History and Identity

Salesian Family - background

Journey of the Salesian Family Sector From General Chapter XX to XXIII

General Chapter XX

The Salesian Family Department (AFS) was created by General Chapter XX in 1996.  The FMA Constitutions modified by the same Chapter describe it thus:

“The Councillor for the Salesian Family offers direction so that the Institute may give it its original contribution – Marian and feminine – to the growth of communion and collaboration in the Salesian Family.  She will animate the Past Pupils with special attention so that they may realize their lay vocation with responsibility and autonomy.

She will promote rapports with the other groups and movements that work for the promotion of women and the defence of life (Art. 129)”.

The Acts of GC XX indicate the precise tasks of the Councillor of this Department.

* Empower communion and collaboration in the Salesian Family
* Offer to the SF the feminine and Marian contribution that the Institute proposes to continue to study.
* Support and promote, in fidelity to our charism of consecrated women for education, all the aggregations that work in favour of the dignity of women and of safeguarding life (Cf GC XX, pp. 98-99).

General Chapter XXII and the Salesian Family Sector

1. Composition of the Salesian Family Sector:
  a) Three Associations:
    * FMA Past Pupils
* Salesian Co-operators
* VIDES International
  b) Two transverse dimensions
    * Mary-Woman
* Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC)
  c) Office of Human Rights (UDU)
2. The Transversal Dimensions

The two transversal dimensions, Mary – Woman and PJIC, respond to the orientation given by GC XX.  As such, they are present in the various animation Departments of the Institute.  The Constitutions and the last three documents of Orientation: In the Furrows of the Alliance, Directive Guidelines for the FMA Educational Mission, and Cooperation for Development, explain these dimensions in various ways, which are held to be essential for the charismatic identity of the FMA.

The Marian features of the FMA are delineated in the Constitutions in a particular way in Article 4.  Here is expressed also that of the ‘Samaritan’, mystic, and prophetic life that Consecrated Life is called to live to respond to the challenges of this historical time.  Reflections internal to AFS have led us to evidence the deep synergy among its diverse components.  We find present in all of them defence of life and social efforts in solidarity, concrete expressions of the educational finality of the Preventive System: to form good Christians and honest citizens.


2.1. The transversal dimension Mary – Woman

The relation Mary – Woman, characteristic of the Institute’s educational charism, presents a particular affinity in rapport to the FMA and to her mission.  In fidelity to the project of Don Bosco, every FMA is a living memory of Mary, the Virgin of the Magnificat, sign and testimony of God’s love for the young people.

In the first two six-year terms of the Department, animation of this dimension was focused on the aspects regarding the woman above all.

Besides offering support to the Marian Convention of 2004, promoted by the Auxilium Faculty: “I will give you a Teacher” The Courage to educate at the School of Mary, other tasks were affronted.  Among them:


* Involvement of the communities in the empowerment of women and children in difficult situations
* Study of various feminine themes and their educational implications
* Participation in the JPIC world group on the trafficking of women and children, collaborating in the creation of the inter-congregational network of Talithà Kum
* Organization of a documentation centre on the woman
* Contribution on the reflection and educational experience of the Institute to the UN Commission on the Status of Woman.

This transversal dimension is found during the preceding years, above all, in the interaction with the other Departments in the elaboration of some documents of the Institute and with the contribution of other inter-departmental seminars.  In particular, the interaction was projected with the Youth Pastoral Department on the theme Preventive System and Situations of Disadvantage, with the Administrative Department in the reflection on women and micro-credit, and in the publication of the book: Life at a Woman’s Pace.  In addition, with the Social Communications Department, synergy was shown through collaboration with the periodical DMA in is annual rubrics relative to Mary – Woman.


2.2. Transversal Dimension Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC)

The education of the neediest girls was the gift entrusted by God to Mary Mazzarello with the direct intervention of Mary.  In this broader and more implicit sense, preoccupation for JPIC belongs to the charism of the Institute.
The last General Chapters: XX, XXI, XXII showed these values in the Directives to actuate in the Provinces.

The Church itself, beginning with Vatican Council II, re-proposed the urgency of responding to the problematics of the world and for this reason created Organisms that keep alive attention on the signs of the times.  “In fact, action for justice and participation in the transformation of the world are a constructive dimension of the proclamation of the Gospel”.

Religious Congregations have moved along the same lines and have progressively given strength to the commitment to animate Consecrated Life to ‘restore’ their own mission keeping present these directives from the Magisterium in light of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

The trinomial Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation shows the essential evangelical values of the Kingdom of God.  They constitute the central nucleus of the Good News brought by Jesus.

Evangelical solidarity generates, together with human promotion, projects for development, personal and community efforts to find the causes of injustice and collaborate to eradicate them. In fact, injustice generates poverty and violence, not only toward persons and peoples, but also in regard to the plundering of nature and every kind of injustice towards Creation.

