Council Resources

Guidelines for the Aspirantate experience



Guidelines on the Aspirantate Experience


Via della Pisana 1111 - 00163 Rome

The General Councilor for Youth Ministry
The General Councilor for Formation


Rome, 26 July 2011
Prot. 11/0377

To the Reverend
Lords Inspectors
Their Locations

To the Reverend
Provincial Delegates for Youth
Ministry Provincial Delegates for Formation
Their Locations


Object: Guidelines on the Experience of the Aspirantate


Dear Inspectors,

                                we send you the Guidelines on the Experience of the aspirantate that we have elaborated with the collaborators of our Sectors for youth ministry and for formation. They were approved by the Rector Major with the General Council .

In harmony with the GC26, which asks the Rector Major with his Council to promote, through the Sectors for youth ministry and formation, a reflection on new forms of aspirantate and to offer the appropriate indications (Cfr. CG26 73), we have called a consultation in the Provinces about the contents, the methodology and the conditions for the experience of the aspirantate.

Having received and integrated the various suggestions, we now present the following indications, so that they can serve the Provinces to make their own reflections and choices about the aspirantate, an experience to offer to those young people who aspire to Salesian consecrated life with Don Bosco.

The aspirantate is a typical experience of Salesian vocational pedagogy, with which young people are accompanied in discernment over their lives before God. Currently, new forms of accompaniment are being developed. This requires a change of mentality in the Salesians and an involvement of the laity and families of the young.


The vocational accompaniment of candidates to Salesian consecrated life is part of youth ministry; for this reason it requires a process of integral maturation in Christ (CG23 112-157). At the same time, in the experience of the aspirantate this accompaniment opens up to the horizon of the formation processes envisaged by the Congregation in the "Ratio" and follows its criteria of discernment.

It is desired that these Guidelines be assumed by the Provincial Delegate for youth ministry , so that it accompanies the Province vocational animators with their Commission and revises the part of the Provincial pastoral educative project which concerns provincial vocation animation. In this Project it is also necessary to identify a model of local vocational animation, which involves Salesian communities and educational pastoral communities.

Such work also requires close collaboration with the Provincial Delegate for Formation , together with its Formation Commission, in order to ensure the human, spiritual and Christian, intellectual and pastoral base and the training conditions for those who intend to respond to the call of God to the Salesian consecrated vocation. Indeed, this collaboration between youth ministry and formation is beginning to bear fruit.

We live this motivated vocational commitment of the Strenna of the Rector Major this year and as preparation for the Bicentenary of the Birth of Don Bosco!

We thank you for your attention and closeness and we greet you cordially



                            Don Fabio Attard Don Francesco Cereda
            Councilor for youth ministry Councilor for formation







1. To the young person who wishes to discern with responsibility his vocational motivations and his apostolic commitment in Salesian consecrated life [1] , the Province offers an adequate experience. The Constitutions say: "To those who are oriented towards Salesian life, the environment and suitable conditions are offered to know their vocation and mature as a man and as a Christian. Thus, with the help of a spiritual guide, he can choose more consciously and free from external and internal pressures. " [2] The environment, the suitable conditions, the itinerary and the accompaniment proposed to the young person, oriented towards Salesian consecrated life, constitute the experience of the aspirantate.
Our Regulations use this name and offer some indications for the realization of this experience: "The aspirantate ... keeping itself open to the environment and in contact with families, helps adolescents and young people who show attitudes to the religious life and to the priesthood to know their own apostolic vocation and to correspond to it " [3] . Aspirantate is a general name, which "can vary according to places, cultures and sensibilities". [4]
The experience of the aspirantate begins with those young people who have already made a journey of maturation in the faith [5] and of vocational orientation [6], ordinarily within those Salesian youth pastoral processes that foster the growth of apostolic vocations for the Church and the Salesian Family. This experience also began with other young people attracted by the charism of Don Bosco, who did not live in an educational Salesian pastoral community. To all these candidates, the Province offers specific accompaniment through one of the various forms of aspirantate, which best meet the needs of their personal history and their situation.
2. Today we realize that the maturation times are longer and the rhythms of personal processes are different. Many factors contribute to this situation. However, it is not a question of lengthening the training process, but of changing the pedagogical methodology. The experience of the aspirantate can help to strengthen maturation and processes.

