Who Is the Rector Major?
By Fr. Steve Ryan, SDB
The Rector Major of the Salesians (aka, the successor of Don Bosco) is the big man – the one in charge of the entire Salesian Congregation. He’s also the religious superior of all the missions and ministries of the Salesians of Don Bosco worldwide (present in over 130 countries and in 15,000 institutions). He is the leader of the Salesian family and all groups associated with the Salesians. The Salesian sisters, Cooperators, alumni, benefactors, priests and brothers look to him as a source of unity and a focal person for direction.
So… who is the Rector Major right now? Who is this main man who is in charge of the Salesian Congregation and leader of the Salesian family? His name is Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime. He is a Salesian priest, originally from Spain, who worked in Argentina for several years. He’s in his 60’s and is a joyful guy. As the superior general of the Salesians of Don Bosco worldwide he has a lot of traveling to do. As the successor of Saint John Bosco he is looked to for guidance of our Salesian Order. His main office is in Rome and he works with a council of advisors to govern, animate and form the Salesian family.
The Salesian Order of men (brothers and priests) takes a lot of work to run. We are the second largest religious order in the Catholic Church after the Jesuits but also – being the spiritual father of the entire Salesian family requires lots of additional time in meeting people, writing, conferences, social media appearances, etc.
The first Rector Major of the order was Don Bosco himself until his death in 1888. Since then, it has been an elected position chosen at the General Chapter gatherings. The first few Rector Majors after Don Bosco’s death had long terms. Eventually, the Salesians selected a term of six years, renewable for six more. Between 1888 and 2014 there have been ten successors of Don Bosco – that is, ten Rector Majors. Seven of them have been Italian, one Argentinian, one Mexican and now one Spaniard. Following the Salesian tradition from its Italian origin, the superior general of the Salesian Order is addressed as Don (which in Italian means Father). Hence, we call our present Rector Major Don Angel!
Rector Major is the principal and first promoter of the Salesian Spirit. He promotes fidelity to Don Bosco’s charism for all the members of the Salesian Order and the Salesian family. Some other important duties of his include:
- Creating or closing down a Province or other religious administrative divisions within the Salesian Order.
- Opening or closing down Salesian centers or modifying their original purpose.
- Opening new Salesian novitiates.
- Initiating the General Chapters of the Salesians in Rome.
- Approving the conclusions of the Provincial chapters.
- Approving the rules.
- Appointing of a new councilor in case of disability of one member.
- Election of Provincials.
Here is the list of Rector Majors, past and present: