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Salesian Family

by Elias Diaz sdb

When Don Bosco was just a mere lad he was shown in a prophetic dream what his life’s mission would be. A ‘beautiful woman bedecked with stars’ put her hand on his shoulder and stretching out the other said, “Look, this is your field of work”. It was a huge ‘field of work’ and right from the beginning Don Bosco understood that it was not a task he would be able to fulfill alone – the task of turning street urchins into good citizens.

Don Bosco was ordained a priest on June 5, 1841, and in the same year on December 8, he began his work. As years rolled by, thousands of boys flocked to him. To take care of them he looked for helpers and collaborators. He gathered all types of people: rich and poor, young and old, married and unmarried, interns and externs. He called them Salesians. In 1859, he founded the Salesian Congregation to look after these poor boys. In 1874, the Constitution of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians was approved and they worked for the girls under the leadership of Mary Domenica Mazarello. In 1876, he set up a pious union of Salesian Co-operators, a lay association to collaborate with him in his mission. Thus we see in the life of Don Bosco that he gathered religious men, women and lay people to fulfill his mission.

Today Salesian Family refers to an assembly of groups, institutes and association that share Don Boscos charism, spirituality and mission towards the young. These units were either founded directly by Don Bosco or developed after his death by his followers. These groups strive to better the social world like Don Bosco who was concerned with the temporal and spiritual salvation of the youth and the working classes. These groups are means to fulfill the mission of Don Bosco. Today there are 27 groups the world over under the umbrella of the Salesian Family.

The Salesians came to Mumbai in 1928 under the leadership of Fr. Joseph Hauber. On January 31, 1972 Mumbai was officially erected as a Province after the separation of Konkan Province. Mumbai province comprises of states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. There are 6 branches of Salesian Family working in the province of Mumbai. There are 205 Salesians of Don Bosco working in 26 Presences. 201 Daughters of Mary Help of Christians working in 32 houses. 7 SMI Sisters working in 2 Presences. The association of the Salesian Cooperators that started in 1974 have 16 centers and 154 active members. The Provincial Federation of the Past Pupils of Don Bosco which was established in 1968 under the leadership of Fr. Alfred Mariotta has 1636 life members in 9 centers. The Past Pupils of Daughters of Mary Help of Christians are enthusiastic about their membership in the Salesian Family. There are 2 Volunteers of Don Bosco who are under formation. 3 brothers ‘The Disciples’ founded by Fr. Joe D’souza working in our institute in Gujarat.

In the past we worked separately for the Cooperators and the past pupils except on the occasion of the Salesian Family day. On this day we have Holy Eucharist, variety entertainment and fellowship dinner in common.

The Co-operators have their AGM, pilgrimage at Mount Mary, Bandra in the month of September, annual retreat, outreach programs to any destitute home and Lenten recollection in the month of April. During summer vacation sometimes picnics are organized. This April they attended the South Asian Congress of the Salesian Co-operators in Chennai.

The Provincial Federation of the Past Pupils of Don Bosco had an animation programme at a provincial level. They had their AGM during which elections were held. A leadership seminar organized by them at Kurla and ‘A day with God’ held at Andheri on March 22, 2009. In the month of December, 2008 the past pupils attended 9th Asia-Australia Congress held in Philippines.

Today the Salesian Family is considered a vast movement that works with Don Bosco in his mission. It must grow numerically and spiritually. It must grow numerically because of the vast field of apostolate in need of collaborators. It must grow spiritually because Don Bosco has started his family for the salvation of souls. No one can give unless one has it. The members of the family should have spiritual life in order to spiritualize the world. Therefore, the spiritual programs and animation programs are very necessary in the Salesian Family. We must make an effort to grow – to revive the dormant units and start new units in all our institutions. Each branch of the Salesian Family has a responsibility to help the others to increase and grow. We have to increase the number of the Cooperators, past pupils, volunteers of Don Bosco and start a new branch of Salesian Family ADMA- devout clients for Mary Help of Christians. It is a branch which Don Bosco himself started at the completion of his Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin in 1868. We have ample opportunities and facilities to launch this project in our province. What we need is a bit of good will and enthusiasm in the movement.

The Salesian Family is a vibrant reality. To keep it alive we the Salesian Family has to change our mentality. We need to shift our emphasis for excessive autonomy to synergy of a vast movement of persons. We need to underline not the autonomy of the individual groups but the synergy of the whole family. We have to stress on the culture of communion rather than individualism. This change of mentality must start with Salesians.