3. The experience of the aspirantate offers the candidate a vocational journey that helps him achieve the following objectives :

  1. to develop one's human and Christian maturity;
  2. to experience the Salesian vocation in the spiritual, community and apostolic life;
  3. discern to reach the option for Salesian consecrated life [7] or its exclusion;
  4. complete pre-university or university studies or integrate cultural preparation.



4. The vocational and formative experience of the aspirantate accompanies the candidate's integral human and Christian growth and the deepening of his vocational choice. The journey of education to the faith [8] supports this experience, just as the dimensions of Salesian formation offer it a framework of reference regarding the suitability and vocational maturity of the candidate. [9] We now describe this vocational and formative experience.

Human dimension

5. " The educational process , in which we are committed to the total promotion of the person, is the privileged space where faith is offered to young people ... It enhances not only the" religious "moments, but also what refers to to the growth of the person until his maturity ". [10] Human maturity is the basis of the candidate's vocational growth. It tends towards the goal of a psychic and emotional balance and harmonious and integral growth, paying particular attention to the awareness of any psychological fragility and to the start of safe processes of overcoming.

6. In the experience of an aspirantate the candidate matures:

  1. the knowledge of oneself and one's own history, gifts and limits; the management of the sexual affective dimension of one's life ; the acceptance of new family and community balances, starting from the gradual detachment from the family and from the ecclesial reality of origin;
  2. the experience of community life , taking care of the relationships between candidates, with the Salesians and the laity, with the young; the development of the capacity for sharing, solidarity and community work; the capacity of self-giving to make oneself available to God and at the service of others;
  3. the sense of responsibility , the capacity for manual work, the use of time; the exercise of leadership and a sense of initiative; the enhancement of daily life as a place of maturation; the depth of life with the valorization of recollection and silence; the development of cultural and artistic skills such as music, art, painting, etc ...;
  4. the verification of health conditions , with medical checks prior to the prenovitiate; [11] the practice of good behavior in health care: sport, personal hygiene, order, ...
Spiritual dimension

7. “The path must be traced keeping in mind two references : the travail that young people must face in forming their personality, on the one hand; and on the other the precise call of Christ , who urges them to build it according to the revelation that was manifested in him. " [12]Faith, in particular the relationship with the Lord Jesus, is the heart of the vocation to Salesian consecrated life; for this reason the candidate engages in a journey of youth catechumenate inspired by Salesian spirituality that leads him to meet with Christ and to base his life on the gospel. It is not an easy task, given that the world of today is marked in some regions by a strong secularization or religious indifference, and in others by the lack of a solid foundation of faith. In many traditionally Catholic families, faith education and Christian practice are weak and schools like parishes struggle to offer solid catechesis to the younger generations.


8. Inspired by Salesian youth spirituality, the candidate grows in the following aspects:

  1. the personal encounter with the Lord Jesus and the discovery of the beauty of meeting him in the "lectio divina"; the prayer that makes the everyday live with joy; liturgical life with the centrality of the Eucharist and Reconciliation and the liturgy of the hours; the Rosary;
  2. the enhancement of community life in the vocational and spiritual perspective;
  3. the catechesis with the cognitive and affective experience deepening of the faith; the development of the Christian moral conscience; the knowledge of the vocation, in particular of the Salesian consecrated vocation; the knowledge and personal relationship with Don Bosco, seen in the period of his vocational growth;
  4. openness to the practice of personal accompaniment ; reading books that favor his spiritual maturation; the ability to make your own personal life project.
Intellectual dimension

9. To the candidate who aspires to become a Salesian consecrated person, and therefore to be an educator and evangelizer of young people, a solid cultural basis is indispensable in order to be able to reflect on situations and critically evaluate the surrounding reality. Faced with the multiplicity of news and opinions, it is more important than ever to know how to sift through various ideas and form convictions that guide one's life. The ability to understand and dialogue with others requires, among other things, knowledge of languages. The intelligence of faith, the deepening of the Word of God and the assimilation of the Salesian charism are not possible without a real intellectual effort.

