My dear Sons in Jesus Christ,
Troubled by a number of ills and feeling weaker by the day, for quite some time now I have felt the need of some relief and help in carrying out the mission that Divine Providence has entrusted to me. I have seen the need for someone to help me in carrying out my various duties efficiently and even to be entrusted with everything that is essential for the smooth running of the Pious Society of St Francis de Sales. For this reason therefore I have thought about choosing a Vicar to represent me and who would be another like me, a Vicar who would have this special role of seeing that our traditions are observed, kept intact and maintained after me by those who will follow us. I am speaking of traditions that are the practical ways of understanding, explaining and faithfully practising the Rule that has been definitively approved by the Holy Church and which forms the spirit and life of our Pious Society. It is my keen wish that when the time comes for me to pass to eternal life, nothing comes along to disturb us or change the way we do things.
Some time ago, when I was pondering this idea, the Supreme Pontiff wrote to me of his own accord through His Excellency Archbishop Domenico Iacobini, asking me who amongst our confreres seemed to me to be the appropriate one to take my place in the supreme guidance of our Pious Salesian Society. Thanking the Holy father for his kindness, I replied, proposing as my Vicar Fr Micahel Rua, because even in chronological terms he is one of the first members of the Society, and for many years he has exercised this role in many ways, and finally, because this appointment would be fully acceptable to all the confreres.
A few weeks ago the Holy Father, through our beloved Archbishop, deigned to let me know that this proposal was most acceptable to him. Therefore, my beloved sons, after having prayed for a long time to the Giver of all good things, and having called on the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and the special protection of the Help of Christians and Our Patron St Francis de Sales, and by virtue of the faculty granted me by the Supreme Pastor of the Church, I appoint Fr Michael Rua, currently the Prefect of our Pious Society, as my Vicar General. From here on therefore he will take my place in full in all that pertains to the government of our Pious Society, and everything that I am able to do also he can do with plenipotentiary powers in all public and private matters referring to this Society and all the personnel which make it up. The new Vicar, I am certain, in all major dealings, will always gratefully accept kind advice offered him.
I recommend then, my dear sons, that you give him the complete obedience that you have always professed for the One you call Father and who loves you with fatherly love. This obedience you have shown up to now and will always show, I hope, will be my consolation.
As a consequence then of this choice, I am also letting you know that, by virtue of the faculty that our Rule gives me, I am appointing Fr Celestine Durando as Prefect of our Pious Society, relieving him of the office of Councillor for Schools that he has held until now, while in his place holding the office of Councillor for Schools in our Pious Society I choose and appoint Fr Francis Cerruti, currently the Provincial of the Province of Liguria and Rector of our college at Alassio. Of course he will continue to hold the office of Provincial until further arrangements are made.
With regard to our Missions in South America, I have given Bishop John Cagliero, my Pro-vicar, full authority over all personnel and all the Houses and Provinces of those regions.
On this same occasion I am sure you will be happy for me to share with you that my health has somewhat improved and I attribute this to the kind prayers that I know you have sent up to God on my behalf. I thank you for this with all my heart and I assure you that the given at least some strength and the few days that the merciful God may see fit to still grant me I will dedicate completely to the benefit of our humble Congregation and for the profit of our souls.
May the Lord bless our new Vicar, the other Superiors and all our confreres and help us all to be of one heart and mind in promoting the glory of our Heavenly Father and the sanctification of our souls.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed lady, 8 December 1885.
Yours affectionately in Jesus Christ
Fr John Bosco
Note 1. Rectors of each House will read this letter in the first Conference they give to our beloved confreres.
Note 2. I remind you of what I have already recommended on other occasions that in addressing letters and all other public and private writings that do not deal with relations with Ecclesiastical Authority, you never use titles of the Congregation but only civil titles like Director, Doctor, Professor, Master, Prefect, etc. So missionaries writing from America to Europe to a confrere should not use the title Father but Priest. or Sir.