The Salesian Cooperators association, which came into being in 1876, just two years after the approval of the Constitutions of the Salesian Society, is the last group that Don Bosco founded. As with ADMA he did not ask the Holy See for formal, canonical approval of the association; he considered it sufficient for the aims of the Salesian Cooperators Association to gain moral recognition through the granting of indulgences by the Pope and favourable recommendation by some bishops.
First of all we publish the text of the Christian Union, which Don Bosco had printed at the beginning of 1874, before the Salesian Society was approved on 3 April (no. 49). Then comes a second text under the new title of Association for Good Works, printed in 1875, further developed than the earlier one and especially in that it had a new paragraph presenting the Salesian Society (no. 50). It seems we can attribute variations to Don Bosco’s hand. In 1876 at Albenga first, then Sampierdarena-Turin came the printed version of Salesian Cooperators, or a practical way of helping good morals and civil society (no. 51). In the same year at Genoa-Sampierdarena (OE XXVIII, 365-374), in Nice, Buenos Aires extended editions appeared with some modifications as well as a range of complementary texts: an introduction by Don Bosco on July 12, 1876, a petition to Pius IX on March 4, 1876, Pius IX’s Brief on May 9, 1876 and a list of indulgences. “The pious association of Cooperators” effectively gained official approval from the Archbishop of Genoa, Salvatore Magnasco only on December 15, 1877, and for that archdiocese, following a further edition that year to which the archbishop of Turin reacted vehemently.
To these three texts of regulations we add here two circulars to the Salesian Cooperators which appeared in the Salesian Bulletin: one in January 1879 (no. 52) and another in January 1888 (no. 53). Don Bosco used these to inform them in a very familiar way of works that had been put in place the previous year and of what he was thinking of opening in the current year, thanks to their spiritual and financial help. He did not hide any problems or failures from them and
encouraged them to continue with their generosity.
The brief set of regulations published here and the two simple circulars offered as a “side dish” don’t give us a complete picture of the identity, activity and value of the Salesian Cooperator. Conferences, speeches and events, especially in the final decade of Don Bosco’s life, have enriched the figure of the Cooperator, and this can be found in the third section of this volume. But a complete and exhaustive history of the Salesian Cooperators Association, which of course has a fairly complex pre-history, still waits to be written. For now one can go to partial studies and research, other than the appropriate pages, obviously, of the already quoted studies of Don Bosco.
Reference time period: 1874 – 1888
Salesian Historical Institute, Salesian Sources 1: Don Bosco and his work. Collected Works, LAS – Kristu Jyoti, Rome – Bangalore, 2017, 184-214.
Istituto Storico Salesiano