Becoming a Salesian
FORMATION OF THE SALESIANS OF DON BOSCO
IS GOD CALLING YOU TO BE A SALESIAN?
In 1859 Don Bosco founded the Salesian Society in Turin (Italy). This Society was to be made up of Salesian brothers and Salesian priests, all of whom, walking in the Founder’s footsteps, would dedicate their lives to God in the service of the young, especially the poorest among them.
Today about 14,000 Salesians (both brothers and priests) carry on the mission of Don Bosco in over 130 countries around the world. But, there still persists an immensity of needy young people everywhere.
Should you, therefore, as a boy or young man feel inspired to join hands with Don Bosco and offer yourself to God in the service of poor youth as a Salesian brother or a Salesian priest, here is some information you may find useful.
THE SALESIAN BROTHER
The Salesian Brother is a consecrated lay religious, who works in a secular field and by his consecrated life proclaims and bears witness to a convinced life of faith with total dedication to God by being an educator and pastor of the young. He lives in a Salesian community and strives to be a sign of God's love for the young, especially the poorest young by living a radically evangelical style of life lived in prayer. An "authentic manner of living together" for an "authentic proclamation".
THE SALESIAN PRIEST
The Salesian priest is different from a diocesan priest in that he is first and foremost a person consecrated by God in his religious profession, and as such, therefore, is “a living memorial of Jesus’ way of living and acting” through the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity. He lives, prays and works in community together with his Salesian confreres. He is committed to the mission to young people, especially the poor and abandoned, as he works for their total salvation after the example of Don Bosco. To this mission he brings his specific contribution: acting in the name of Christ the Shepherd, he carries out the ministry of the Word, of sanctification and of pastoral care.
THE SALESIAN FORMATION PROCESS
Bear in mind that formation is our collaboration with God who calls each of us by name and forms us. Remember how Jesus called His apostles and formed them and then sent them out into the world.
What is the goal of individual formation? Formation aims at forming Christ in each of us who is called, or better still, making us ever more like Jesus Christ who is the centre of consecrated life. Each of us is called to become a good shepherd of the young, like Jesus, just as Don Bosco was.
The Aspirantate serves as the seed bed of Salesian vocations for young men in college and young professionals. During this phase, the candidates lives in a formation community and discerns the option to be a Salesian priest or brother. The programme consists of prayer, an apostolate (pastoral work), and college studies or pastoral experience as needed. The aspirantate then acts as an immersion into the Salesian community life.
The first stage of Salesian formation is the Prenovitiate. It is the phase of formation in which each one, as a candidate for Salesian life, deepens his vocational choice, maturing especially in its human and Christian aspects so as to be ready to begin the Novitiate. As part of that deeper understanding of this vocational choice, therefore, one will try to know oneself better and in doing so will learn what Salesian consecrated life is; one will try to acquire the attitudes that are needed to live it (simplicity of life, freedom from compromises in the area of affectivity, fidelity to commitments ...); one will develop a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, and establish a solid basis for one’s Christian life.
In this phase of formation one will also study the two forms of Salesian consecrated life – that of the Salesian brother and the Salesian priest - trying to reach not just a theoretical understanding but also a practical knowledge derived from one’s contact with both of them.
This one year marks the beginning of one’s experience of Salesian religious life in the following of Jesus. As a novice one begins to live and interiorize the values of Salesian consecrated life. It is during this year that the novice master will help the novice to go through a discernment process and arrive at a decision on his personal call to be a Salesian brother or a Salesian priest. The year of novitiate ends with one’s consecration in one’s Salesian religious profession.
Post-novices, who opt for the Priesthood, complete their studies in Philosophy while they continue living fraternal life in community, and are assigned apostolic work. Those who opt to be a Salesian Brother have a specific formative programme. One deepens one’s experience of consecrated life and of the spirit of Don Bosco. He will in the process, receive an adequate philosophical, pedagogical and catechetical preparation.
There are variations in the structure of this phase in different provinces. Some have two years of Postnovitiate, others three. Some do only philosophy, pedagogy and Salesian studies. Others include university studies. Some end with an ecclesiastical or civil degree, or even both – and some with none.
The phase of Practical training comes next. This lasts two years and is a time of a vital and intense challenge of Salesian activity in an educative and pastoral experience. The period of practical training will help one to mature in his Salesian vocation and to verify his readiness for perpetual profession.
If one is a brother, one will probably be fully inserted during practical training in the profession in which one is qualified so that he can have a direct experience of his specific vocation.
PREPARATION FOR PERPETUAL PROFESSION
At the end of the practical training - and in some cases, during the second year of specific formation which follows - Preparation for perpetual profession takes place.
This preparation begins one year before the actual profession. Its emphasis is on evaluating the lived experience of Salesian life, on a discernment process to help one arrive at a final decision, while strengthening one’s motives for embracing the Salesian vocation. Many provinces have special programmes spread throughout the year. Obviously this phase concludes with one’s perpetual profession.
If one is a brother, he will begin his specific formation for two years in an inter-provincial community where he will complete his basic Salesian religious formation with the help of a particular programme, probably at a nearby study centre.
If one is a candidate for priesthood, one proceeds to his specific formation for a period of four years in a provincial or inter-provincial formation community, and attends a centre of theological studies. Your specific formation concludes with one’s priestly ordination.
However, one will never really complete one’s formation, either as a Salesian brother or priest. One will see the need to continue one’s growth throughout life. The vocation to follow Christ more closely will demand continuous formation, and the new challenges one meets in life and work will require constant updating and new skills. And so, ongoing formation will become a permanent feature of one’s life, rooted in the demands of the Salesian life and vocation.
KINDLY CONTACT THE RECTOR OF THE DON BOSCO INSTITUTION / VOCATION PROMOTER.