Over the centuries in the Church various groups of apostolic life have been established. When we speak of religious life we usually think of congregations such as Jesuits, Franciscans, or Salesians in both female and male branches. As a Sister, Brother or Priest, such persons go among the people to serve them and God in a consecrated way of life. There are, however, other expressions of lived religious life in the Church. These are called secular institutes/associations of consecrated life. Two such groups are part of the Salesian Family. A Female branch called VDB – Volunteers of Don Bosco, and a male branch called CDB – Volunteers with Don Bosco. Both have very strong Salesian roots and share in the desire to be witnesses of the Love of God for his people, especially the young.

VDB – Volunteers of Don Bosco

“Our vocation as Volunteers of Don Bosco requires a total donation to God, in such a way that we can be present to our neighbour; it requires us to serve the Lord whom we find in the little ones and the poor of the world, with a Salesian spirit and style”

VDBs were founded by Fr Philip Rinaldi, Don Bosco’s third successor. Fr Rinaldi started the first group of consecrated lay women in 1917. It would be some time before such groups would be formally recognised by the Church. In 1919, the first seven young women made their consecration. Over the years the group faced struggles and difficulties, especially after Fr Rinaldi died. However, they continued to be loyal to their vocation and 1956 marked the beginning of a rebirth and consolidation for their way of life. In 1978, the Institute of the Volunteers of Don Bosco was recognised as a Secular Institute with Pontifical rights. The Institute is now worldwide with 182 Groups in 27 Regions.

CDB – Volunteers with Don Bosco

The history of the CDBs started early in the 1980s, when a group of young people from various parts of the world started to look for an opportunity of total consecration to God, while at the same time living the Salesian Spirituality and remaining in the world as lay men. In 1993, young men from Paraguay, Venezuela, Malta, and Italy came together in Rome to start a foundation work for a possible future institute. With the approval of Fr Egidio Viganò, the Rector Major of the Salesians on 12 September 1994, the Volunteers with Don Bosco were born, with seven men making their first profession as CDBs. Four years later the Association of the CDBs was approved by the Church. At the moment the association has nearly 100 members and is present in 27 countries on four continents.

Hidden witnesses of Christ

Even though the two institutes are totally separate, the members of both institutes share similar characteristics. Both VDBs and CDBs are characterised by their Salesian Spirituality and dedication to young people. Living their lives completely immersed in the world, being involved in ordinary jobs and professional activities, enables them to express God’s love for people practically in all realities. Sensitive to the signs of the times and demands of the particular settings of work, they continue to embrace it with joy and to live each human and Christian value in an authentic manner. Externally nothing distinguishes them from other persons. But the consecration with the profession of the evangelical vows of chastity, poverty and obedience adds to their commitment to love God and others in a profound manner.

Nourished by a profound prayer life, members of both VDBs and CDBs, are working in variety of settings, but their preferred areas of work include ‘borderline places’, the new kinds of poverty, the educational and social settings, and many others, especially those with a particular attention to the young and poor people.

Even though the members do not live in a community, they live in a communion with each other. This means that each one of them belongs to a particular group in their respective institutes, which serves as a point of reference. It is within these groups that they meet, receive formation, and support each other.

For more information about VDBs visit: www.volontariedonbosco.org

For more information about CDBs visit: www.volontaricdb.org