In the years from 1853 to 1862, Valdocco was transformed from a festive Oratory—an open institution—into a complex work: hospice and boarding, college with boarding section, trade workshops, internal classes and publishing centre, amongst the most important sections.
Such transformation brought with it a clear reinforcement and consolidation of preventive and disciplinary instances. The “new face of the educational system” was emphasised in the decades to follow with the gradual development of the Oratory – by now the central house for a new religious Congregation—and especially with the broader experience of the colleges. This “new face”—with more marked preventive and disciplinary features—is described in a special way in the booklet on the Preventive System in 1877, in the Regulations of the Oratory of St Francis de Sales for non-residents and in the Regulations for the houses of the Society of St Francis de Sales, published the same year: 1877.
The detailed Regulations of the Oratory at Valdocco consist of three parts, 29 short chapters and around 270 articles describing the organisation and duties for 12 roles—covered by one or more individuals—responsible for the running of the work. On the occasion it was printed, in October 1877, there was a mention in the “Salesian Bulletin” of the origin, arrangement, and the principal characteristics of the document itself:
“We maintain however that the regulations of these Oratories is none other than a collection of observations, precepts and sayings that a number of years of study and experience (1841-1855) have suggested. There were trips, visits to colleges, penitentiaries, charitable shelters, shelters for the destitute, they studied their constitutions, held conferences with respected educators. All of this was collected and became a treasure trove of things that could help.”
Other than the context and likely sources of inspiration, we also need to highlight the interest of the document itself, that “mirrors at least in part what had been Don Bosco’s habitual practice as a compiler of regulations or statutes never considered to be fundamental codes but rather a condensation of experiences he had had in developing and gradually giving structure to his institutions. His oratory did not come out of the regulations, but preceded it by many years; therefore the use of earlier regulations could only mirror some of his spontaneous experiments.”
In the Salesian Central Archives (D482, fasc., 01), a handwritten manuscript of Don Bosco’s has been preserved—Piano di Regolamento per l’Oratorio di S. Francesco di Sales in Torino (Draft Regulations …)—probably drawn up in 1852-1854 and containing, with few variants, the text of the first and second part of the Regulations of the Oratory of St Frances de Sales for non-residents, which follows here. We see a number of corrections in the pages of the manuscript, these also by Don Bosco.
At the origin of the Regulations for the houses we find the manuscript Draft regulations for the Home Attached to the Oratory of St Francis de Sales, most probably written in the period indicated above. In this manuscript—kept in the Salesian Central Archives (D482)—we see writing by Don Bosco, Fr Rua, Fr Berto and others. There is also a copy of the Draft regulations kept there, written in careful calligraphy and dated: 1867.
The strict rapport—and often coincidence—between the contents of the Draft Regulations and the Regulations for the houses in 1877 is especially found in chapters regarding educational topics. Amongst others: religious conduct of the students, study, discipline of the house, work, behaviour towards superiors, class mates, modesty.
However we need to note a difference between the two documents: the inclusion, in the 1877 Regulations, of the writing on the Preventive System.
The pages on the Preventive System in the education of the young signed by Don Bosco, were then and for a long time the introduction or frame of reference of the broad and articulated Regulations for the houses, and together they were a single item.
Reference time period: 1877
Salesian Historical Institute, Salesian Sources 1: Don Bosco and his work. Collected Works, LAS – Kristu Jyoti, Rome – Bangalore, 2017, 590-676.
Istituto Storico Salesiano