes zone mission with the Kichua speaking groups

CAM - Guatemala Vicariate El Peten  Spanish Indigenous languages Indigenous groups ministry, the only Salesian is a bishop


Project Europe (CG26) official requests

GBR Great Britain English Migrants ministry, parishes, schools; spirituality centre,  european and african confreres needed for multicultural environment

BEN – Holand, Belgium Flemish - Dutch Amsterdam – Rijswik : youth centre, migrants, international community

AUS - Austria German – Youth centre – Oratory, Parish, Work for migrants, Youth movement

IRL – Ireland English – Youth center, Campus ministry, School - Parish

FRB – South Belgium French – Youth centre, Spirituality centre, School (Bruxelles, Farnier)

CEP Bulgaria Bulgarian, Romani languages – Missionaries among the Gypsies, Catholic diaspora in Orthodox place, need to internationalise the Czech communities

On the regional level there are other needs of the missions
- South Asia (Central–North India: Delhi Province appeal: INN – area of 500 M inhabitants with very few Catholics)
- Africa (Regional solidarity towards the weaker Vice-provinces: AFM, MOZ, ZMB)
- America (Aparecida 2007 - continental mission – invitation for mutual help, migrant ministry).

Down the years

Michael Rua, chosen by Don Bosco as his vicar with the right to succeed him, became Rector Major of the Salesians at Don Bosco's death in 1888, and led the Society until his death in 1910. In that period of 21 years,  he made of Don Bosco's spirit a school of spirituality.

When Don Bosco died, there were 1,049 Salesians. That number had grown to 4,372 by the time Don Rua died in 1910. The number of houses had also grown from 57 (1888) to 345 (1910).


Rector Major




Don Bosco +




Don Rua +




Don Albera +




Don Rinaldi +




Don Ricaldoni +




Don Ziggiotti




Don Ricceri




Don Vigano' +




Don Vecchi +




Don Chavez

15,952 *


+ Died in office                        * Figure as of 31 Dec. 2009


Gift for education

The Society Don Bosco established, and which is especially devoted to the education of youth, has its own invaluable pedagogy, that grew from family life and is based on the so-called 'Preventive System'.   Marking the Centenary of the Death of Don Bosco, Pope John Paul II wrote in his Letter, A Master in Education, "one may say that the peculiar trait of his brilliance is linked with the educational method which he himself called the "preventive system". In a certain sense this represents the heart of his wisdom as an educator and constitutes the prophetic message which he has left to his followers and to the Church, and which has received attention and recognition from numerous educators and students of pedagogy." (Iuvenum Patris  8)