Via della Pisana 1111 - 00163 Rome
The General Councilor for Formation
Rome, 18 January 2012
To the Reverend
To the Reverend
Provincial Formation Delegate,
Dear Inspector and Delegate,
after the study carried out by our Formation Sector, after the consultation of the Provinces and after deepening in the General Council, on January 13th of this year the Rector Major with the Council approved some changes to the text of the "Ratio" on the formation of the Salesian brother.
The quality of formation is one of the four elements necessary to favor the appreciation and growth of this lay form of our Salesian consecrated vocation. In fact, besides the formation, the "care and promotion of the vocation of the Salesian brother" is ensured through the knowledge of his vocational identity, the visibility of his figure, vocation promotion (Cfr. ACG n. 382, Rome 2003, pp . 29-43).
A new vision of the vocation of the Salesian brother is offered by the GC26 in its third nucleus, which describes the uniqueness of the Salesian consecrated vocation in its two forms. New situations then asked us to give appropriate answers for the formation of the Salesian brother. For this reason the changes to the "Ratio" have become necessary for the whole Congregation, which I enclose and of which I now offer a synthetic vision.
Often there has been uncertainty in the formation process of the Salesian brother; invoking flexibility, it was often improvised. For many vocational and formative reasons, we felt the need to have an overview of this journey. This vision has now been formulated, bearing in mind that the formation of the Salesian, both coadjutor and cleric, is "at the same time unitary in its essential contents and diversified in concrete expressions" (Const. 100).
Number 323 of the revised text offers a global presentation of the formation process of the Salesian brother. In this way, uncertainty about the phases of his formation is overcome and our candidates are offered a sure vision of the formation of the Salesian brother, which is equal to that of the Salesian cleric, albeit with its peculiarities. Each Province will then have to specify and make concrete its formative choices in this regard in the Provincial Directory - Formation Section.
Until now, a serious lack of training methodology has been the lack of attention to the reality of vocational discernment about the two forms of the Salesian consecrated vocation, which was mostly left to the individual, without referring to objective criteria and without distinguishing the contribution of each single phase of discernment itself.
Now the importance of this discernment is given: it is recommended first of all that, after the presentation during the pre-novitiate of the Salesian consecrated life in its two forms and the presence of a Salesian brother as formator (n. 345), in the novitiate be done by all novices the discernment of one's own Salesian vocation as a future priest or coadjutor (nos. 371, 384), using and deepening the indications of "Criteria and norms" at numbers 84-87.
For the Salesian brother, discernment continues at various other times: in the post-novitiate, when it comes to identifying his future field of exercise of the Salesian mission (n. 417); in choosing the professional qualification to be carried out preferably before the internship (n. 409, 417, 425); in training, when the Salesian brother is sent to an environment where he can practice the acquired professional qualification (No. 439).
Furthermore, during preparation for perpetual profession, Salesian clerics and Salesian brothers are asked to take up and review the entire formation process, in order to deepen their motivations, also with reference to the chosen vocational form; this discernment must be done before the beginning of specific formation, if this precedes the perpetual profession (n. 512).
Finally, we ask that a more serious and more responsible process be initiated in the event of a change of vocational option on the part of a Salesian brother, which must however be an exception and must be concluded with a decision by the Rector Major (No. 481).
The importance of academic studies is recognized for the Salesian brother. Such studies are not a useless lengthening of the training path to the detriment of professional qualification. The philosophical and pedagogical bases, like the theological and pastoral ones, are necessary.
A two-year period of philosophical and pedagogical studies is foreseen for this post-novitiate, or at least three years; these studies help to understand contemporary culture and to acquire skills in education (nos. 409, 417, 425).
Also the specific formation of the Salesian brother, with theological and pastoral studies, is better characterized, avoiding confusing specific training and professional qualification; it indicates the need for all Salesian brothers that this phase be carried out in the regional or interregional lefts set up for this purpose (nos. 456, 480).
In the recent past the professional qualification was often neglected, because it was not properly programmed in the formative journey. While the world of work and vocational training continues to be very important for our tradition, not all Salesian brothers feel inclined to work in this field and therefore to acquire technical skills.
On the other hand, the needs of our mission are manifold; therefore the qualification in the professional field embraces the necessary competences for the accomplishment of various other engagements such as for example, beyond the professional formation, also the school, the social communication, the social work, the administration and the management. This qualification must ensure a competence at least equal to that of a lay person exercising the same profession in civil society (No. 409).
