The Salesian Society, founded by Saint John Bosco, in Turin, Italy, takes the name Salesians after their patron, St Francis de Sales.
Born of a poor family in Valdocco, at that time a suburb Don Bosco was virtually struck by the crisis the youth had to undergo as a fallout of the industrial revolution that effected their life, faith, way of living. Flocking to the factories from the village, education, morality and religion were at its lowest ebb. To save the young rising generation the Salesian society was founded.
In 1844, Don Bosco began to gather poor and neglected boys in places where he could assemble them and play. He taught them catechism (faith), heard confessions in open areas and led them to lead lives of faith. Since most meetings were held on Sundays, these were called as ‘Festive Oratories’. In 1845 the first night school was opened at Valdocco, and became a permanent institution. It proved such a success that a second was opened in 1847 at Porto Nuovo and a third at Vanchiglia (1849). Due to lack of personnel, Don Bosco was forced to use the older and more advanced pupils, setting them as teachers and leaders over the others. It is from these boys who lived in the oratory that Don Bosco picked up his followers to join the priesthood and later to carry on his salesian society.
With the growth of the works in Turin and other parts of Italy, Salesian missionaries were sent to South America and houses were found in Argentina and Buenos Aires. In 1876 the Salesian Cooperators were organized for the purpose of assisting in the good works of the congregation. They were enriched with many indulgences by Pius IX. The Figli di Maria Ausiliatrice or the sons of Mary Help of Christians were founded to assist vocations to the priesthood.
In 1877 the “Salesian Bulletin”, the official organ of the congregation made its first appearance, its object being to inform the catholic world of the good works undertaken by the institute and to beg help to support them.
In 1879, missionaries were sent to Patagonia and houses were opened at Navarre, Marseilles and Saint-Cyr (France). In 1880, the first house was opened in Spain at Utera and in South America the misison at Viedma, capital of the Rio Negro was established. In 1883 the first house in Brazil was opened at Niceteroy, and mission were established at Terra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. In 1887 the salesians spred to Austria at Trent, in Battersea in London, England and a large band of Missionaries left for Ecuador.
On 31 January 1888, came the great grief of the society with the death of its founder Don Bosco at the age of 72.
The First successor Don Michele Rua continued the mission and developed the work of the congregation in France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and consolidating in South America. In 1889 houses were established in the Holy Land and in Africa.
In 1906 the Salesians made their first appearance in India beginning a new history of the Salesians in the East.