LETTER OF RECTOR MAJOR - Fr. EGIDIO VIGANO'
THE PAST-PUPILS OF DON BOSCO
Rome,19 March 1988
Solemnity of St Joseph
Introduction. - Article
5 of the Constitutions. - The education received. - 17 years with Don Bosco.
- Don Rinaldi. inspirer and organizer. - Past-Pupils of Don Bosco. - The values
of salesian education. - Different degrees of assimilation of these values.-
Some ways in which Past Pupils can take part in Don Bosco's mission. - The
task of salesian communities. - Vital importance of spirituality. -Conclusion.
My dear confreres,
I am glad
to be able to pass on to you a special greeting and the apostolic blessing
of the Holy Father. On Friday 13 February in fact, the Rector Major and his
Council were received in special audience by the Supreme Pontiff. It was our
desire to thank His Holiness for what he has granted us in connection with
the centenary celebrations of88 and in particular for the Apostolic Brief
regarding the specialYear of grace and his promise to come to Turin in
the first half of September 1988.
took place in a family atmosphere and with a friendly conversation during
which we were able to note once again the Pope's concern for the young, his
profound admiration for Don Bosco, and the fatherly esteem he has for our
Congregation and the whole Salesian Family. He rejoiced to hear of the number
of the Family's component groups. Among the comments he made about the members
and their activities, he reminded us that we arecharismatics of youth,
and as we took our leave of him he repeated with a smile that we must be so
especially in the present time of cultural transformation. The audience proved
to be a significant anticipation of the spiritual and ecclesial depth with
which we hope to commemorate the event of the centenary.
This encouraging encounter also marked the end of the plenary session
of the General Council, which on 1 December had begun a period of work lasting
more than two months. Among other things, we were able to examine and approve
more than 40 provincial chapters, and it was consoling to note the serious
and practical manner in which the provincial directories had been drawn up.
I am more and more convinced of the Lord's love for us, and that he is with
us as we lay solid foundations for a better future.
We shall prepare ourselves to express, all together, our gratitude
to God our Father by an act of particular significance. On 14 May 1988 (as
stated in this edition of the Acts, p. 42) we shall renew in our provinces
and houses our religious profession. The date is a Saturday in the month of
May, and marks the anniversary of the salesian profession made by Don Bosco
and his first chosen young men of Valdocco. On that day the Congregation will
feel itself spiritually renewed and ready to face up to the new times with
the same enthusiasm and same creative daring of its founder. Let us take note
of this at once, and set about preparing for it both individually and as communities.  Article 5 of the Constitutions
of this year (and I hope you have made my commentary on it the subject of
your meditation) invites us to intensify the community and activity of the
Salesian Family so that it may approach 1988 (and beyond!) as a realEcclesial
Movement of missionaries of the Young. The various consecrated Groups in
the Family already have their texts and subsidiary aids, born of the conciliar
renewal, which can lead them to greater authenticity. More recently the Cooperators
have drawn up the new text of their Regulations of Apostolic Life, of which
I hope - dear confreres - that you all have a copy. You have also been already
encouraged by one of my earlier circular letters to make a serious effort
to gain a good understanding of Don Boscos thought in their regard and to
take up both as individuals and communities the responsibility for their animation. 
I would like
now to reflect more deeply with you on the importance of the Past-Pupils,
the nature of their Association and the particular reason for their participation
in the Family, and hence in Don Bosco's mission.
this a matter of no little importance in the renewal of our Congregation.
Every confrere needs to reflect on it, and provincial and local communities
are invited to review and relaunch in a practical manner the responsibility
they share for the animation and revitalization of this immense and promising
and activity of the Salesian cannot be circumscribed by the walls of his own
house. The thoughts I now put before you may be considered as a deeper treatment
and development of what I
said in the circulars on the Salesian Family 
on the Laity. 
of departure and reference can be art. 5 of the Constitutions, which states
that the Past-Pupils form part of the Salesian Family, The reason for their
membership is given asthe education they have received; in reality this
education gives rise in them to different levels of participation, some more
closely linked with the salesian mission in the world, and some less so, The
recentGuide to the Salesian Constitutions notes thatpast pupils are particularly
prepared, precisely because of the education they have received, to assume
a responsibility in collaborating for the attainment of the objectives inherent
in the salesian plan, Thechoice of the Gospel made by many of themis
not an alternative to the title ofeducation received, but rather a special
expression of it: it is not therefore a separate title applicable to a kind
of new group, 
I think that what is
stated by art. 5 needs further careful consideration on our part; it will
serve to remind us certain practical obligations we must not overlook, and
which require of us clarity of vision and awareness of our responsibility,Theeducation received
of Past-Pupils to membership of the salesian Familyby reason of the education
they have received is dense in content with many fundamental qualities, It
prompts us to make a wide-ranging examination of conscience with regard to
our educational and pastoral activity, A glance at the history of our origins
will show us how important this is, by pointing out the bonds that arise from
an authentic salesian educational system.
Association had no directfounder. Don Ceria tells us that it was bornlike
one of those things that arise from spontaneous natural causes; 
it sprang from the family spirit
of the preventive system at the Valdocco Oratory. Don Bosco himself has written
that his style of educationmakes the pupil a friend, and enables the educator
to speak to him in the language of the heart, not only while he is at school
but later on as well,
even when the former pupil is in employment,
civil service or business. 
is an educational method which has led to profound changes in behavior (Michael
Magone is an example), which has led to the heights of sanctify (Dominic Savio,
for instance), and a permanent communion of ideals and feelings with the educators
all through life (and that is where the Past-Pupils come in). The atmosphere
of living together, of happiness, friendship and development breathed by youngsters
of different cultural origins and social conditions, has the power to create
between educators and pupils a kind of spiritual relationship with bonds of
mutual esteem, affection and ideals of life which endure in time.
felt themselves loved by Don Bosco, not just as simple pupils but as sons,
and because of this there arose naturally in them, when they grew up, the
thought of going back to their fathers house. And this spontaneous return
continues to take place to the schools and houses where is sown thishoming
instinct felt by former pupils, and where the spirit and method of Don Bosco
is still to be found. The Past Pupils Movement was not therefore something
started up by the educators as an association for school-leavers for group
activities with a selected membership; itgrew up on its own with a charismatic
vitality at its beginnings.  17 years with Don Bosco
Group began to take on a certain consistency even during Don Bosco own lifetime.