10. For this reason the candidate for Salesian consecrated life takes care of:

  1. a serious study commitment to complete the pre-university school or university; the possession of a good basic general culture and the possible integration of the gaps; learning the language used in Salesian formation;
  2. the acquisition of study habits , reflection and sharing and a taste for reading; the ability to study personally and in groups and to question oneself; the ability to read, understand and master their own language, spoken and written.
Pastoral educational dimension

11. “The young man trains himself to generosity and availability . These are the two attitudes that generate joy: in order to have more life we ​​must give it. " [13] Desiring to embrace Salesian consecrated life, the candidate is enthusiastically committed from the beginning to the practice and methodology of Salesian apostolic work. He knows how to find joy in the development of his gifts, training in generosity and availability. The exercise of the apostolate also serves for the discernment of his vocation; he evaluates himself and the gifts received in relation to the services performed. Giving oneself generously in the service of the brothers, he becomes more aware that the vocation involves the whole person: his preferences, relationships, energies and dynamisms.

12. For this reason his educative pastoral growth includes:

  1. initiation into the pastoral educational service with an apostolic sense; the sensitivity to listen to the appeals of young people, especially the poorest; the direct experience of the Salesian apostolate within a Salesian community;
  2. love for the Church and for her evangelizing mission ; the joy of being apostles among one's companions and in one's own environment; participation in initiatives of the Salesian Youth Movement; reflection and sharing on pastoral experiences carried out;
  3. the balanced approach to the digital world and social communication .

13. In order to be admitted to the aspirantate, the candidate must have previously made a journey of vocational orientation, expressed the desire to live the charism of Don Bosco in Salesian consecrated life and therefore be willing to walk the road to see if that Initial attraction is truly a call from God and to discern whether he has the conditions of fitness to accept it. Accompaniment and discernment are important in this journey.


14. The aspirantate is an accompanied experience. In fact, the candidate is first offered a community support . It consists of a set of relationships, an environment, a favorable atmosphere and a pedagogy, which are specific to the Preventive System and which range from the close presence of the Salesians responsible for the aspirantate to comparison, orientation, support along the vocational and formative path.
Beyond this accompaniment, it is important to introduce the candidate to personal accompaniment. It takes on different forms, such as, for example, accompaniment in studies that helps the candidate to unify study and vocational growth, and pastoral accompaniment that guides apostolic activities for the acquisition of the apostolic sense. There are also helping relationship of "counseling", which fosters self-knowledge and that today it is useful for everyone, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which engages in personal freedoms choices the help of God's grace.
Among the forms personal accompaniment is relevant l ' spiritual accompaniment. It is configured as a personal dialogue with the spiritual guide, which helps the candidate to know his own qualities, motivates his commitment, stimulates choices in harmony with the Gospel, supports in moments of difficulty, favors the verification of the journey made, helps in discernment of the will of God.


