The Salesian Cooperators date back to the origins of Don Bosco’s apostolic projects, called Oratories, to help poor, abandoned boys. 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 realized that he was increasingly in need of cooperators not only priests but above all, lay people who were linked to the Salesian mission. He formed an association for them in order to give greater power to their work.
Initially, Don Bosco wanted the Cooperators to be "extern" members of the Congregation of St Francis de Sales, with a specific legal status in the Congregation’s Constitutions. The Holy See rejected the proposal, and Don Bosco decided to organize the "Pious Union of Salesian Cooperators" with its own Regulations which were approved by Pius IX in 1876.
The membership grew rapidly, and the Cooperators made it possible to create and develop workshops for cobblers and carpenters, mutual aid societies, farm projects, printing shops, day and evening schools, oratories, homes and shelters, missions and orphanages.
In 1895, at the first International Congress of Cooperators, the decision was taken to contribute to resolving the great social issues of the day created by the advent of industrialization. Based on the very ideals of freedom, justice, and fellowship which are themselves Christian values, the work continues to this day in the business world, schools, social work, politics and the media.
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