Salesian Cooperators Association

Don Bosco's Helpers


Here is the description of the Salesian Cooperators Association which appears in the Directory of International Associations of the Faithful, published by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Official name: Salesian Cooperators Association

Acronymn: ACS (Associazione Cooperatori Salesiani)

Also known as: Salesian Cooperators

Established: 1841

History: The Salesian Cooperators date back to the origins of Don Bosco's apostolic project to help poor, abandoned boys: the Oratories. From the early days in Turin, he engaged men and women of different backgrounds and places to help him, within the bounds of their possibilities.

As he expanded his work he realized not only that he was increasingly in need of cooperators (including priests, but above all lay people) linked to the Salesian mission, but also to form an association for them in order to give greater power to their work.

Initially, he wanted them to be "extern" members of the Congregation of St. Francis de Sales, with a specific legal status in the congregation's constitutions. The Holy See rejected this proposal, and he decided to organize them in the Pious Union of Salesian Cooperators (today's ACS), with its own regulations which were approved by Pius IX in 1876.

The membership grew rapidly, and with their active help, the cooperators made it possible to create and develop workshops for arts and crafts, mutual aid societies, farm projects, printing shops, day and evening schools, oratories, homes and shelters, missions and orphanages.

In 1895 the first International Congress of Cooperators empowered them to contribute to resolving the great social issues created by the advent of industrialization. This work, based on the very ideals of freedom, justice and fellowship which are themselves Christian values, to this day continues in the business world, schools, social work, politics and the media.

Identity: The Regulations of Apostolic Life were drawn up in 1986. Faithful to the ideas of the founder, they followed the magisterium of the Second Vatican Council and set out the identity of cooperators as humanly mature people; convinced practicing Christians; laity aware of their vocation as baptized Christians called to take part in the mission of the Church in the world; authentic Salesians striving for holiness, sharing and bringing their concern for education everywhere, a key element in Don Bosco's apostolic project.

The founding element of their experience of faith and the way they live and conduct themselves is "being Salesians," namely, possessing that heritage of spiritual and educational values bequeathed by Don Bosco and by Mother Maria Domenica Mazzarello (co-founder with Don Bosco of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians) which leads them to give pride of place to the following areas of action:

— the family, to foster its growth as a community of persons founded on love and educational relations;

— the school and educational institutions, to provide a comprehensive education to young people through a pedagogy imbued with the Salesian spirit;

— youth centers, to promote the healthy and creative use of free time, receptive to such values as friendship, solidarity, and commitment to others;

— the parish and the oratory, to cooperate in animating youth groups, combining education with evangelization;

— social communication, which creates culture and disseminates models of living among the people so as to bring the love for truth, concern for education, and preference for positive messages into the world of the mass media;

— politics, social services;

— voluntary service, to make the institutions more attentive to the common good, to young people, to the idea of prevention in order to solve problems;

— the world of labor, to bear witness and promote an ethic of service, solidarity with the weakest and concern for the needs of the unemployed, moving beyond the rationale of pure economic efficiency.

Organization: The basic unit of the ACS is the center, which groups together the cooperators working in a given territory, forming the living cell of the association, and the place for formative and operational exchange. The life and work of the center are governed and animated by the local council.

Centers are grouped by province, and are accountable to the Salesians' inspectorate (province), and animated by the Inspectorate Council. The country or region which ensures contact and communion between the various inspectorates is created as a national conference in countries with a large number of cooperators (Italy, Spain, Poland and Argentina), and as a regional conference in countries like India and Brazil.

The world convention, made up of one member elected for each region of the Salesian Congregation, and five members appointed by the rector major, is responsible for animating the whole association and coordinating the educational and apostolic activities under the guidance of the rector major.

Membership: ACS has a membership of about 30,000, and is present in 58 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania and South America.

Works: Salesian cooperators generally place themselves at the service of the works of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SOB), sometimes hold¬ing posts of responsibility. In some situations, particularly in the Third World, they manage oratories, schools and family hostels.

Publications: "Salesiani cooperatores," published every two months in four languages.

Web site: www.sdb.org

Associazione Cooperatori Salesiani
Via della Pisana, 1111
00163 Roma — Italy

Tel. (39) 066-5612636 — Fax (39) 066-5612556

E-mail: cooperatori@sdb.org

© Copyright 2006 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana [adapted]

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