Its beginning can be assigned to Don Bosco's feast day on 24 June 1870. On
that occasion a
so former pupils came together officially under the leadership of the genial
and generous Carlo Gastini, who always looked on the Oratory as his second
family. They set about finding more members and then formed a commission for
the better organization of future annual manifestations of their affection
In this way
the feast increased in scope from year to year, becoming a triumphal expression
of grateful appreciation. After some years it was found necessary to divide
the manifestation into two sections or meetings: one on Sunday for the lay
past-pupils, and another on the following Thursday for those who had become
priests; the latter became quite numerous and to them the good Father continually
recommended the care of the young. 
by little, especially after Don Boscos death, they became further subdivided
into local groups, unions and societies, and it was Don Philip Rinaldi who
eventually got them organized efficiently in a practical form.
from 1870 to 1888, i.e. the 17 years during which Don Bosco was directly in
touch with them, provide us with a great deal of food for thought; they enable
us to see more clearly the meaning of their title to membership of the Family
by reason of the education they have received.
We know what
a great love Don Bosco had for his pupils; when they had finished their schooling
he never forgot them, but followed them up, helped them, invited them back,
welcomed them, encouraged them, guided them still, admonished them if necessary,
and was concerned especially for their spiritual good.
one of the numerous encounters with them, he said:I see that
quite a number of you have lost your hair; in others it has turned gray
and your foreheads have become wrinkled. You are no longer the boys I
once loved so much, but I feel an even greater love for you now than I
did then, because your presence here today tells me that you still have
firmly rooted in your heart those principles of our holy religion that
I taught you and that they guide you in your life. And then I love you
more than ever because I can see that your heart is still given to Don
Bosco... (and I can tell you) that I in turn am all yours, in my thoughts
and in all I do. You were once only a little group, but that group has
grown, has increased enormously, and will grow greater yet. You will be
a light shining in the midst of the world, and by your example you will
teach others how they must do good and detest and avoid evil. I am sure
you will continue to be Don Bosco's consolation. 
On another occasion he said to them:My dear sons, one thing I recommend
to you above all else: wherever you may be, always conduct yourselves
as good christians and upright citizens... Many of you already have a
family. Give your children the same education you received from Don Bosco
here at the Oratory. 
Canon Benrrone tells us thatin those meetings with his former pupils
Don Bosco always urged them to keep the Oratory spirit alive in society,
and many of them availed themselves of the opportunity to seek his counsel.
In 1883, during his visit to Paris, after he had spoken about his educational
method he answered a question by a person who expressed doubts about the
perseverance of the young artisans once they had left the Oratory and
gone into the army or the world of work:At Turin, he said,there are
many who come to confession on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings.
And then in the Italian army it is well known that those who come from
our workshops practice their faith; in fact, the others call them the
Boscos. You can find them at all levels in the army.
On 26 July 1884, he recommended to his former pupils, almost as though
leaving them a legacy:Wherever you are, wherever you go, always remember
that you are sons of Don Bosco, sons of the Oratory... Happy you will
be if you never forget those truths I tried to engrave on your hearts
when you were youngsters.
In the other salesian houses too, those of recent foundation, the same
communion of life, stemming from the education received, was observed.
We read, for instance, that in Montevideo under the leadership of Don
Lasagna, who took the spirit of the Oratory there, quite a number of youngsters
either when they went home for holidays or after leaving the college,
set up real festive oratories in their own houses; and in this way there
gradually came into existence an organization of oratories presided over
by a past-pupil Dr Lenguas, with a small body of Regulations which bore
the interesting title:Festive oratories of Montevideo managed by Past
Pupils of the Collegio Pio .
years of direct contact with Don Bosco there were two particularly significant
initiatives regarding his former pupils.
The first was in 1876, when Don Bosco finally launched the Pious Union
of Salesian Cooperators after long years of planning and experiments.
He gave great importance to his tiring work as the Founder and he invited
the more committed ones among his former pupils to join this Pious Union.
In one of the yearly manifestations of the former pupils following that
date Don Bosco said:The suggestion to involve each of you in the development
of the work of the Salesian Cooperators is an excellent idea, because
the Cooperators are sustainers of God s works by means of the Salesians...
it is a work designed to shake people out of the inertia in which so many
christians are bogged down, and spread the energy of charity. 
An so in 1877, as Don Favini
writes (inDon Bosco e gli Exallievi),the Cooperators were referred
to officially for the first time; and since former pupils vied with each
other in joining the Pious Union (as appears from a letter of Canon Anfossi:
BM 13,475), they were probably among the leaders (in the manifestations
of the Past Pupils too). 
was in 1878: Don Bosco suggested to his former pupils the setting up of a
Mutual Help Society to meet difficulties that might arise:I suggest that
you do not benefit just yourselves alone, but reach out in emergencies to
some of the well-behaved students who have left the Oratory, or to your former
companions, or to everyone here present. 
Carlo Gastini, leader of the former pupils, immediately set to
work to organize such an association, using as a basis a set of regulations
for a mutual aid society that Don Bosco had already drawn up and published
in 1850 when he started such a scheme for the young workers at the Oratory.  Don Rinaldi, inspirer and
Bosco's death his former pupils continued their annual manifestation around
the person of Don Rua, making of the feast of the Rector Major a great demonstration
of gratitude, and when on 1 April 1901 Don Rua recalled Don Philip Rinaldi
to Turin from Spain (where he had been provincial) to take on the important
office of Vicar General (or Prefect General, as it was then called), the various
groups of former pupils found in him an extraordinary animator and a very
twenty years as Prefect General Don Rinaldi managed to bring about a reorganization
with humble discretion, arranging matters so that it seemed that the main
architects were the former pupils themselves or one of the collaborators working
with him. In this way he was able to give an organic structure to a movement
based on affection, gratitude and ideals of living, which made of theeducation
received a living and dynamic force.
In 1906 he
founded among the past pupils of Turin theDon Bosco Circle which quickly
developed into one of the best salesian dramatic societies, and served as
an example for similar organizations.
In 1907 to a confrere leaving for Spain, he said:Look after the Past-Pupils:
they are our crown; or, if you prefer it, they are the reason why we exist,
because being an educational Congregation it is clear that we educate
not for school but for life. Now the true life, the real life, begins
when they have left our houses. 
