The members of the Society of Saint Francis de Sales, known as the Salesians, are preparing to begin the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of their foundation.
Officially started on December 18, 1859, in Turin by Fr. John Bosco, a priest of the Turin archdiocese, the Salesian Congregation today is present in 129 countries with 16,092 members (10,669 priests, 2,025 brothers, 2,765 clerical students, 515 novices, 118 bishops of whom 5 are cardinals: Cardinals Bertone, Farina, Obando, Rodriguez, and Zen).
The anniversary recalls the meeting on December 18, 1859, in Don Bosco’s room at the Oratory of Saint Francis de Sales in Valdocco, at that time a slum neighborhood of Turin, where 18 young men, as recorded in the minutes of the event, decided “to form a society or congregation with the aim of promoting the glory of God and the salvation of souls, especially of those most in need of instruction and education, while providing the members with mutual help toward their own sanctification.”
The Rector Major of the Salesians, Fr. Pascual Chavez Villanueva, in his letter regarding the 150th anniversary addressed to all the Salesians in the world, called 2009 “a year of grace” that ought to help the sons of Don Bosco remember their origins and the goal toward which they are called.
A large number of events are planned in the 93 provinces of the Society. The year of celebration will officially begin on January 31, the liturgical feast of Don Bosco. On that occasion Fr. Chavez will preside at Mass in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians at Valdocco. During the Mass, which will be broadcast live on Telepace at 6:10 p.m. (GMT+1), in streaming www.missionidonbosco.tv, the ninth successor of Don Bosco will give his traditional message to the young people of the Salesian Youth Movement around the world. On the same day the publication is expected of “Project Europe” of the Salesian Congregation. In response to the new challenges that the Old World is presenting to religious life, to the education and formation of the young, the Salesians are re-launching their presence in Europe.
This ”year of grace” will be marked by other special dates and events:
May 25: celebration of the feast of Mary Help of Christians, principal patroness of the Salesian Family;
· June 24, Don Bosco’s traditional name day, feast of the Rector Major;
· August 16, Don Bosco’s birthday;
· December 18: all the Salesians in the world will be invited to renew their religious profession.
An outstanding event will be the pilgrimage of the casket containing relics of Don Bosco, which will visit the various countries where the Salesians are present. The long journey will begin in July this year in Chile and will come to an end in 2015, the bicentennial year of Don Bosco’s birth.