Giovanni Bosco – National and international geographic expansion of salesian work

From 1863 onwards the Salesian work which arose at Valdocco and through other oratories in Turin began to expand rapidly, as already indicated, through numerous foundations first in Italy—Piedmont, Liguria (no. 18) and then in other regions—and finally in France and Latin America (nos. 21, 24, 25, 27).

Such broad development was helped by the new school reform in Italy, (1864), the difficulties diocesan seminaries were having, the continual requests for Salesian schools in Italy, France (1875), Spain (1881), England (1887), especially following the diffusion of a positive image of “a new Congregation for new times” as the Society of St Francis de Sales was thought to be in many places. Then the definitive approval of the Salesian Constitutions (1874) ended up by encouraging the opening of new charismatic horizons in South American mission lands (1875).

Obviously the rapid expansion was made possible above all by the growth in both male and female vocations, including adult vocations (no. 20). For the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians the Founder worked at acquiring the future Mother House at Nizza Monferrato (no. 22).

Don Bosco sought to encourage everyone with a new version of the history of the Oratory (no. 17) and through circular letters.

The enthusiastic, broad and very detailed presentation by Don Bosco to the Holy See on the moral and material state of the Salesian Society in March 1879 (no. 24), which indicated all Salesian works at the time and those about to be founded, aroused more than concern and a consequent request for clarifications from pontifical authorities, which the founder tried to respond to accurately (nos. 25, 26).

At the same time Pope Leo XIII entrusted him with the building of the church and work of the Sacred Heart in the new capital of the Kingdom of Italy (no. 28). All this while in the old capital, Turin, he was defending himself against the closure of his secondary classes at Valdocco, by having recourse to all legal venues around the country (no. 23) and even the eviction of his boys who were living there.

These boys always kept their school in grateful memory, so much so that when they became past pupils, many of them would go back each year to celebrate Don Bosco’s name day and also hear a word from him (no. 29).

In its expansion outside of Piedmont and beyond Italian borders Salesian work had to confront difficulties, hostility and suffering. In Italy from the late 1870s onwards in fact it had to deal with openly secular politicians and not rarely anticlerical ones. That not withstanding he did not hesitate to get into contact with them and also ask them for financial assistance and protection, given the broad activity of the Salesians in looking after Italian immigrants (no. 27); he founded houses in France at the time of the Third Republic which had politics that were adverse to religious Congregations (different from Spain in the Bourbon restoration); in the new liberal States in South America he had to deal with governments and local authorities who did not hesitate in traumatically breaking relations with the Holy See and promulgating anticlerical and Masonic legislation. For all of this one can logically only go to studies on Salesian work in the individual countries and Salesian houses, as well as some works which sum up the situation. For mission development in particular, see further on for the documents in the relevant section.

Reference time period: 1863 – 1883

Salesian Historical Institute, Salesian Sources 1: Don Bosco and his work. Collected Works, LAS – Kristu Jyoti, Rome – Bangalore, 2017, 60-123.

Reference institution:
Istituto Storico Salesiano
Istituto Storico Salesiano

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