History of the ASC

History of the Salesian Cooperators
The words of Pope Paul VI (November 3,
1976, Centenary Congress.)
We address to you the words which St.
Paul wrote to the Collosians:
“ These are the ones actually
working with me for the Kingdom of
God, and they have been a great
comfort to me.”
It is usually said: “Don Bosco
founded the Cooperators in 1876.
No. In 1876 he obtained official
recognition for the new juridical
status of the Cooperators and
published the regulations to make
it autonomous.
For Don Bosco the
Cooperators of 1876 were
in unbroken succession
the brothers and sisters of
those in 1850.
Where did the Cooperators come
from? Who ever recognized or
approved them?
Archbishop Gastaldi of Turin asked.
He made difficulties for Don Bosco
over the Cooperators and refused to
permit him to organize new groups
of them.
In Defense, Don Bosco was
able to reply. “ Excuse me
your Excellency. They have
existed for thirty-five years,
and for twenty-five years they
have been recognized by
virtue of decrees issued in
1850 and 1852.”
Reading a seven page document, he read
the document to Archbishop Gastaldi. “
When the Holy See benevolently deigned
to concede even more ample favors to
the Salesian Cooperators (with its Brief of
May 9, 1876) it referred to a “ Pious
Union of Christian s canonically instituted,
whose members propose principally to
take care of poor and abandoned youth..
A work which in turn had been formally
approved in 1852. While some of the
Promoters join together in common life in 1852
(SDBs)., others continued to live at home with
lay status but retain their group membership
( Extern Salesians).
Those whole live in common life
Extern Salesians
Therefore , the Salesian family does not consist of separate
individual groups born separately and later united to form a
whole; rather it grew in the manner of a single vital organism,
developing biologically by division from a single primitive cell.
The history of the Cooperators goes back
to 1841 when I began to gather together
poor and abandoned boys in the city of
Turin (BM XI, 73).
Now he used the same words when
writing the Salesian Society, “It was
initiated in 1841” (constitution First Draft
1858 ) For Don Bosco the beginnings of
our Salesian work and the beginning of
the Cooperators were contemporaneous.
The first Salesian Cooperators (ACS)
Secular Priests: Joseph Cafasso
Lawrence Gastaldi
Peter Merla
Ignatius , Joseph Vola
Francis Marengo
John Baptist Borel
Louis Nasi
The lay helpers:
Count Cays of Giletta (later became SDB)
Marquis Fasatti
Marchioness Fasatti
Count Callori of Vignale
Count Scarampi of Pruney
Joseph Gagliardi
Mama Margaret
The Congregation of St. Francis de Sales, which was
recognized by the Holy See included the externs.
This was also diocesan since its members were all
from Turin. From these group, which later was called
the Congregation of Salesian Promoters and
Cooperators, were joined by the day students and
the boarders.
The best of these would , in 1859 become the first
members of the Pious Salesian society. (page 77.
Renewal of our Salesian life by Father Joseph
Aubrey, SDB.).
Presence of the salesian Cooperators in
the Draft of Salesian Constitutions.
Don Bosco sent all the documents to
Rome to obtain papal approval on
February 11, 1864. The following is the
text of the famous Chapter XVI entititled
“ External Members.”
1. Anyone can belong to
our society, even while
living at home with the
2. No vows are made, but everyone
undertakes to put into practice that
part of the present regulations which
is compatible with one’s age, state
and condition, whether this would
involve teaching catechism to poor
boys, promoting the diffusion of
good books, or working to put on
triduums, novenas.
3. In order to share in the spiritual
benefits of the society, the external
member must at least make a
promise to the Rector to make use
of whatever means and resources
are available for advance of works
for the greater glory of God.
4. Such a promise made of the
society who leaves it for
whatever reason is considered an
external member and still shares in
the spiritual benefits of the entire
society, provided that he practices
that part of the regulations
prescribed for external members
(MB VII, 885).
The Sacred Congregation for
Bishops and Regulars issued a
Decree of Commendation
recognizing the existence of the
new society on June 23, 1864.
Formal approval of the rules was
Chapter XV1 was disapproved
by the Sacred Congregation.
“It is not possible to approve
the inscription by affiliation of
the persons outside the Pius
Instiutute. Religious and lay
people amalgamated together
in the same institute. It could
never be. It was dangerous.”
“ A way of life for secular members
which could somehow resemble the life
of a religious congregation.” A kind of
third order. So on May 9, 1876, Don
Bosco obtained from Pope Pius IX the
approval of the Union of Salesian
1877 - The first number of Bibliofilo
Salesiano now Salesian Bulletin
appeared as monthly periodical to
unite the spirit of those who have
assisted his works. He also conducted
eighty conferences, twenty eight of
these were done in France. These
family reunions are very vital to the
expansion of his works.
In 1888, after the death of Don
Bosco, the Salesian Society grew
tenfold because of the Salesian
In Italy Father Rua succeeded by using
the following method: Whenever a
sufficiently important group of
Cooperators became established in a
diocese, he would ask the bishop to
appoint a diocesan director . The
director would recommend the decurioni
(group leaders) to the rector major.( Don
Bosco and the Salesians, page 77)
In April 1895, about 2,000
participated in the Bologna
Congress. For three days the
work of Don Bosco in the
field of education, social
action, the press, the mission
was eulogized.
Don Rua also initiated the
Manual of Theory and Practice
printed in Turin 1893 - now
revised, on how Cooperators can
help the Salesians in their work.
And he stressed that every
Cooperator ought to be a
The rector majors that
followed Blessed Michael
Rua had always been faithful
in following Don Bosco’s
footsteps. . Don Bosco
appealed before he died to
support his sons even after
his death.
In 1962 for example there
were already one thousand
centers under the Rector
Major Ricaldone. He also took
seriously the promotion of the
“Volunteers o f Don Bosco”,
formerly called Oblates,
started by Blessed Rinaldi
Don Bosco’s mother, Mama Margaret is
the First Salesian Cooperator. Her
teachings we know became the pillars of
the Salesian Charism.
Some Exemplary Salesian Cooperators:
 Dorothy Chopitea
 Charles d’Espiney (1891)
 Rev. Father Felix Reviglio (St. Augustine Parish,
 Leon Rolland (Toulon 1900)
 Father Bauer (Madrid)
 Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa (Portugal)
Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa
What is singular in Don Bosco’s case is that
his mother was not only present with him at
the actual foundation on his work but
remained there as primary and principal
cooperator and helper, thus taking a direct
and immediate part in the moulding the
charism of this particular foundation.
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