AFS, through the transversal dimension of JPIC, has the task of collaborating in the integration of these evangelical values in the life and mission of the Institute, listening to our charism and to the pleas of the world in which we live.

3. Office of Human Rights at Geneva

The Office of Human Rights represents the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians at the United Nations in Geneva.  It was created in June of 2007, to accomplish the directives of General Chapters XX, XXI, XXII especially the choice to be present, with simplicity and courage, where decisions are made about young people and life; to unite the Gospel to history; to seek channels that in world public opinion promote the recognition of the rights of the person (General Chapter XX); the need to defend the rights of everyone, especially the young and the weakest; valuing dialogue and the possibility of different cultures, ethnic groups, and religious confessions to live together(General Chapter XXI); the rediscovery of the missionary daring of the ‘Da Mihi Animas’; the invitation to witness to God’s foreseeing love on ever new frontiers (General Chapter XXII).

In June, 2008, the United Nations recognizes the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (IIMA) as an association with Consultative Status for questions relative to educational themes, with the possibility of being present and having a voice both at Geneva and at New York in United Nations Meetings.  The same recognition had been given to VIDES in 2003. 

The Institute chooses Geneva as the see in which to operate due to all the organisms of the United Nations occupied with human rights that are present in the city, in particular, the Council of Human Rights and the Treaty Authorities.   The presence at Veyrier-Ginevra of the FMA house La Salésienne, with a community working in the school, facilitates the insertion of the Office through an agreement with the Lombard Province (to which the Veyrier House refers) and the La Salésienne Association that runs the work of La Salésienne.

The Office, inserted in the Salesian Family Department, begins its journey to the United Nations, representing at the same time IIMA and VIDES, in close collaboration with VIDES International Association.

Its identity translates the mission of the Institute:  educational vision promoting in the young all their potential, especially those in situations of disadvantage, with the commitment to defend the right to education, the basis for access to all the other rights.  In collaboration with VIDES International, in just a few years it had accomplished actions that make known the works of the FMA Institute and of VIDES.

Most of the actions are for advocacy and lobbying so that Governments will show coherence with the tasks undertaken; collaboration with independent experts; interventions to make known how the Institute works in the field of education; the formation of the FMA, volunteers, and Salesian Co-operators for the promotion of education to human rights that is translated by the Preventive System into the universal language of human rights.

The Salesian Family Department after General Chapter XXIII

GC XXIII in the revision of the Constitutions, considered it opportune to leave the Salesian Family Department the one task of attention to the Salesian Family, leaving the other components to the responsibility of the Youth Pastoral Department.  Article 129bis has been modified in this way:

129 bis. The Councillor for the Salesian Family will offer guidelines to enable the Institute to bring its unique feminine and Marian contribution to growth in communion and collaboration in the Salesian Family. She will accompany the Past Pupil Association with particular attention so that its members may live their vocation as lay persons in a responsible and autonomous manner. She will share with the Salesians of Don Bosco the animation of the Association of Salesian Co-operators and of the Association of Mary Help of Christians.

GC XXIII considered it proper to the Councillor for the Salesian Family Department to collaborate with the Salesians in the Animation of the Association of Salesian Cooperators and of the Association of Mary Help of Christians.  The proposal for its redaction was submitted to the Rector Major of the Salesian Congregation and was approved by him.

The Secretariat of the SDB Salesian Family and its rapport with the FMA Salesian Family Department

1. Nature and purpose

The Salesian Family Secretariat is an animation organ of formation and coordination instituted by GC 27 of the Salesians of Don Bosco and directly dependent on the Rector Major.  Its finality is to animate the Congregation regarding the Salesian Family and promote communion among the various groups belonging to it, respecting their specific nature and autonomy.

The Secretariat helps the SDB Congregation assume the responsibilities willed by Don Bosco that the Salesians have in regard to the Salesian Family, which are to, “maintain the unity of spirit and stimulate dialogue and fraternal collaboration for reciprocal enrichment and greater apostolic fruitfulness.”

2. Secretariat Members

  2.1 The Delegate of the Rector Major for the Salesian Family Secretariat, who is the central Secretary of the Secretariat and performs the specific tasks entrusted to him by the Rector Major.
    * The Salesian Confreres who have the tasks to animate groups of the Salesian Family in which the Salesian Congregation has charismatic responsibility:
* World Delegate of the Salesian Cooperators;
* World Delegate of the Past Pupils;
* Spiritual Animators of the Mary Help of Christians Association;
* Central Assistant of the Don Bosco Volunteers
* Central Assistant of the Volunteers with Don Bosco
  2.2 Three members of the Salesian Family Council
    * One FMA chosen by Mother General (For this six-year term, Mother has chosen the Councillor for the Salesian Family)
* Two members elected by the Council.


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