To his work
of animation Don Rinaldi added his far-sighted realization of the need for
an organization, and suggested practical ways of bringing this about. On 25
June 1909 he put forward the idea of an international confederation, and to
promote it he made use of the well-deservingCommission of Don Boscos Former
Pupils which, from the time of Gastini, had been organizing the annual manifestations
at Valdocco. The structure was formally inaugurated in the first international
Congress of Past-Pupils in 1911, as a Federation of the many local unions,
circles and societies. Until then they had been calledFormer Pupils (Antichi
Allievi); from that date onwards they were known asPast Pupils (Exallievi)
a name Don Rinaldi had already begun to use earlier.
By June 1912
it was already possible to organize anAdministrative Council and nominate
the first President in the person of Prof. Piero Gribaudi.It was said. not
without justification, commented Don Ceria,that this was something quite
new in the history of pedagogy. 
years Don Rinaldi, who was also confessor of the Sisters and zealous animator
of their Oratory for girls, was<; also concerned with the organization
of the Past Pupils of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, so that they
too might grow and eventually be structured as a Federation.
As Rector Major he took a constant interest in the functioning and vitality
of the Union of Past Pupils, and was distressed to discover that not all
the confreres had understood its importance. For this reason he earnestly
recommended it to the care of provincials and rectors:There are some,
he said, addressing a gathering of 25 provincials and 300 rectors at Valsalice
in 1926,who think that the organization of the Past Pupils is a useless
work, and so they do not bother about it. I want to remind them that the
Past Pupils are the fruits of our own labors. In our houses we do not
work for a pay packet, or to ensure that the youngsters remain good only
while they remain with us, but to make them good christians. And for that
reason this Organization is an ongoing work: through it we want to bring
back those who have gone astray; ... we have sacrificed ourselves for
them and our sacrifice must not be lost.
Chevalier Arturo Poesio, in a deposition in connection with the cause
for beatification, declared:Once in a meeting of Past Pupils, hearing
that the latter were in difficulties as to how they could meet the whole
cost (Lire 1,500) of their ceremonial meal, which he enjoyed very much,
without putting a strain on the finances of the local Institute, the Servant
of God declared that if a salesian house had only 1,500 lire to its credit,
he would gladly approve the spending of the whole lot on the meal for
the Past Pupils, because no sacrifice would be more satisfying to his
heart if it helped to bring together around him his beloved sons. 
Don Ceria observes:If was said very forcibly, but in all truth, that
Don Rinaldishaped and formed the Past-Pupils Movement through his genial
intuition and wanted it to be a dynamic and living force doing good in
the world by its work. 
I have tried to emphasize, albeit briefly, the work and thought of Don Rinaldi
because his figure comes to life again in our hearts at the present day, with
the hope we have that soon he will be beatified. It was said of him by Don
Francesia (who lived close to our Founder for so many years) that Don Rinaldi
had everything of Don Bosco except his voice. He was a most faithful and fertile
disciple of the Father, with a deep intuitive understanding of his greatness
of heart and soul, and that of the latter he developed some precious seeds
which had not yet germinated. We well know, for example, the story of the
Don Bosco Volunteers; that of the Past Pupils is equally clear.
stated in fact:Don Rinaldis eloquence was simple and spontaneous and at
the same time fatherly and convincing. Only once did I hear him speak with
an expected language of authority, and that was when he declared in his capacity
of Rector Major of the Salesian Society, that the Organization of the Past
Pupils must be considered as being one of thenew families which Don Bosco
had the merit of causing to spring up in the Church, as was said in the Collect
proper to the Mass of the Saint. 
May Don Rinaldi
help us by his intercession to promote today, in a Church renewed by Vatican
II, the auspicious Association of the Past Pupils as a dynamic Group of the
Past Pupilsof Don Bosco
It is a fine and stimulating thing to note that the name given to
those who have been pupils in our Houses is notSalesian Past Pupils,
but Past Pupilsof Don Bosco, This I consider to be a choice which,
though formulated for the first time at the Oratory and then continued
everywhere in time and place, provides us at the present day with a concrete
program. As we have seen already, the Past Pupils were born, so to speak,
by spontaneous generation through theeducation received from Don Bosco
and his first collaborators. It was an education that forged living bonds
and would always want to be expressed solely in the name of him who had
inspired and developed it through the donation of his heart and through
his pedagogical brilliance, and who had concentrated all his talents and
extraordinary personal qualities in passing it on to his followers:that
you are young is enough to make me love you very much; for you I study,
for you I work, for you I live, for you I am ready even to give my life.
Indeed Don Bosco dedicated himself to the education of the young
with all the sensitivity of his oratorian heart:with firmness and constancy...
in the midst of difficulties and fatigue:he took no step, he said no
word, he took up no task that was not directed to the saving of the young.
His pupils experienced this personally, and felt growing in
themselves the bonds of son-ship, of gratitude, of witness to the values
contained in his loving work of education.
It is in
him that we find the original secret and the pedagogical riches of an education
that creates family ties.
In the First
Past Pupils Congress of 1911, it was decided to erect a monument to Don Bosco
in the square in front of the Basilica at Valdocco. The monthly periodical
Federazione, which began publication in 1913, coordinated the collaboration
and enthusiastic support of numerous men and women Past Pupils who appeared
in the subscription lists without specific distinction. 
It proved difficult to make a final
selection from among the 62 sketch plans that were submitted for the monument.
Finally that of the artist Gaetano Cellini was chosen, and the first President
of the Past Pupils, Prof. Gribaudi, explained the reason; he wrote:A monument
in the meadows of Valdocco could not possibly portray Don Bosco without children
around him. That is how we had seen him; that is how he always was. I myself,
though I was only ten when I entered the Oratory, was amazed to see the crowds
who surrounded him and held on to his hands as he crossed the playground.
We crowded around and were happy if we could just touch his hand; andhe
used to smile at us with those dark lively eyes of his... That was Don Bosco,
our father, the father of all us boys . 
the first world war the inauguration of the monument was delayed until 23
May 1920. The event was an apotheosis, with three international Congresses
of Cooperators, SDB Past Pupils and FMA Past Pupils being held at the same
time, representing no fewer than 23 different countries.
to Valdocco and looks at the great monument cannot but think of the living
and worldwide significance of theeducation received in Don Bosco's works.
today ofeducation received as a title to membership of the Past Pupils
in the Salesian Family means to call to mind once again the charismatic conditions
of the origins and to dwell on the way they have been prolonged and homogeneously
developed in more than a hundred years.
