FSDB (Fourth Edition, 2016)




Fourth Edition

Rome 2016

Online edition

Direzione Generale Opere Don Bosco
Via della Pisana, 1111
Casella Postale 18333
00163 Roma Bravetta


We are called the disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ, witnesses to the Kingdom and missionaries to the young living the charismatic experience that the Holy Spirit has raised up in the Church through Don Bosco.

Formation to the apostolic Salesian religious life finds in the normative document Formation of Salesians of Don Bosco. Principles and Norms and in Criteria and Norms for Salesian vocation discernment. Admissions, which complements it, a sure guide. The Ratio in fact "sets out in an organic and instructive way the complexus of principles and norms concerning formation which are found in the Constitutions, general Regulations and other documents of the Church and of the Congregation." (R. 87)

The GC24 asked for revision and an updating of the Ratio promulgated in 1985 (GC24 147). In making such a request, the Chapter took into consideration the guidelines of the Church on the consecrated life and priestly ministry which had appeared after the publication of the previous edition, particularly the apostolic exhortations Vita Consecrata and Pastores Dabo Vobis, the challenges of evangelization and inculturation, of considerable impact for a vocation which develops at world level in a variety of contexts, the new aspects of Salesian vocational experience underlined by recent General Chapters, the need to make a suitable response to present day requirements and to problems of formation. At the same time the Chapter members recognized the substantial validity of the structure, the criteria and the directives of the 1985 Ratio and emphasised the need for greater consistency in translating it into formation practice.

In carrying out the revision, the parameters of the task set by the GC24 have been faithfully observed and the comments and suggestions coming from both the Provinces and the experts consulted in this regard have been carefully considered.

Consequently, having obtained the approval of the General Council as prescribed by art. 132 §4 of our Constitutions, in virtue of the authority which belongs to my office, by this Decree, I promulgate today, 8th December 2000, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the FORMATION OF SALESIANS OF DON BOSCO, PRINCIPLES AND NORMS. Ratio Fundamentali Instituionis et Studiorum,the third edition, which is to be faithfully observed throughout the Salesian Congregation. It will come into effect according to universal law. This same act of promulgation extends also to the text of CRITERIA AND NORMS FOR SALESIAN VOCATION DISCERNMENT. ADMISSIONS, revised in harmony with the Ratio.

The Ratio which I now entrust to you is an expression of the care of the Congregation for the gift received and for the vocation of each member; it is an invitation to every Salesian to respond every day to the call of the Lord with the commitment to "an adequate ongoing formation" (C 96); it urges every Province called to accompany the vocation of each confrere in the different circumstances and stages of life to exercise its responsibility for the charism and to support the Salesian experience in the local communities.

I entrust this fundamental document to Mary the Immaculate Help of Christians so that "Don Bosco's Teacher" may be the inspiration, the support, the guide of our formation and help us to follow with joy and renewed fidelity to our apostolic consecration for the young "our own way to holiness" (C 2) and our complete fulfilment in Christ (cfr C 22).

Rome, 8 December 2000

Fr Juan Edmundo Vecchi
Rector Major



Rome, 22 July 2009
Prot. 09/0787

To Rev.
Father Provincial
For information

To Rev.
Provincial Formation Delegate


Subject: Revised Text of the “Ratio” regarding the Prenovitiate


Dear Fr Provincial,

On 16 July the Rector Major with the General Council approved the new formulation of the “Ratio” regarding the Prenovitiate, which I attach to this letter.

1. Motives for the revision

In accordance with the Project of animation and government for the six-year period starting from September 2008 the Department for Formation launched a process for the revision of the text of the “Ratio” regarding the prenovitiate. The purpose of this was to help each Province to carry out a serious assessment of the formation experience of its own prenovitiate noting its strengths and its weaknesses.

At the same time it was meant to identify some new shared guidelines so as to further strengthen this stage, which continues to be very weak and not very well focused on the fundamental objectives of human maturity, of a convinced experience of the Christian faith, of the maturing of the vocational option and of vocational discernment.

Progress has been made in the quality of the formative experience of the prenovitiate but it is still not sufficient. The weakness of the prenovitiate then inevitably has repercussions on all the other stages of formation. In initial formation, in fact, vocational fragility continues to persist.

