Like the Vincentians and the Daughters of Charity, the priests were founded first. Don Bosco founded them under the name "Society of St. Francis de Sales". St. John Bosco founded them in 1859 to care for children and youth in nineteenth century Italy. They quickly spread around the world. A few years after founding the priests, Don Bosco met St. Mary Mazzarello, who encouraged him to found a womens' religious order under the same charism. (After all, behind every great male saint, there's a great female saint!) Together, they founded the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMAs) and those Sisters also quickly spread around the world. Eventually, the Salesian family grew as more religious congregations and lay groups were founded. Today, there are about 28 groups that count themselves among the Salesian family! Strangely enough, you could substitute "Don Bosco" with "St. Vincent de Paul" and "Mary Mazzarello" with "St. Louise" and you'd get almost the same story!
Anyway, there seems to be no connection between the Daughters of Charity and the Salesians, right? Founded in a different country, founded in a different era, founded with a more specific mission in mind, etc. The only real connection is that Don Bosco founded it based on the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, who was actually a buddy of St. Vincent de Paul and someone St. Louise de Marillac deeply admired. Other than that, I got nada.
|St Mary Mazzarello, founder|
of the FMAs
Because of them, I was able to see the beauty of religious life. During my orientation with VIDES in New Jersey, hanging out with the FMAs "woke me up" again to the idea of being called to religious life. I've had many "wake up calls" throughout my vocation story and another one is when I was spending time with my old community (Salesian, but not the FMAs) this past summer.
Because of the Salesians, I saw the joy there is in serving others, particularly children and youth. It can be a frustrating job but all the Salesian Sisters and priests I've met take it all in stride - they keep on smiling and keep being joyful, despite it all. They love children and youth and have a dedication to them that I had never seen before. Despite how exhausted they may be, you'll find them jump-roping or playing baseball right along with the kids. They are one of the many people in my life that showed me the definition of service.
And of course, there's always divine intervention. When Don Bosco's relics were making their world-wide tour almost a year ago, I went to visit them in New York. In front of him, in St. Patrick's cathedral, I prayed "St. John Bosco, I know I'm not called to be a Salesian...yeah, sorry about that, but hey, that's God's fault, not mine. But please help me find my vocation. Pray that I may find the way." And well, you know the rest of the story.
If you're interested particularly in serving children and youth, either as a lay person or a religious, I suggest checking them out. I wasn't called to be a religious with them for many different reasons but they really are great people and I don't regret for a minute being a Salesian long-term lay volunteer.
If you're already a religious (Sister, priest, or brother!), is there a religious community besides your own that influenced you in your vocation story?