We find ourselves
therefore contemplating a title to membership which forms a genuine part of
the Founder's charism. For a better understanding of its nature and to clarify
its practical and organizational requirements in the present cultural and
ecclesial circumstances, one must refer back to the preventive system.
The values of salesian education
Education is not the same thing as a simple introduction to the environment
and culture proper to a society; it is more than that. It is certainly
true that at the present day one must take into account the profound process
of human evolution which is in progress in both the World and in the Church,
with its resulting problems, some negative and some positive. Among negative
problems are a pluralistic relativism, doctrinal and ethical confusion,
totalizing political tendencies unjust economic situations, conflicts
and antagonisms, laicism and atheism, the family crisis, emargination
and the new forms of neglect of the young. On the other hand there are
the positive aspects: a new growth in human values stemming from the signs
of the times, the courageous ecclesial perspectives opened up by the Council,
the great commitment to a new evangelization, a more concrete sense of
solidarity and peace, an efficacious desire to provide space for a civilization
of love, etc. All this is an indication of the tremendous need to enlighten
mans freedom and provide a better formation of it from his youth.
of history in which we are at present living gives primary emphasis to education,
but at the same time raises numerous problems concerning its purposes, content,
methods, means and institutions. A renewed concept of education is urgently
needed, one that is concrete and to the point, not abstract and generic; one
that is all embracing from a human point of view, and up to date in line with
the requirements of each country; one that is concerned about formulating
objectives and strategies in the light of a genuine vision of anthropology
and faith; one that is directed to the attainment of a mature and proper freedom
through processes of growth appropriate to age and existential conditions;
one that is capable of critical discernment as regards the development of
the individual, so as not to be blinded by popular ideas and ideologies; one
that will liberate effectively from oppressions and embargoes; one that is
realistic and creative, and hence open to continual self appraisal which helps
to develop through it a plan of life.
This is not
the place to go more deeply into a sector with vast and complex problems.
But if we want to relaunch the Past Pupils in such a way that they are not
merely people who have passed through our schools but a true Group of the
Salesian Family, we must return to Don Bosco's preventive system, to discern
its great principles and deepen our understanding of them in the light of
future perspectives; only in this way will the title to membership of the
Past Pupilsby reason of the education they have received be something living
and fruitful for them.
system is considered to be one of the components of Don Bosco s charisma;
in this sense it has been analyzed in depth in our postconciliar work, and
especially in the GC21.
is for us like a road along which our salesian apostolic consecration moves.
We evangelizeby educating; we promote cultureby educating; we play our
part in the commitment to justice and peaceby educating; we promote the
development of the individualby educating; we contribute to the building
up of the churchby educating.
told us that the preventive systemdoes not indicate only a set of contents
to be transmitted or a series of methods or procedures for communicating them.
It is not pure pedagogy, nor is it solely catechesis. The preventive system,
as it has been lived by Don Bosco and by his followers, is always like a rich
synthesis of contents and methods; of processes of human development and also
of proclamation of the Gospel and of deepening the christian life. In its
goals, in its content and in its actual implementation it brings to mind at
once the three words by which Don Bosco defined it: reason, religion, kindness. 
of three words will go down through the centuries. What we have to do at present
is rethink their application in the light of the different cultures in which
we work, but with our eyes always on Don Boscos Oratory as the model from
which we draw inspiration.
Let us look
rapidly, therefore, at some suggestions, which already seem very obvious to
all of us, but which challenge our educational renewal with respect to the
relaunching of the Past Pupils and the concrete purposes of their Association.
- In addition to its basic connotation
ofcommon sense, the termreason evokes at the present day the idea of
the different anthropological disciplines which go to make up the so-called
educational sciences, to whose deeper development and teaching are dedicated
two salesian faculties in Rome, that of the UPS and theAuxilium of the
Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. The different cultures and the changes
stemming from the signs of the times call for new competence in educators
and the ability to constantly revise the practical applications of the educative
project. The humanistic outlook in its overall content, the formation to freedom
in the pursuit and preservation of what is good (preventiveness!), the authentic
concept of love and an objective view of sexuality, the presentation of ideals
in which life appears as mission, the responsibility for being professionally
competent, introduction to the world of work, a correct moral conscience,
the sense of solidarity, family and political aspects of life, the realities
of the temporal order with respect to their authentic lay condition, the dignity
and role of women, the broad horizons of justice and peace, introduction to
the promoting of human values in collaboration with all men of good will,
adequate self-discipline in life, etc.; these are all concrete challenges
to today's educators if their pedagogical activity is to be really in accordance
- The term
religion for Don Bosco represented an absolutely indispensable component
of education. In the central nucleus of every culture religious values are
always to be found; even a hypothetical atheistic culture would have at its
center as the stimulation of its structure the negation of God. In
Bosco religion is the motive and thrust behind all his work of education.
For him religion meant, in fact, the Catholic Faith; he educated to the Gospel
of Christ by the pedagogical promotion and maturing of the baptismal option
of his boys. At the present day Vatican II has opened up broad frontiers of
renewal in this regard, which demand of us who are educators a new and robust
competence in evangelization and the teaching of catechism. There is an urgent
need for us to take up this prophetic legacy left us by the Council. In particular,
the termreligion, as well as implying an updated ecumenical sensitivity
between non-Catholic christians, requires in the case of many of us a direct
knowledge and appreciation of those non-christian religions which are practiced
in numerous areas where we have educational centers. Openness to what is transcendent,
the search for truth about God, the pedagogy of prayer, the value of celebrations
in different cults, the meaning of human brotherhood, the sacredness of life,
an ethic and spirituality of behavior, a concrete manner of ascetical practice,
the gratuitous gift inherent in living and working, the particular values
and also the defects of popular religious practices etc., are all of them
important aspects of an educational system which sets out to form to practical
freedom. In this fields too the educator has the delicate but indispensable
task of being on the alert to detect objectively and prudently eliminate certain
superstitious attitudes and religious and cultural taboos unworthy of human
dignity and in evident contradiction with salvation history.
