Monasteries of Great Britain and Ireland – Salesians


Active. Under Simple Vows. Founded 1862. Motto: Da mibi animas caetera tolle.

This Congregation was founded at Turin in 1868 by the well-known Giovanni Bosco, who was born of pious parents in the village of Becchi, near Turin, in 1815. He was educated first by the parish priest, then at a day-school, and finally at the Seminary of Chieri, where he was ordained priest in 1841. After his ordination he attended advanced courses of lectures in moral theology and sacred eloquence in the Institute of Saint Francis of Assisi at Turin, and during this time he visited prisons and hospitals.

Don Bosco took a great interest in juvenile criminals, and it occurred to him it would be an excellent thing to found an institution for poor lads, whose fall into crime might be prevented if they had good religious and moral training in their youth, and thus be made useful members of society. In 1841 he got hold of a boy of fifteen, whose religious education had been completely neglected, and brought him to the Sacraments, and this boy became the first member of “the Oratory of Saint Francis of Sales,” or of the so-called Sistine Oratory. He was soon joined by others, and in a few years he had over 400 scholars, whom he assembled first on Sundays only, and after they had heard Mass, and he had instructed them in the Catechism and singing, he let them spend the rest of the day in the open air under his eye. In the winter he with difficulty hired a room for them; and at last, in 1846, when they numbered 800, he hired a shed, since a room was not to be had for his noisy flock, and turned it into a chapel. On this very site there now stands the Oratory of Saint Francis of Sales.

Up to this time his efforts had been laughed at, and he was considered mad, and an attempt was even made to put him under restraint, but now the civil authorities were impressed by his work, and resolved to support him. Their help enabled him to open night-schools, in which the most intelligent boys were taught French, Italian, Latin, and mathematics; these became, in time, teachers of the others, and were sent to the other institutions of the Oratory, which were soon opened in other parts of Italy, in France, and in America.

Then arose the need of a boarding-school, for which a hayloft was first hired; soon this grew to a guest-house in which 1,000 boys were lodged in forty dormitories. In the beginning, the boys of their means, and hand it all over for the common good.

The Salesian Society consists of priests, clerics, and coadjutors, which last correspond to lay-Brothers, and there is also a sort of Third Order, called the Association of Salesian Co-operators. This was approved by Pius IX in 1876, and enriched with many favours by Leo XIII; it embraces all who assist the Salesians in any way by teaching or other pious works.

There is also a Congregation of women, founded by Don Bosco in 1874, who are under the direction of the Superior General of the Salesian Fathers, and are called the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians; they have just established themselves in England at Battersea, and at Chertsey.

Don Bosco died in 1888 at the mother-house at Turin; he was a man of extraordinary zeal and energy; he personally overlooked his gigantic labour of love, and at his death his Congregation had no less than 250 houses in the Old and New Worlds, wherein 130,000 children were sheltered, and annually about 18,000 educated pupils were sent out from these various institutions. In 1902 there were about 2,000 members of the Congrega- tion in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, and England; in Palestine, Algiers, Egypt, and Tunis; in Cape Town and the Falkland Isles; in Mexico, Patagonia, Terra Del Fuego, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Chili, Bolivia, Uruguay, the Argentine Republic, Venezuela, the United States, Jamaica, San Salvador, and Columbia, in which last place they nurse the lepers in Agua de Dios and Contratacion.

Besides all their educational works, which range from elementary schools to priests* seminaries, the Fathers labour in home and foreign missions, in their hospitals for the sick, and in giving retreats.

The novitiate lasts one year.

There is no special habit.

There are three houses of the Salesian Fathers in England: one at West Battersea, one at Burwash, in Sussex, where the novitiate is, and one at Farnborough, Hants.

MLA Citation

  • Francesca M Steele. “Salesians”. Monasteries of Great Britain and Ireland, 1903. CatholicSaints.Info. 2 December 2018. Web. 7 May 2021. <>