Every religious community and every diocese has a formation program, which is divided into stages. One of the most commonly asked question is what processes does it take to become a Salesian? To answer to this question, we Salesians of Don Bosco follow the following formation program in our adventure with the young:
The Prenovitiate (1 year)
To anyone who is thinking of becoming a Salesian, an environment and suitable conditions are offered to enable him to discern his own vocation and to mature as a man and a Christian.
In the prenovitiate begins the initial formation of the candidate who asks to enter the Salesian Congregation to dedicate his life to the Lord in the service of youth.
In general, the candidates come from a great variety of settings, and their ages levels of personal maturity, the experiences of life, faith and culture are very different.
The prenovititate is a phase that takes into account the family situation, social conditioning and the level of education and faith of the candidates.
The candidate is admitted to the prenovitiate only when he has made his option for the Salesian life and shows, in the judgement of those responsible, a corresponding human, Christian and Salesian maturity.
Novitiate (1 year)
When the candidate considers himself ready and sufficiently prepared, he makes his application to begin the novitiate. To be admitted he must be free from the impediments listed in canon law (CIC can 643-645), show the aptitudes and maturity necessary for entering upon the Salesians life, and also his health must be such as to enable him to observe all the Constitutions of the society.
Entry into the Salesian Novitiate is the beginning of the Salesian religions experience in following Christ in the footsteps of Don Bosco. During the novitiate, the novices are to experience the manner of life of the Institute and form their minds and hearts in its spirit. At the same time their resolutions and suitability are to tested. After one year of seeking God’s will through prayer and guardace by his Novice Master, after seeking the consent of his Spiritual director he makes his application to become a Salesian which is done out of freedom and without impediments. If admitted, makes his first religious profession.
Post-Novitiate (2-3 years)
In this period the confrere, with the help of the community and of a spiritual guide, completes his maturity process with perpetual profession in view, and develops the different aspects of his vocation as a lay Salesian or as a candidate for the priesthood.
This period helps the professed Salesian to avoid a sudden change in his pattern of life and a slackening in his pace of growth in his vocation. It is a delicate and important time.
Practical Training (2 or 3 years)
Throughout the whole period of initial formation, importance is given not only to study but also to the pastoral activities of our mission.
The practical training period provides opportunity for a deeper living experience of Salesians educative and pastoral action. During this time the young confrere gets practice in the Preventive System, particularly in Salesians assistance.
From the Salesian point of view, this is the most characteristic phase of initial formation; it has its model in Don Bosco’s lived experience with the youth of the first Oratory.
The period following practical training is the period of specific formation for both the Salesian who is going to serve as a brother and the Salesian going to server as a priest.
The Salesian who is going to serve as a Brother will be given an opportunity to pursue advanced degree work and certification in the field of his ministry – service to the young particularly the poor and abandoned young people; while that of the Salesian who is going to serve as a Priest is Theological studies – four (4) years of immediate preparations to serve the young as a Priest.
Perpetual Vows (usually 4 years)
The term of temporary vows will last for a period of six years. After this the Brother will make perpetual vows committing himself to life long service of the Lord as a Salesian.
The Salesian brother evaluates his experience of consecrated life and the way he walks in the spirit, following the basic features of Salesian spirituality.
The brother confrere pays attention to:
- Patterns of relationships marked by simplicity, tact and serenity.
- Social virtues highly esteemed by people that make him accepted by everyone, including an ability and to communicate.
- An experience of affectivity and an ability to meet different kinds of people in his educative relationships.
- Daily contacts in the community and his relationship with the Salesian priest in a mutual exchange of gifts.
- A deep sensitivity to the world of work and culture, as well as an ability to size up situations objectively and adopt a professional approach.
The specific formation of a candidate for the priestly ministry follows the norms and directives laid down by the Church and the Congregation, and has for its scope the preparation of a priest who will be a genuinely Salesian pastor and educator.
The priest or deacon considers himself to be a “man of Charity”. He knows that the main purpose of his priestly life is not his own self-fulfillment, and not even the successful outcome of all his ventures – this he leaves to the Lord- but a spending of his life for others with all the love and sacrifice it entails, knowing full well that in this way he is working for the One who truly and solely matters.