- Finally, the termloving kindness (Italian:amorevolezza) indicates
that emotional involvement which constitutes one of the most characteristic
aspects of the educational method of Don Bosco. It implies the creation of
an educational environment permeated by the family spirit, by mutual confidence,
easy dialogue, joy and friendship; by a life together, not only with regard
to scholastic matters but also in the great variety of possibilities for the
use of free time: sport, theatre, music, group activities, initiatives in
the fields of social service and the apostolate, etc. in other words it implies
thatoratorian atmosphere through which educational work becomes for the
young what the Oratory was:a home that welcomed, a school that prepared
for life, and a playground where friends could meet and enjoy themselves. 
In such an atmosphere one can foster and accompany initiatives in which
the youngsters themselves are the protagonists in group activities which give
added sense to free time and make it useful and attractive.
of a similareducational environment, in which friendly relations develop
between educators and pupils, is without any doubt the element which most
ensures the birth and growth of those bonds of affection and life (almost
of kinship) which, when the stage of youthful education comes to an end, will
stay on in the lives of the Past Pupils; this is the main reason why they
continue to feel that they belong to Don Bosco and to his family.
Different degrees of assimilation
of these values
Art. 5 of
the Constitutions speaks of theeducation they havereceived. To have
frequented a salesian work is not sufficient to make one a Past Pupil in the
real sense of the word.
In the phrase
Past-Pupil, the word .Past is ambiguous. If it simply implies the condition
of one who when young frequented a salesian work and then left it as one might
leave a hotel, or because disenchanted about it, it would not serve to indicate
the nature of the Association and its membership of the Salesian Family; it
would signify no more than a group of former companions (which might be numerous
or otherwise) for which the Association might provide in some way for the
development of some educational values which had not been properly developed
in the earlier days and had subsequently been suffocated by the cares and
problems of life. On the other hand what the wordpast really implies in
this context, when linked withpupil, is the reality of the assimilation
of very many educative values, their maturing, and hence a continuing attitude
ofongoing formation which goes on all through life. That is precisely the
characteristic nature of the Association.
Pupils come together and constitute the Association because they feel the
bonds of gratitude and think that together with the Salesians they can update
theeducation they received and make it fruitful.
the assimilation of the values will admit of differences in degree and method
according to the receptive capacity of each member.
the values ofreason andreligion can be developed in different situations
with a certain pluriformity; but at the level ofloving kindness there should
be a uniformly intense degree of presence in every salesian work, and in this
way it becomes a yardstick for measuring the fidelity to the preventive system
on the part of the Salesians and their collaborators in the individual works.
I really cannot understand how there can be a salesian work which does not
look after its Past Pupils; the history of the Oratory at Valdocco is far
different from this.
that there are different ways and degrees of participation is expressed in
the Constitutions themselves, when they say in art. 5 thatthe bonds of membership
are closer when they (the Past Pupils) commit themselves to take an active
part in the salesian mission in the world. 
It is important
to note in the first place that every Past Pupil is in relationship with the
Salesian family through his Association; for him too (as is the case for the
Salesians, the Daughters or Mary Help of Christians, and the Cooperators)
it is a question of a commitment which he personally assumes: that of joining
the Association, and thus acquiring a full of membership of one of theinstituted
Group is an Association which has as a basic characteristic common to all
its members theeducation received and the intention to make it fruitful.
bonds of membership will be expressed in practice in different ways, because
thesalesian mission in the world may be lived and shared in a variety of
religious situations and according to personal convictions which may be objectively
different, provided that in the group of Past Pupils there remains the real
foundation of common values through theeducation they have received .
In the Associations
Statute it is said that theyintend to consolidate the bond of friendship
which binds them to their educators and unites them among themselves, and
to preserve and develop the principles which were at the foundation of their
formation, so as to express them in authentic life commitments; 
and in connection
with the World Confederation it is stated thatit has for its purpose that
the members preserve, deepen and put into practice the salesian educational
principles they received. 
therefore, the Past Pupils Association presents a specific characterization
all its ownwith out ethnic or religious distinctions. 
For this reason it is not easy to
define at World Confederation level the possible variety of degrees ofcloser
participation in the salesian mission; later we shall give some examples of
ways in which it has been lived in practice.
Here it seems
important to point out the life of the Association proceeds from the base,
or in other words from the local Unions or Centers where the members know
each other and have a more concrete and homogeneous concept of theeducation
received, and can therefore decide what in practice is implied by a closer
participation in the salesian mission in their own territorial environment
and their own religious, social and cultural condition of the Past Pupils
varies from one place to another. Any tendency toover-structure at higher
levels may turn out to be counterproductive. The most incisive and appropriate
form of animation is linked in the first instance with the vitality of local
groups. It is there above all that attention must be given to the strategy
of meetings above and of ongoing formation. The life of local Unions is more
easily perceived by the members, and is more deeply felt.
an adequate organization at provincial, national and world level is not only
useful but is also necessary; its purpose however, is to serve, animate, make
suggestions, stimulate, support (and sometimes even provide) the initiatives
of the individual local Unions, so that they may be able to express in a
practical and fruitful form theeducation they have received.
Today, in the aftermath of Vatican II, some light can be thrown on the
meaning of acloser participation in the salesian mission by ecumenical
opening up of dialogue with non-christian religions
and by activities of service to mankind with the involvement
also of nonbelievers of good will. 
aspect, emphasized by the GC24 
is that of Catholic Past Pupilswho have made the choice of the
Gospel. Theircloser participation brings them nearer to the Salesian Cooperators.
It is for this reason that they are invited to join the Cooperators: the community,
say our Regulations,should help those who are more sensitive to salesian
values to develop in themselves the vocation of a Cooperator. 
Nevertheless the two Associations
are specifically different one from the other. That of the Past Pupils has
its own physiognomy, linked with the communion and initiatives stemming from
Association is not in itself an alternative to that of the Past Pupils; it
constitutes rather a center of spiritual and ecclesial referral for those
who have made the gospel option. Past Pupils who are Cooperators generously
make their own, as convincedlaymen, the objectives of their own Past Pupils
Association and place at its disposal the riches of the grace of Christ in
the spirit of Don Bosco to bring to fruition among their fellow members and
their former companions theeducation they received.