15. Linked with accompaniment, another fundamental aspect of the aspirantate is the discernment of the Salesian consecrated vocation . This is a process that must on the one hand verify suitability and on the other hand deepen the candidate's motivations. During the aspirantate one concentrates on Salesian consecrated life, despite having its two forms present.
First of all, discernment must make a first verification of vocational suitability. It can be defined as an attitude to Salesian consecrated life; it is a condition prior to the formative journey and not a goal to be achieved. In this regard, the candidate, together with the spiritual guide, undertakes to know and evaluate the signs and aspects of personal reality through which he grasps God's plan for his life. In order to assess "the presence of the suitability requirements and the absence of contraindications" [14] it is important to use "Criteria and standards".
Furthermore, discernment requires a first deepening of vocational motivations. It is necessary that the Director or the person in charge of the aspirantate together with the candidate grasp the needs, desires, interests, internal and external impulses which incline the candidate to the Salesian consecrated life or to a different choice; in other words, it is a matter of identifying the true and "profound motivations" [15] of one's choice. This verification, as well as that concerning vocational suitability, begins in the aspirantate and is perfected in the prenovitiate.
In the aspirantate the vocational discernment takes place in different ways. The candidate is helped by carers to know himself. He then confronts himself with the other candidates. He receives advice from the confessor and is accompanied by the spiritual guide. Take advantage of the opportunities offered by spiritual retreats and prayer. Towards the end of the experience, he is helped by the spiritual guide to make a conclusive discernment about his vocation. If he feels called to Salesian consecrated life, the candidate asks the Provincial the request to start the pre-novitiate; on their part the persons in charge of the aspirantate give their opinion in writing to the Provincial, who has the decision to admit to the prenovitiate. The candidates, who discover that Salesian consecrated life is not their vocation, can be oriented towards other vocations.


Community life

16. The formative experience and the discernment proper to the aspirantate highlight the need for community life. This experience takes place at various levels: in the group relationship between the candidates and the accompanying Salesians, in the relationship with the Salesian community and in the relationship with the educative pastoral community. Several psychological, social and cultural reasons could make it difficult for the aspirant to request the community experience, but it is important to make every effort to gradually and progressively reach it.
Living together with other candidates who have the same experience is a help, a comparison and an encouragement; favors a better quality of vocational accompaniment; it allows a communication and mutual knowledge between the candidate, the carers and the community and therefore a more founded discernment. The young person can make a real discernment of the Salesian consecrated vocation, making direct experience of it, especially of community life, and on his ability to live and work together with others who come from different cultures, ethnic groups, nations.

17. The community environment of the aspirantate has an Oratorian style: it is lively and open, simple and familiar, cheerful but committed. Relationships of friendship and familiarity with the Salesians and among the candidates themselves stand out. A strong Christian life is lived in community and joy is found in the fulfillment of duties, in apostolic duties and in the generous service of others. Gregariousness and uniformity are avoided, favoring a climate of healthy freedom and responsibility that allow growth. The life of prayer itself, shared in some moments with the Salesian community and also with other young people, helps to overcome formalism, seeks simplicity, encourages participation.
For an easier maturation the conviction is strongly preferred to the imposition, the testimony to the simple observance, the co-responsibility to the infantilism, the internalization of the motivations to the simple execution of the tasks, the respect for the person and for his processes in an accompaniment personalized for massification and anonymity. Obviously, an experience of this kind requires a limited number of candidates that allow personal interaction or, when there are numerous candidates, their articulation in groups.

18. The choice of the communitywhere sending candidates is important; sometimes it is determined by the candidates' need for study or work. The preference would be for a community that animates a significant Salesian work, or that is at least close to it; in this way the candidates have easy contact with the Salesians, with other young people and with the Salesian mission; their life in the community maintains an "openness" to youth situations, to cultural and social events, to relationships with families, the neighborhood, the nation and the world. The aspirantate can be placed in the same community where there is the prenovitiate, on condition that there is a diversity of paths; this can facilitate the continuity of accompaniment and the consistency of the team of companions [16] .

Accompanying team

19. The effectiveness of the aspirantate largely depends on the Salesians chosen as responsible for this experience: cheerful, enthusiastic about their vocation, and above all prepared for the difficult task of offering candidates personalized accompaniment for their human and Christian growth , that is, at the level of their motivations, beliefs, affections, fears and expectations. Their adherence and harmony with the aspirantate project, shared by the community, is also important.
The quantitative consistency of the aspirantate team will vary according to the number of candidates, but it takes at least one person in charge, who can be the Director or another confrere of the community, who is prepared to take on the task of accompanying the aspirants, both as a group both individually and can devote sufficient time. To avoid personalisms even in discernment, it is preferable to have a team and not a single responsible confrere.
It is convenient for the team to have Salesian priests and Salesian brothers, precisely in order to promote knowledge and appreciation of the two forms of the Salesian consecrated vocation. There may be a trainee for the animating presence among the candidates. It is good that there is also an easily available confessor. It is also useful to add to the formation team some competent lay person or member of the Salesian Family and a psychologist who knows "Criteria and norms for Salesian vocation discernment", who make interventions in collaboration with Salesian companions.

Vocational and formative project

20. The experience of the aspirantate, even when there are few candidates, needs a project, which is at the same time vocational and formative, for the dual purpose of the aspirantate which is an experience of vocational growth and the moment of connection with the beginning of the Salesian formative process of the prenovitiate. The project must help the candidate to correspond to the grace of God present in his life through the group, the Salesian community, the youth community where he carries out his tasks of study, prayer, sport, apostolate.
Hence the need for every Province to have its own project for the aspirantate, with the necessary flexibility. Although the responsibility for the project lies with the Provincial and his Council, it is up to the Provincial Delegate for Youth Ministry together with the Province vocational animator and the Provincial Delegate for Formation with the collaboration of their commissions to assume the task of elaborating it. The Provincial Delegate for Youth Ministry accompanies the execution of the project and evaluates it, communicating the conclusions both to the Provincial Delegate for Formation and to the Provincial with his Council. It is opportune then that there is some communication between the aspirantate and the prenovitiate.

Relationships with the family

21. Aware of the importance of the family, the candidate maintains appropriate links with it and, starting from the vocational choice he intends to take, learns to establish new family relationships. For their part, parents follow the vocational journey of their child with affection, interest and prayer; they also commit themselves, possibly, on a journey of faith and formation. Where family pressures are not overcome, the vocational journey is difficult.
The responsible Salesians of the aspirantate or of provincial vocation promotion maintain good relations with the family from which each candidate comes. Ordinarily no candidate starts the aspirantate without there having been prior contact with the family. Through visits and contacts they become acquainted with his family and social reality, which is useful both for personal accompaniment and for discernment about suitability. They help parents to positively accept the vocational choice of their child and to be open to the will of God in discerning his vocation.



22. The GC26 is helping to create in the Provinces a mentality more attentive to the experience of the aspirantate. Ever more convinced that God calls young people to Salesian consecrated life in a variety of ways, the confreres feel the duty to accompany them in order to mature the seeds of the vocation that God has sown in them. The route of discernment of the aspirantate accompanies the maturation of each candidate, taking into consideration age, origin, culture, situation, level of education and many other factors.

23 It is appropriate for the Province to highlight the fundamental elements, which help to draw the profile of the candidate at the entrance to the aspirantate experience. A young man is expected of:

  1. coming from a family that allows a stable reference;
  2. good physical, mental, emotional, psycho-affective health;
  3. established experience of sacramental life;
  4. availability for personal accompaniment;
  5. adequate intellectual level to be a pastor educator;
  6. attitudes for community life, sense of initiative, ability to work as a team;
  7. availability to apostolic work with young people, especially the poorest;
  8. experience of apostolic youth association: ministers, animators, ...;
  9. participation prior to vocational orientation experiences;
  10. aspiration to Salesian consecrated life;
  11. presentation by a Salesian who had contact with the family.

24. Today the aspirantate takes different and new forms according to the various situations of the candidates. Here the main forms present in the Congregation are described in a general way .
- School aspirantate. It is an experience for young people who are engaged in pre-university studies, attending a school with other young people. Given their express inclination for Salesian life, the formation program of the aspirantate aims at their human, Christian and Salesian formation and commits them to the apostolate. In some cases, it is also important to study the language that will be used in the various stages of formation, starting with the prenovitiate.
- University aspirantate. Many young people today make the decision regarding their future in the period of their university studies. The setting of these aspirantates, generally located near a university, is that of a community of students along with some Salesians. In an atmosphere of serenity and friendship, with the help of a vocational and formative program, making some pastoral experience, the young people are helped to become protagonists of their growth and to make vocational discernment in dialogue with their carers.
- Proposed Community. It is a team of Salesians who lives with a group of candidates, while they are continuing their pre-university or university studies; in the group there may also be candidates who have already completed their studies. It can be constituted as an autonomous Salesian community or it can be inserted into an already existing Salesian apostolic community. It is also open to young people who wish to have a limited community experience in view of their inclusion as candidates. The educational contents include human development, a personal encounter with Jesus, participation in the Salesian mission, the interiorization of a new lifestyle in line with Don Bosco's charism, that is, all the elements of the aspirantate experience.
- Vocational volunteering. Candidates who have completed their studies or come from non-Salesian backgrounds are offered the opportunity to enter a Salesian community for a year or two, where they directly experience Salesian life, participating in particular in prayer, mission, and fraternal life with the Salesians. There is a program for their maturation that leads to the discernment of their vocation. Crucial for the success of this form of aspirantate is the team of carers who, due to their closeness and willingness to the candidates, are able to have a great influence on their formation. Aspects of cultural integration can also be added to the experience.
- "External" aspirantate. There are candidates who, due to social, cultural, political or family circumstances, cannot immediately enter a community. It is also the case of young workers. While living in their families, they form part of a vocational group that follows a formation plan animated by the Salesians. The arrangements for accompanying the group vary from place to place, but generally tend towards weekend training sessions at a nearby Salesian community, different spiritual and pastoral experiences along the way, and a strong training time for the duration of 6 - 8 weeks in a Salesian community.
- Aspiring for native vocations. It is an aspirantate for candidates of particular ethnic groups or minorities who, before being included in the common path of formation of a Province starting from the prenovitiate, need to be accompanied with specific attention to the processes of inculturation of faith and Salesian life. In some Provinces the accompaniment of native vocations must still be experienced; it requires an openness not only on the part of their companions but also on the Province which would be asked to accept a new and different way of living the same Salesian charism.

25. The forms indicated do not exhaust the modalities of aspirantate in the Congregation, indeed it is hoped that new forms will be sought to respond to the situations of young people, in particular for university students, workers, immigrants, autochthonous. Today it is possible to have in a Province two or more forms of aspirantate. It is up to each Province to identify the type or types of aspirantate it needs to meet the diversity of candidates and situations in their territory.



26. Each Province "studies the possibility of new forms of aspirantate to have one or more communities in which to carry out the vocational accompaniment of the young candidates; provide specific vocational proposals for young immigrants of Catholic families or ethnic minorities and for the natives; in vocational discernment, take more account of the criteria indicated by the 'Ratio' "(CG26 72).

27. What are the criteria for admission to the experience of the aspirantate and what is the entry profile of the candidate, must be determined by the Province: for example the age of the candidates, the cultural background, the duration of the experience, the family relationships, economic aspects, ...

[1] The expression "Salesian consecrated life" in the text stands for "consecrated life in the Salesian Congregation".

[ 2 ] Cost. 109.

[ 3 ] Reg. 17.

[ 4 ] FSDB 329.

[ 5 ] Cost. 6, 28, 37 e Reg. 9.

[6] Article 16 of the Regulations speaks of "lefts of vocational orientation": they "welcome and accompany young people who feel called to a commitment in the Church and in the Congregation. This service can also be carried out by organizing local or regional meetings, setting up specific groups or including young people in some of our communities ”. For example, the "apostolic schools" are lefts of vocational orientation; local apostolic groups or provincial vocational paths are. The vocational orientation precedes the experience of the aspirantate.

[ 7 ] Cf. FSDB 330.

[8] CG23, 94 et seq.

[ 9 ] Cf. FSDB, 55.

[10] CG23, 102.

[11] Cf. FSDB, 333 (renewed text).

[12] CG23, 103.

[13] CG23, 152.

[14] Criteria and norms for Salesian vocation discernment, n. 88.

[15] Criteria and norms for Salesian vocation discernment, n. 89.

[ 16 ] Cf. FSDB 344.