Photo: General Chapter XI, August 16, 1910: Fr. Paul Albera is elected Rector Major, second successor of Don Bosco.
First row, left to right: Fr. Lemoyne, Fr. Vespignani, Fr. Cerruti, Fr. Bertello, Fr. Rinaldi, Bishop Costamagna, Fr. Albera, Bishop Fagnano, Fr. Barberis, Fr. Piscetta, Fr. Munerati, Fr. Gusmano.
From Fr. Albera’s First Circular Letter:
Turin, January 25, 1911
I know you have been waiting anxiously for the first circular letter of the new Rector Major. On my part, I am aware that I should have informed you, as soon as the General Chapter was over, about the election of the Superiors and of many other important things concerning our Pious Society …
1. … As a brother and friend. But with your goodness and indulgence towards me, you will forgive me if I fulfil this duty after much delay. I hope you will not attribute it to negligence or lack of good will, but that you will regard it solely as the effect of the painful trepidation I experienced upon seeing the immense weight of the government of the whole Salesian Congregation fall on me. You will also take into account, I am sure, the serious and relentless tasks I had to undertake after my election, which did not allow me even a moment to collect my thoughts …
2. The memory of Fr. Rua. How could I begin writing to you, my dear confreres, without remembering the one who for so many years was our teacher and guide on the path of virtue by his example, word and writings? How could I begin this circular letter without expressing my appreciation and profound veneration for the incomparable Rector Major whom death has snatched from us? I am writing these words in the same humble little room that for more than twenty-two years was witness to his heroic virtues. Here, everything speaks to me of him.
…In the morning session of August 16, I was elected Rector Major. It is useless for me to try to describe the emotions that took hold of me at that moment in which I saw myself, so unworthy, raised to such a sublime and formidable office. It seemed that I was being crushed under the weight of so much responsibility … As soon as I could, I ran to throw myself at the feet of our Venerable Father, complaining loudly to him for having allowed the ship of the Congregation to fall into such miserable hands…
… Heartened by so much kindness, I dared to ask [the Pope] for some practical norms for the governance of our Pious Society, and he replied with a gentle smile: “You are asking this of me? All you have to do is follow in the footsteps of Fr. Rua. He was a saint. In everything, do as he himself would have done. DON’T MOVE AWAY FROM ANY CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS INTRODUCED BY DON BOSCO AND FR. RUA. All the same I will add a word: – Remind your confreres that the One they serve is the Lord. Let the thought of God’s presence be fixed in their minds. In everything, let them be guided by the spirit of faith, fervently carrying out their practices of piety and offering their works and sacrifices to God. Let God be always in their minds and hearts.