Jessica Wilkinson, our Provincial Coordinator, reflects on the nature of the Salesian Cooperator Vocation.
I am proud to say that I am a Salesian Cooperator. It’s my vocation. It’s who I am. Recognising my deep desire to serve God through serving the young, identifying St John Bosco and St Mary Mazzarello as great inspirations in my life and finding a strong sense of belonging within the Salesian family helped me to discover this blessed vocation. A period of accompaniment and initial formation led me to make my promise on 24th May 2002.
Salesian Cooperators were founded by Don Bosco himself, we are part of the worldwide Salesian family. We serve God in the young and the poor according to our own personal circumstances in life. Some Salesian Cooperators work in the field of education or youth work and some don’t. Some are single, some married, some separated, some widowed, some secular priests or deacons. Some have children, some don’t. Some are young and contemplative, some old and active, some middle aged and contemplatives in action. All Salesian Cooperators have felt called by God to join the association by making a promise “to be a faithful disciple of Christ in the Catholic Church; to work for Your Kingdom, especially for the advancement and salvation of the young; to deepen and give witness to the Salesian Spirit; to collaborate, in Family communion, in the apostolic initiatives of the local Church.”
God draws each of us into relationship with him through our Lord Jesus. He calls each of us to love and to be holy. There are as many ways to respond to that call as there are people on the planet! The Gospels, the teachings of the Church, the lives of the saints and reliance on the Holy Spirit help us to discern how God calls us to live our lives, using the gifts, talents and circumstances with which we are provided. In Pope Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, he reminds us, now in 2018, that we are all personally called by God. “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44; cf. 1Pet 1:16) Pope Francis writes “To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case.” (Gaudete et exsultate 14) Don Bosco knew this when he said to the boys “Do the ordinary things extraordinarily well.” Dominic Savio agreed saying “here we make holiness consist of being cheerful!”
In practical terms, Salesian Cooperators are Christians who are living out their baptismal promises and are inspired to do so in the style of our Salesian saints and holy people. They draw energy, encouragement and renewal from belonging to the Salesian Family, receiving ongoing formation and being part of networks that connect people, places and projects. Some Salesian Cooperators are past pupils, teachers from Salesian schools or Salesian volunteers who have had intense experiences of the Salesian charism as young adults. Some may learn, hear about, or come into contact with the Salesian later in life after careers in industry. Some may have been part of a Salesian parish for decades and then after a feast day celebration or day of recollection, recognise their vocation. All Salesian Cooperators have responded to the call for God to build a better world under the guidance of Mary, Help of Christians.
By the example of his passionate faith, his ardent desire to make the world a better place for the young and his contagious energy and enthusiasm, Don Bosco drew others to holiness. Some were and still are called to religious life as brothers, priests or sisters, many more as Salesian Cooperators.