2. Process of the revision

Following the GC26 the Department, in consultation with the Regional Coordinators of Formation, prepared a first draft for the revision of the text regarding the prenovitiate. In the Regional Formation Commissions held between September and November 2008, first impressions were collected and suggestions were given about the way the work was to be undertaken.

After this, by March 2009 almost all the Provincial Formation Commissions had sent in their replies. In May and June the Department studied the replies from the Provinces and prepared a new revised text which has now been studied, integrated and approved by the Rector Major and the General Council.

3. Changes in the revision

The revised text has maintained the same numbers; it is about the same length; there has been a simplification of “the guidelines and norms for praxis.” The changes introduced with respect to the previous “Ratio” regard above all the fact that in the Congregation, in accordance with article 109 of the Constitutions and with the GC26, there is new attention being given to vocational accompaniment and to the aspirantate prior to the prenovitiate: 329. More emphasis is given to the process of human maturity, to the help provided by the professional psychologist, and to the family: 332. The centrality of the relationship with the Lord Jesus receives added emphasis as do the faith journey, catechesis, the formation of conscience, initiation into spiritual guidance: 339.

Aspects regarding intellectual formation are also revised, as are the formation community, the community experience, the formation team and the spiritual guide: 342, 344, 345.  There are significant additions regarding the care of health, manual work, games and sport, personal media and the mass media, music and instrumental playing, the theatre and youth forms of expression: 333, 336, 337, 342. More emphasis is given to the assessment of suitability for Salesian consecrated life and to the need for greater attention to vocational suitability, also involving the prenovices themselves in the discernment process: 346. Finally there is a reformulation of the  “guidelines and norms for the praxis” avoiding the excessive repetitions of the previous text: 348-356.

This text is now being entrusted to the Province, in particular to the prenovitiate community, to the Provincial Formation Commission, to the Provincial Council so that it may be studied, and above all, so that, on the basis of this new formulation, during the year 2010 the Provincial Plan for the Prenovitiate may be revised.

It is my hope that this work will strengthen and give greater quality to this stage of formation. I thank you even now for your collaboration and send you my best wishes.

In Don Bosco,


Fr Francesco Cereda
General Councillor for Formation



Rome, 18 January 2012
Prot. 12/0071

To the Reverend
Fr. Provincial
at his address

To the Reverend
Provincial Formation Delegate
at his address

Subject: Revision of the “Ratio” concerning the initial formation of the Salesian Brother


Dear Provincial and Delegate,

After a study in our Formation Department, a consultation in the Provinces and a deliberation in the General Council, on the 13th of January this year the Rector Major with his Council approved some modifications to the text of the “Ratio” on the formation of the Salesian Brother.

One of the four elements needed to foster an appreciation and a growth of the lay form of our Salesian consecrated vocation is a high quality formation. In fact, the “care and advancement of the Salesian Brother’s vocation” requires, in addition to formation, a widespread knowledge of his vocational identity, his “visibility”, and the promotion of his vocation (cfr. AGC 382, Rome 2003, pp. 29-43).

GC26 offered a new outlook on the Salesian Brother’s vocation in its third key issue by describing the uniqueness of the Salesian consecrated vocation in its two forms. New situations also called for appropriate responses in the formation of the Salesian Brother. And so, some modifications of the “Ratio” became necessary for the whole Congregation. I am giving you here a bird’s-eye view of the changes that you will find in the attachment to this letter.

1. A global presentation of the formation process

Oftentimes in the past, the formation of the Salesian Brother was fraught with uncertainties. Improvisations took place under the guise of flexibility. For various reasons of vocation and of formation, a global view of the process became a felt need. This global view has now been formulated, keeping in mind that the formation of the Salesian, whether brother or priest, is “one in its essential content and diversified in its concrete expressions” (Const. 100).

In number 323 of the revised text, you will now find a global presentation of the formation process of the Salesian Brother. The uncertainties surrounding the stages of formation have been swept away, and our candidates are now offered a clear picture of the Salesian Brother’s formation, which is on a par with that of the Salesian cleric, albeit with its proper characteristics. It now falls to each Province to lay down its practical decisions in this matter in the formation section of its Province Directory.

2. Vocation discernment

Till now a serious omission in the formation method was the scant attention paid to the aspect of vocational discernment concerning the two forms of the Salesian consecrated vocation. This was mostly left to the individual; there was no mention made of objective criteria; and no distinctions were drawn regarding each phase’s contribution to the discernment itself.