Professional qualification requires discernment during the post-novitiate (nos. 409, 417, 425); it seems appropriate that it be carried out possibly before the internship (No. 439); can be completed with a professional specialization after specific training (nos. 456, 480).
We hope that all this can contribute to giving greater quality to the formation of this form of the Salesian consecrated vocation.
Our Salesian brothers, Blessed Artemide Zatti, Venerable Simone Srugi and Servant of God Stefano Sandor, intercede for us and obtain for us the gift of this precious vocation from God.
Best regards. In Don Bosco.
Don Francesco Cereda
310. Throughout this journey the Salesian formative experience requires at the same time a basic equality and a differentiation that respects and promotes the specific vocation : "The initial formation of lay Salesians, future priests and permanent deacons - say the Constitutions - ordinarily has an equal level curriculum with the same phases and with similar objectives and contents. The distinctions are determined by the specific vocation of each one, by the personal qualities and attitudes and by the tasks of our apostolate ". 
311. The Constitutions describe the vocational and formative journey of the Salesian which takes place in successive phases or moments :
323. In all the formative phases, basic equality and differentiation due to the vocational specificity of each formator should be taken into consideration. In particular
The choices regarding the formation curriculum of the Salesian Brother should be placed in the formation section of the Provincial Directory.
345. ... The prenovices officer collaborates with a team of formators who could also have other positions in the community or in the Salesian work. It is important that among them there be at least one Salesian brother to allow the prenovices to come directly to the knowledge of the two forms of Salesian vocation. Already in the aspirantate the presentation of both vocations to Salesian life began; it continues in the pre-novitiate; the decision on one of the two Salesian vocational forms is then made during the novitiate ...
346. The prenovitiate is not only a time of formation, but also of discernment.
The pre-novice :
371. The novitiate year is a time of intense vocational discernment carried out in a climate of faith, sincere openness and systematic accompaniment. As he experiences Salesian consecrated life, the novice evaluates his situation before God: the place that Jesus occupies in his life, the assimilation of the vocational values, the motivations, the formative journey and, with the accompaniment of the master and the help of the community, reaches a degree of serenity and clarity regarding the will of God on him.
Significant moments of this process are also periodic checks, and above all final discernment, which directly involve the novice. These are moments of confrontation between the person of the novice and his concrete experience of each day, on the one hand, and the Salesian identity, the requisites and motivations to live it, on the other.
A special moment of the novitiate is when each novice is helped by the teacher to make discernment on both forms of the Salesian consecrated vocation and arrives before the request for admission to the profession to the option of Salesian coadjutor or Salesian presbyter / permanent deacon. In particular it is a question of discerning whether, along with other criteria, in the pastoral educational work with young people the novice has a greater propensity towards "the proper value of the secularity that makes it specifically witness to the Kingdom of God in the world, close to the young and to the realities of work "  or to the" ministry, which makes it a sign of Christ the shepherd, particularly with the preaching of the gospel and sacramental action "  .
384. Every three months, the teacher with the council of the community, makes a careful verification of the vocational maturation of each novice. Novices should be educated to make constant discernment in order to understand God's will and purify their motivations.
Each novice also makes the discernment with the master on both forms of the Salesian consecrated vocation, especially using "Criteria and standards" numbers 84-87. Before the application for admission to the profession, each novice clarifies his vocational orientation as a Salesian coadjutor or Salesian presbyter / permanent deacon. This vocational orientation must become definitive, for all, before specific formation after the training or before perpetual profession, if it precedes specific formation  .
To promote a correct discernment and to emphasize the Salesian consecrated vocation, if there is the custom of giving the cassock during the novitiate, this is transferred to its conclusion.
409. Without compromising the fundamental value of basic philosophical, pedagogical, pastoral and social formation, in order to be able to start or continue the qualification in the professional field preferably before the internship, it is not convenient that the duration of the philosophical and pedagogical studies for post-novices coadjutors usually exceed two or three years.
The qualification in the professional field concerns the competences necessary for the accomplishment of the different tasks or roles that will be entrusted to him, such as, for example, the vast field of school and professional training, social communication, social work and the various aspects of administration and management.We must then do everything possible to ensure that the studies ensure a competence at least equal to that of a lay person exercising the same profession in civil society.
