Salesian Cooperators Association
ACS (Associazione Cooperatori Salesiani)
ALSO KNOWN AS
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.
The Regulations of Apostolic Life were drawn up in 1986. Faithful to the ideas of the Founder, they followed the Magisterium of the second Vatican Council and set out the identity of Cooperators as humanly mature people; convinced practising Christians; laity aware of their vocation as baptised Christians called to take part in the mission of the Church in the world; authentic Salesians striving for holiness, sharing and bringing their concern for education everywhere, a key element in Don Bosco’s apostolic project. The founding element of their experience of faith and the way they live and conduct themselves is "being Salesians", namely, possessing that heritage of spiritual and educational values bequeathed by Don Bosco and by Mother Maria Domenica Mazzarello (co-foundress with Don Bosco of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians) which leads them to give pride of place to the following areas of action: the family, to foster its growth as a community of persons founded on love and educational relations; the school and educational institutions, to provide a comprehensive education to young people through a pedagogy imbued with the Salesian spirit; youth centres, to promote the healthy and creative use of free time, receptive to such values as friendship, solidarity, and commitment to others; the parish and the oratory, to cooperate in animating youth groups, combining education with evangelisation; social communication, which creates culture and disseminates models of living among the people so as to bring the love for truth, concern for education, and preference for positive messages into the world of the mass media; politics, social services, voluntary service, to make the institutions more attentive to the common good, to young people, to the idea of prevention in order to solve problems; the world of labour, to bear witness and promote an ethic of service, solidarity with the weakest and concern for the needs of the unemployed, moving beyond the rationale of pure economic efficiency.
The basic unit of the ACS is the Centre, which groups together the Cooperators working in a given territory, forming the living cell of the Association, and the place for formative and operational exchange. The life and work of the centre are governed and animated by the local council. Centres are grouped by Province, and are accountable to the Salesians’ Inspectorate ("Province"), and animated by the Inspectorate Council. The Country or Region which ensures contact and communion between the various Inspectorates is created as a National Conference in countries with a large number of Cooperators (Italy, Spain, Poland and Argentina), and as a Regional Conference in countries like India and Brazil. The World Convention, made up of one member elected for each Region of the Salesian Congregation, and five members appointed by the Rector Major, is responsible for animating the whole Association and coordinating the educational and apostolic activities under the guidance of the Rector Major.
ACS has a membership of about 30,000, and is present in 58 countries as follows: Africa (6), Asia (8), Europe (18), North America (13), Oceania (2), and South America (11).
Salesian Cooperators generally place themselves at the service of the works of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), sometimes holding posts of responsibility. In some situations, particularly in the Third World, they manage oratories, schools and family hostels.
Salesiani Cooperatores, published every two months in four languages.
Associazione Cooperatori Salesiani
Via della Pisana, 1111 - 00163 Roma - Italy
Tel. [+39]066.5612636 - Fax [+39]066.5612556