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Interwar Expansion

The post-war period saw an extraordinary expansion of the Salesians in the United Kingdom. The numbers rose dramatically from 80 Salesians in 1920 to 160 in 1925. Through Fr Sutherland's connections with the Irish Free State government and the coincidence of having Bishop Denis Hallinan, as Bishop of Limerick, the Salesians began the college at Pallaskenry in 1919. This was followed soon afterwards by the foundation at Warrenstown in County Meath. These agricultural colleges were to prove to be the main contribution that the Salesians were to make to agricultural education in the newly independent republic.

What the Salesians gained in moving to Ireland was entry to a rich source of potential vocations both for England and especially for the Missions. In parallel to the movement of expansion in Ireland were the new training houses at Cowley, Oxford, 1921, and later at Beckford, near Tewkesbury. The foundations at Bolton, Thornleigh College, in 1925, the foundation the Missionary College at Shrigley in 1929, and a School of Arts, Trades and Agriculture at Blaisdon in 1930 completed this expansive phase.

The expansion of secondary education for Catholic boys and a specialist centre for Orphans marked the shape of the Province for the future. Here the Salesians already had some experience and developed some expertise. Opening the house at Cowley led to the first students being sent to study at the University and the overall raising of the educational standards of the confreres. Behind the list of houses and expanding numbers were the extraordinarily dynamic combination of Fr Joe Ciantar, who was an extraordinary publicist of Don Bosco and toured Britain and Ireland developing a network of Salesian friends and co-operators and at the same time gathering recruits for the Salesian life, and Fr Angelo Franco who shaped the candidates at Cowley and later at Shrigley into new model Salesians, much more deeply rooted in a living tradition of Salesian life.

Two crises halted this expansion. One was the sudden death of Fr Scaloni on Visitation in the Belgian Congo and the difficulty of filling his place. The other was the development of opposition to his successor, Fr Tozzi, who was perceived as rigidly Italian in an era of growing national tensions.

Fr Scaloni, whose monument in the garden at Cowley spoke volumes for the impact he made in the Province and his ability to inspire both the English and Irish Salesians, was succeeded by Fr Enea Tozzi, who had come to England as a young priest and then saved the work in Cape Town by his careful economy and mobilisation of the Catholic community. In England he managed to unite in opposition against himself the English, Irish and Scottish confreres who went so far as to complain to the newly created Apostolic Delegation. This resulted in a special visitation by Don Candela in 1939 and the subsequent transfer of Fr Tozzi to the USA.

Perhaps the greatest innovation of this period was the use of the media, public speaking, the press and film, to promote the Salesian work and its enormous success in encouraging popular support for the Salesian mission. Fr Ciantar's publicity campaign included speaking tours of Dublin, Belfast and Glasgow. Coupled with this was the success of setting up the basic structures necessary for the education of the Salesians themselves, a good investment for an order embarking on running boys' grammar schools.


Last modified on Friday, 13 December 2013 15:58


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