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Salesian Co-operators

History of Salesian Co-operators

The Salesian Cooperators date back to the origins of Don Bosco's apostolic project to help poor, abandoned boys: the Oratories. From the early days in Turin, he engaged men and women of different backgrounds and places to help him, within the bounds of their possibilities. As he expanded his work he realised not only that he was increasingly in need of cooperators (including priests, but above all lay people) linked to the Salesian mission, but also to form an association for them in order to give greater power to their work. Initially, he wanted them to be "extern" members of the Congregation of St Francis de Sales, with a specific legal status in the Congregation's Constitutions. But the Holy See rejected this proposal, and he decided to organise them in the "Pious Union of Salesian Cooperators" (today's ACS), with its own Regulations which were approved by Pius IX in 1876. The membership grew rapidly, and with their active help, the Cooperators made it possible to create and develop workshops for arts and crafts, mutual aid societies, farm projects, printing shops, day and evening schools, oratories, homes and shelters, missions and orphanages. In 1895 the first International Congress of Cooperators empowered them to contribute to resolving the great social issues created by the advent of industrialisation. This work, based on the very ideals of freedom, justice and fellowship which are themselves Christian values, to this day continues in the business world, schools, social work, politics and the media.