And so the
assimilation of the values of the preventive system presents a whole range
of possibilities for a more or less close participation in the salesian mission
in the world. As far as our own communities are concerned, extraordinary importance
attaches to the interest shown by provincials and rectors (and their delegates)
in providing the animation that will ensure the fidelity of the members to
the purposes of the Association and to the genuine inspiration of Don Bosco.
We must all be able to recall and imitate the understanding, the willing acceptance,
the dedication and the initiatives of our Founder and of Don Rinaldi. This
is not an easy task; it needs competent and persuasive people who are able
to deal with mature men, and who have a clear and updated grasp of the preventive
Some ways In which Past Pupils can take part In Don Bosco's mission
As we have
seen, the title to membership by reason of education received is not something
superficial imposed from without, like gold plating on metal. It is a vital
reality of gratitude, of communion and of intentions in the light of that
same educational plan of the past lived now in new experiences of life, work
and study, and in personal and social perspectives.
and activity of the Association is intrinsically linked with this title to
membership. Its vast horizons must be capable of discernment without confusing
it with either the Cooperators Association or any independent secular association,
thus distorting its identity.
In what way
then can the Past Pupils Association share in the life and activities of
the Salesian Family? Let us try to give some orientative guidelines starting
from its history and its present-day reality.
- A first way is that of showing practical concern for the ongoing
of the members. This is a task inherent in thateducation
received, in so far as all education (especially at this time of cultural
change) needs to grow and make itself adequate to meet the new needs in
a continual and modern way. The statute of the World Confederation declares
that the Past Pupils intendto preserve and develop the principles which
were at the foundation of their formation, so as to express them in authentic
life commitments, 
and thatthey see the Rector Major as the figure of Don Bosco
himself and recognize him as their leader; they desire the assistance
of the Salesians for an ongoing, incisive and adequate spiritual education. 
In this area
there a very concrete setting for a service of animation on the part of our
communities and confreres for the benefit of the Past Pupils. If we are able
to program initiatives in ongoing formation and make them function successfully,
it will serve to strengthen the quality of local Centers and Unions and of
provincial federations for participation in the mission.
activity proper to the Association is that of giving effect to the exhortation
made by Don Bosco himself to his early former pupils: to remain united
and help each other,
not only with respect to strengthening the organization
and functioning of the Association, 
but also as regards mutual help given to individuals in need,
and especially in the matter of maintaining helpful contacts with former companions
whoare not enrolled in a particular local Center are not effective members
of the Confederation, but they are considered as still belonging to the Don
Bosco Past Pupils movement. 
For this reason it
is desirable that their names be kept in an appropriate register so as to
keep their memory alive and try to involve them in activities of formation
and doing good.
This is a
natural field of expansion for the Association in which particular help can
be given by confreres who have known the former pupils now remaining at a
important task of the Association concerns the family life
members. This presupposes a knowledge and defense of the rights and duties
of the family in society. The Statute states that the Past Pupils undertake
to promote and defend the leading values of the human family, 
which at the present time is passing
through a period of crisis. Within their own families they have the possibility,
as Don Bosco himself suggested to them, of practicing the educational methods
they learned during the time of their own education.
Here we have
another modem challenge which will enable us to assess the extent of the pedagogical
commitment, now and in the past, of our educative communities. How is the
preventive system applied, so that later it can be extended into future families
of the pupils? What preparation do we give to young people to prepare them
for marriage? What kind of program is there for formation to love? How do
we meet the requirements of a proper sex education? what kind of marriage
ethics do we put forward? How do we emphasize the sacredness of life? etc.
These aspects bring home to us the urgent need for a practical approach to
pastoral work for families
to be planned and realized (in harmony with
youth pastoral work) in our houses according to the possibilities inherent
in the type of our educational presence.
We may recall the penetrating observation made by a Bishop in the Synod
of 1980 on the family; I spoke of this in an earlier circular, when I
remarked thatthe theme of the family is not just a discussion topic;
it is a privileged vantage-point for more practical and intelligent thinking
in our overall pastoral project, in line with God's master-plan. 
Hence our plans for youth pastoral work and
the concrete educational projects of the provinces and houses must always
give due attention to this strategic aspect. What the Bishop said was:
The family is something small in itself, but there is within it a potential
energy greater than that of the atom. Starting from the comparative individual
insignificance of millions of humble families the Church can relaunch
the power of love needed to make herself the sacrament of unity among
If the essence
of all education is to lead people to love, the whole of the Churchs pastoral
work (and therefore ours as well) must converge on making the human family
become effectivelythe school of love. Let us help the Past Pupils to render
salesian education efficacious within their own families!
- A further commitment characteristic of the Associations activity is
that of giving priority to the big problem of the education of youth
and of taking part in it. The Past Pupils themselves declare that
in the light of the urgent problems of youth at the present day, (the
Association) strives to realize, to the maximum extent possible, activities
designed to interest young people in the various fields of social and
political action; it encourages their initiatives and helps them to assume
responsibility at every level.
We are all
aware of the urgency of this problem and the need for promoting multiple initiatives
for collaboration in finding a solution, even on a limited scale. The problem
is a universal one; it is met with allover the world, even in different kinds
of youth conditions. Fortunately Don Bosco's spirit is universal too, and
is found living and working in every continent: one and the same spirit, in
the same mission, but in a plurality of cultural, social and pastoral situations.
In respect of which values for the benefit of youth should the Past Pupils
to Don Bosco's charisma they should be able to analyze the urgent needs of
the young in respect of the three dimensions of the preventive system. In
the sphere ofreason, this includes problems concerning human values; in
that ofreligion, those relating to faith and a spirituality of life; and
in that ofloving kindness, questions concerning method in the light of
the deterioration frequently noted in. the schools sector and especially in
the spheres of the family and of love: there is indeed an urgent need to throw
some light on the criteria for the application of a valid educational method.
This is a
commitment which opens up a vast panorama of possible ways of intervening.
It is evident
that here too a revision is needed of the whole programs of our educative
communities and the present significance of our works as regards the giving
of a practical response to the challenges presented by the world of youth.
In this way it will be possible to give better direction to the initiatives
of the Past Pupils, so that they strengthen or complete our own interventions
and even, according to the practical needs in the area concerned, reach some
combined and integrated plan of action by the whole Salesian Family working
- Another objective which the Past Pupils Association suggests is
the defense and promotion of the values inherent in the human person and
respect for mans dignity;
and the fostering of a higher level in
the cultural, social, moral, spirit and religious fields,
in line with
the education received. 