417. The Director continues the action of the novitiate master . With wisdom and wisdom he animates the environment and the journey of the community, follows and helps the post-novices particularly through personal accompaniment and conversation, spiritual direction of conscience and periodic conferences. It favors in everyone the vocational awareness, the deepening of the motivations of Salesian lay or presbyteral consecrated life, participation and formative responsibility.
Moreover, under the responsibility of the Provincial, he accompanies every coadjutor post-novice to make a discernment about the profession in which he feels called to develop his gifts and abilities in response to the needs of the Province, so that he can carry out philosophical studies and ensure pedagogical, an appropriate period of "technical-scientific or professional studies"  , with a view to a professional qualification.
Through periodic verifications, communitarian and personal, the formators evaluate, stimulate and orient the formative process .
The teachersat this stage they have a great influence. They are called to offer a solid and convincing frame of reference, to develop "sapiential" knowledge, the formation of the critical spirit in the reading of reality and the capacity for synthesis.
It is important to value the contribution of the laity and members of the Salesian Family for the formation of post-novices. Make sure that their contribution is qualified.
425. The duration of philosophical and pedagogical studies for the Salesian brother during the post-novitiate must be at least two years. To further favor a suitable time for professional qualification, it is ordinarily not convenient for him to extend the philosophical and pedagogical studies of the post-novitiate for more than three years.
439. The Provincial is aware of his responsibility, first of all in the choice of the community to which to send the trainee, a community that can guarantee the conditions for the formative quality of this phase, and in the case of a Salesian brother, an environment in which preferably he can practice the acquired professional qualification. He indicates to the Director the aspects to be taken care of in the formative accompaniment.
He worries about having a personal contact with the trainee and accompanies him with interest. In this task he can also be helped by some qualified confreres.
The periodic evaluation of the trainee follows with his Council.
With the help of the Provincial Formation Commission, it ensures appropriate initiatives for animation and support for the trainees and for the support of the communities, according to a properly planned program. These initiatives are opportunities for a direct comparison between confreres who are on the same path, the communication of experiences, shared reflection and mutual support. They help to qualify the individual training path.
At the end of the traineeship there should be a global evaluation of the whole experience and of the vocational journey made, both by the Provincial and the community and by the interested party.
456. The period of specific training is distinct from the time of professional qualification. It is not possible to do specific training and professional preparation at the same time. The professional qualification has a first moment during the period of temporary profession, preferably before the internship, and ends after the specific training with a possible specialization.
480. It is the responsibility of the Provinces to assure the coadjutor confreres, after the training, of the specific formation and professional preparation required by the Constitutions and the General Regulations. The specific formation in the intellectual sphere consists in an adequate theological, pedagogical and Salesian preparation in line with one's specific vocation. After the specific training a further specialization effort can be envisaged, to complete the professional qualification started preferably before the internship  .
481. The vocation of the Salesian brother is a gift of the Lord that must be cared for and cultivated by the confrere and by the whole community. In this perspective the question of a Salesian brother who asks to start a formative curriculum in view of the permanent diaconate or the priesthood must be treated with particular discernment, with the consideration and the reservations that a change of vocational option deserves.
In the case of a temporary professed Salesian coadjutor, the decision will be taken by the Provincial with his Council, according to the process he considers appropriate.
In the case of a perpetually professed Salesian coadjutor, the request must be addressed to the Rector Major, subject to the approval of the Provincial with his Council. Before the request to the Rector Major, a serious and responsible process must be ensured within the Province:
512. Preparation for perpetual profession includes the period of verification and discernment in view of the request, the process of admission and preparation for the celebration of the act of profession; it does not limit itself to preparing the celebration, once the admission has taken place. In the period of preparation for perpetual profession on the part of Salesian clerics and Salesian brothers, careful attention should be paid to the discernment of the two forms, ministerial and lay, of the Salesian vocation, in view of a definitive choice. The same careful discernment must be done before the beginning of the specific formation, if it precedes the perpetual profession. This discernment should be done not only by the formator but also by the Provincial with his Council.
 Cf. Reg. 95.
 Cf. FSDB 442.
 Cf. C 116; FSDB 479.
 Cost. 45.
 Cost. 45.
 In " Criteria and norms " in the number 7 it is stated: "It is good that the vocational choice is clear already with the first profession and, in any case, before the beginning of specific formation and perpetual profession".
 Cf. FSDB 409.
 Cf. Reg. 98.