Now instead you will find importance given to discernment. In the first place, it is recommended that, following the presentation in the prenovitiate of Salesian consecrated life in its two forms and the presence of a Salesian Brother on the formation team (n. 345), there should be a discernment carried out in the novitiate by all the novices regarding their own Salesian vocation as future priest or brother (nn. 371, 384), drawing on and studying the indications given in numbers 84-87 of “Criteria and norms”.

For the Salesian Brother, the discernment carries on – during the postnovitiate, when he has to identify the field of work in which to carry out the Salesian mission in the future (n. 417); in the choice he has to make of the professional qualification to be achieved, preferably before practical training (n. 409, 417, 425); and in practical training, when he is assigned to a setting in which to practise the professional qualification he has acquired (n. 439).

Furthermore, in the course of preparation for perpetual profession, Salesian clerics and Brothers are asked to review their entire formation process in order to deepen their motivations, also regarding the form of vocation they have chosen; this discernment is done before they begin their specific formation, if it should precede their perpetual profession (n. 512).

Finally, a more serious and responsible process is to be embarked upon in the case of a Salesian Brother asking for a change in his choice of vocation; however, such a case must be an exception, and the conclusion of the process will be a decision by the Rector Major (n. 481).

3. Academic studies

Academic studies are recognized as important for the Salesian Brother. They are not a useless lengthening of the formation process to the detriment of professional qualification. A Brother needs a philosophical and pedagogical as well as a theological and pastoral foundation.

To this end, provision is now made for an equivalent two-year, or at most three-year, programme of philosophical and pedagogical studies during the postnovitiate; these studies will be a help to understand contemporary culture and to acquire the skills needed in the field of education (nn. 409, 417, 425).

The Salesian Brother’s specific formation too, which includes theological and pastoral studies, is now spelt out more clearly so as to avoid any confusion between specific formation and professional qualification. Explicit mention is made of the need for all Salesian Brothers to complete this phase in a regional or interregional centre established for the purpose (nn. 456, 480).

4. Professional qualification

In the recent past, professional qualification was often neglected because it was not properly made part of the formation process. And though, according to our tradition, the world of work and professional formation continue to be very important, not all Salesian Brothers have felt drawn to work in this field and therefore to acquire the necessary technical skills.

The fact is that the needs of our mission are many and varied, and therefore qualification in the professional field includes acquiring the necessary skills needed to fulfil tasks in various other fields besides professional training, such as, for example, the school, social communication, social work, administration and management. Such a qualification must ensure for the Brother a competence that puts him on a par with a lay person exercising the same profession in civil society (n. 409).

Professional qualification requires a discernment to be done during the postnovitiate (nn. 409, 417, 425); it is best achieved, if possible, before practical training (n. 439); and it can be completed with a professional specialization after specific formation (nn. 456, 480).

It is my hope that all this may contribute to an enhancement of the quality of formation  given to this form of the Salesian consecrated vocation.

May our Salesian Brothers, Blessed Artemide Zatti, Venerable Simon Srugi, and the Servant of God, Stephen Sandor, intercede for us and obtain for us from God the gift of this precious vocation.

With my cordial greetings,

In Don Bosco,


Fr. Francesco Cereda
General Councillor for Formation


Several times in the past there have been requests for a new edition of the Ratio. Given of the enormous labour and time that would have been involved in such a task, however, Fr Pascual Chávez asked the Formation Department to revise only certain parts of this important document – the chapter on the prenovitiate, and certain articles referring to the initial formation of the Salesian Brother. These revisions were, up to now, available only in the form of separate documents on the website of the congregation,; a new edition incorporating the revisions was never published.

We have now decided to make available at least online a complete text of the Formation of Salesians of Don Bosco incorporating the revisions, with the text on the prenovitiate being highlighted in blue, and the new articles on the initial formation of the Salesian Brother in green. The two letters of Fr Francesco Cereda containing the revised texts will also be available online. This is what we are referring to as the fourth edition.

May our dear Don Rua, along with venerable Simaan Srugi intercede for us as we heed the calls of our recent general chapters to strengthen our Salesian consecrated identity in its two forms.


Ivo Coelho, SDB
General Councillor for Formation
Feast of Don Rua, 29 October 2016

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