In the Appendix added
to their Statute (to guide its application), the Past Pupils refer more explicitly
to this so characteristic social and cultural area: (the objective is)to
stimulate a deep and sound social and political preparation
Past Pupils, more urgently needed now than ever before, which does not stop
at theory but goes also into the duty of fulfilling ones political duties
as a good citizen, to practical commitment in the social sector, the creation
of associations with a mutual help character, etc; andto prompt apostolic
and social activities, with particular regard to the commitment for justice,
peace and brotherhood. 
To the above
must be added the immense importance that attaches at the present day to social
and the way in which its various means (and even the most
sophisticated of them) can be exploited and shaped for good by quite a number
of Past Pupils who have become particularly competent in this sector.
too presupposes aneducation received of particular clarity and quality
with respect to the proper structuring of the temporal order. Vatican II and
the social teaching of the Churchs magisterium have opened vast horizons
of renewal for educators, which call for competence and continual updating.
Dear confreres, we need to take a long hard look at the way we educate in
the whole ,of this sector, not indeed to get involved in party politics but
to put efficaciously into practice the important art. 33 of our Constitutions.
We have to promote justice and peaceby educating; and in educating we must
bear concrete witness to our preferential Jove for the poor. We are called
to carry out aliberating education, drawing on the practice lived by Don
Bosco the Churchs living magisterium. The Past Pupils await clear guidelines
from us in this regard.
- The Associations sharing in Don Bosco's mission also implies the
intention to step up active communion with the whole of the Salesian Family
and with each of its component Groups, both at directive world level and
also at provincial and local level with the communities and individuals present
in the same neighborhood. The title to membership by reason of the education
received provides an easy linkage between the Association and all members
of the Family, but especially with the three Groups founded by Don Bosco himself:
the Salesians, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, and the Cooperators.
of Don Bosco's charisma is a call to the Past Pupils at the present day to
intensify in a practical manner their bonds of participation and communion
with these three Groups in particular, in ways which will vary according to
the nature and role of each of them.
of theirs should be continually recalled to mind and facilitated by our animation.
Art. 5 of
the Constitutions assigns to us Salesians,by the will the Founder, the
far from easy responsibility ofpreserving unity of spirit and fostering
dialogue and fraternal collaboration, for our mutual enrichment and greater
apostolic effectiveness .
there are still some confreres who have yet to change their attitude in this
regard and to consider this as one of themajor aspects on which we must
concentrate our attention and our practical efforts; as the Rector Major,
Fr Luigi Ricceri, said in presenting the Acts of the SGC:It is a matter
of urgency to give back to our communities the sense of their being a nucleus
powerful enough to animate and invigorate other spiritual and apostolic forces
(those of the Salesian Family!); these in their turn will enrich us (i.e.
our communities) with great spiritual and apostolic advantages. 
and intensification of the relations between the Past Pupils and ourselves
in the first place, and then with the other Groups (especially the Cooperators),
is a task that will be delicate at times but one that is very fruitful and
will make it possible in practice for our Family to appear, in each area,
as a living and incisiveecc1esial Movement, in line with the suggestion
of this year's Strenna.
A good sign
of the Past Pupils efficacious intention to carry out this policy is the
mutual agreement they have come to with the Association of the Past Pupils
of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians for the realization of a single
common International Congress in November 1988, for the solemn commemoration
of Don Bosco.
- A final
task of some consequence is that of getting in touch with pupils who are
nearing the end of their school career,
and explaining to them the advantages
of joining the Association. The influx of new blood is something sought after
by the Past Pupils because they want to be a group which isperpetually young;
this will be possible if the Association is continually reinvigorated by
the thousands and thousands of young people who come out of salesian schools
and other works. 
This praiseworthy and vital task implies for the Past Pupils themselves
a practical dedication to promoting an involvement pleasing to the youngsters,
but it also calls for an intelligent and agreed arrangement for directing
the older pupils towards the possibilities of further salesian growth in those
groups of our Family most in keeping with their intended life-plan, and in
particular (in the majority of cases) to the Past Pupils Association.
And so the
manner in which the association participates in Don Bosco's mission in the
world is a matter of no little consequence. The possibilities are numerous:
we have touched on seven of them. Participation of this kind constitutes a
practical proof of membership of the Salesian Family, which will becomecloser
in proportion to the degree of commitment shown in the concrete activities
already indicated, without excluding levels of other kinds which may extend
to ecumenical areas, inter-religious dialogue, or simple human good will.
The task of salesian communities
we have made so far are an invitation to provincials and rectors, but also
to individual confreres, to review their own sensitivity, their own personal
work and that of the communities, and the validity and efficacy of the services
we offer to the Past Pupils. We need to think deeply about art. 39 of the
We can distinguish
two complementary facets of our responsibility: that which concerns the quality
of the education we impart in our various works, and that which is directly
linked with the life and activity of their Association.
- The first aspect (the quality of education) has already been substantially
dealt with as we considered the various activities realized by the Association.
Here it will not be out of place to emphasize size once again the clear idea
of Don Bosco and Don Rinaldi: that the Past Pupils represent in the world
the fruit of our labors. The education given in our various works is entirely
directed, in a practical social and ecclesial manner, to the mature life of
an upright citizen and honest christian. We work therefore with the object
of forming authentic Past Pupils; we foster a kind of education which will
guarantee their later membership of the Salesian Family. To prescind from
this would mean that we considered Don Bosco's preventive system out of date.
- The second aspect is that of promoting and animating the Association
itself. If we think of the very large number of our former pupils, if we are
convinced (because we have proof of it every day) that the legacy of Don Boscos,
spirit is very much alive at the present day and doing a lot of good, if we
look at the huge and growing mass of needy youngsters towards whom our Founder
felt that he had been divinely entrusted with a special mission, we shall
feel compelled to seek out and galvanize all the forces available in the Salesian
Family, and in the latter there is no doubt that the Past Pupils constitute
a mine of rich possibilities. There is here a providential salesian potentiality
which must be developed in each of the sectors of activity mentioned earlier.
We may add
here as well the invitation to foster the volunteer movement
among young Past Pupils) with its many perspectives, some of them of a missionary
But it is
a question of being able to dialogue and foster communion of spirit and intent
with an Association of mature individuals, which is of its nature a factor
extending salesian education, and which has an admirable in-built possibility
for collaboration and the preparation of new and beneficial initiatives. To
this end our communities must be aware of, and know how to turn to advantage,
valid future perspectives, which means that they must be open and welcoming
communities, available and prepared for dialogue.
up programs for the animation and ongoing formation of the confreres, time
and means of sensitization should be provided which will involve them in getting
to know and put into effect the guidelines of the recent General Chapters
in this respect.
in particular should consider it important to appoint a provincial delegate
who is qualified and suitable in other ways. He should plan meetings of rectors
of a kind that will lead the latter to a clear understanding of their communities
responsibility for animation and action, and will help them to select (if
need be) local delegates who will be able to interpret and translate into
practice this duty of every community. It goes without saying that the task
of the delegates is not to substitute those responsible for animation (who
remain the provincial, the rector, and the community as a whole), but to act
as interpreter for them in their desire to give effective realization to the
underlying policy. It will be a good thing too to promote a respectful and
practical dialogue with the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in respect
of rapport with the association of their own Past Pupils.
and the rectors, within the ambit of their own areas of responsibility, should
make good use of the possibility of periodic consultations to review the realities
of life in their area, and to plan activities of common interest, especially
for the good of youth.
As you can
see, dear confreres, this task which stems from a mandate given us by the
Constitutions, reminds us once again that the identity of a salesian community
does not require that it do every thing itself, but rather that it be a true
animating nucleus of a large number of other apostolic and social forces.
Vital Importance of spirituality
for 1987 brings home to us the need for fostering and making fruitful some
leading ideas which can enable the Salesian Family to be seen as an ecclesial
Movement with an incidence on history. Without an interior mystical energy
no one will become involved and we cannot be eithermissionaries orcharismatics
of the young.
If a salesian
community is to become in reality ananimating nucleus, its members must
life, it must be vibrant with spirituality, and as a community it must breathe
a new pentecostal atmosphere. We refer to this nowadays as youth spirituality,
because it is totally oriented to the education and evangelization of
the young, but before that it is above all proper to the adult members of
our Family, so that they may bring to life in themselves an educative fatherhood.
We have a brief but authoritative description of it in Chapter II of our Constitutions
which presentsthe salesian spirit of Don Bosco.
It is a question
of a special style of being disciples of Christ, a characteristic way of living
in his Spirit. It implies an attentive and meditative listen to the Word of
God, like that of Mary; a frequent eucharistic and penitential meeting with
Christ. It is an experience of faith, hope and charity which transforms the
daily round. It is an eschatological sign of thepower of the resurrection 
the fresh energies of youth. It is an uncontainable passion for the kingdom
(da mihi animas) in active collaboration with the Pastors of the Church.
It is a love capable of self-giving in sacrifice. It is joy and optimism,
without losing sight of the reality of sin and evil. It is flexibility as
regards work, and temperance in family simplicity. It is a spontaneous means
of communication of one who has sanctity at heart and wants to pass it on
to others, especially the young.
In the last
General Chapter (GC22) we declared war on spiritual superficiality; in 1988
it is our intention to absorb interiorly the new text of our Rule of life
and to relaunch in our lives our salesian Profession. The whole Salesian Family,
and in particular the Cooperators and Past Pupils, are waiting for us to infect
them with Don Bosco's living and beneficial spirit; the young ask us for.
an attractive spirituality they will find satisfying, and the simple but powerful
dynamism of a holiness for everyday life which will penetrate the monotonous
reality and hardships of the ordinary daily existence and the occasional more
difficult and exacting demands, with the life-giving transcendence of the
A spirituality of this kind is needed in every culture, and it contains
rich and vital elements which can be shared also with non-catholic christians,
with members of non -christian religions, and even with non-believers of good
of more than a century of the vitality of Don Bosco's spirit and the concrete
results of his educational system in every continent, provide a valuable stimulus
for us in our intention to become like the Founder, truecharismatics of
Confreres, I must bring this letter to an end.
With all our heart we want to see Don Rinaldi beatified as soon as
possible. He was the great inspirer of the Past Pupils Association, and certainly
watches over it from heaven.
Let us all
invoke from God, the source of everything that is good thegift of the official
recognition of his salesian holiness; it will be something significant and
beneficial for the young and for all our Family, but especially for the Don
Bosco Volunteers and the Past Pupils.
coming months, may Mary Help of Christians present to the Father this our
in the Venerable Philip Rinaldi, the living image of Don Bosco, you have given
new strength and greater extension to the charism of the Salesian Family.
Glorify this your servant, and make us to be his generous imitators in our
ability to animate many valid missionaries of the young!.
May Don Rinaldi intercede for us, for the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians,
for the Cooperators and, in a particular way, for the Don Bosco Volunteers
and the Past Pupils.
With my affectionate greetings, as we approach 1988.
Don Egidio Viganò
Guide to the Constitutions, Italian edition p. 115
E. Ceria, Annali I, 715
The preventive system, in appendix to Constitution and Regulations,
U. Bastasi,Guida organizzativa del Movimento Exallievi di Don Bosco,
Turin 1965, p.8
BM 14, 402-404
MB 17, 173-174
BM 14, 401
BM 9, 428
MB 16, 167
MB 17, 489
BM 13, 125
MB 18, 160-161
U. Bastasi, op. cit. p.235
BM 13, 582
BM 13, 583
U. Bastasi, op. cit. p. 20
E. Ceria, Annali I, 712
ASC 36, p. 518
Cong. for Causes of Saints,Positio, Rome 1972, p. 32
E. Ceria,Vita del Servo di Dio Sac. Filippo Rinaldi, SEI Turin,
Positio, p. 28
E. Ceria, op. cit., p. 254
E. Ceria, op. cit., p. 256
Guide to the Constitutions, Italian edition p. 114
Statute, art. 1
Statute, art. 3
Statute, art. 1,d
Institution of Secrataritate for Non believers in Roman Curia
Statute, art 1,b
Statute, art. 1,c
Appendix to Statute, 5,1
Statute, art. 3,a
AGC 299, p.8
Bishop Francis J. Cox: (14 Oct. 1980)
Statute, art. 3,a
L. Ricceri, SGC p. XIX