Photos of Salesian houses in France (Nice, Lille and Marseille), followed by a close up of Fr. Paul Albera as a young priest.
October 1881: Don Bosco sends Fr. Albera to Marseille as the first Salesian provincial in France. French laws expelling religious communities certainly complicated matters for Albera, but he would not be deterred. The Salesians were allowed to stay by simply describing themselves as “members of a charitable society.”
In 1881, there are four Salesian houses in France: Nice (Salesians and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, FMA), Marseille (SDB and FMA), Saint Cyr (SDB and FMA) and La Navarre.
Within his first ten years in France, Albera successfully founds ten new houses: Sainte Marguerite (1883), Paris-Menilmontant (1883), Lille (1884), Grevigney (1888), Le Rossignol (1889), Dinan (1890), Liege (1891), Oran in Algeria (1891), Ruitz (1891), Saint Pierre de Canon (1891).
1883-1887: Albera accompanies Don Bosco on his annual trips to France, witnessing many healings. Don Bosco’s high esteem for Fr. Albera emerges from this testimony:
Madam Eudossie Olive, a benefactress of the Salesian work, met Don Bosco in Marseilles and asked his advice regarding the choice of a spiritual director. The holy man, taking a moment to gather his thoughts, answered: “Ask Fr. Albera: he is a man who works miracles in the direction of souls!” (D. Garnieri, Don Paolo Albera, secondo successore di don Bosco. Memorie Biografiche, Torino, Società Editrice Internazionale, 1939. p. 79).
1888-1891: Albera strengthens the bonds between French and Belgian Salesian Cooperators, winning thier affection and the honour of being called the “little Don Bosco”.