It was therefore no surprise that Paul Albera would don the clerical cassock on October 27, 1861, and the following year, on May 14, 1862, become one of the first twenty-two Salesians.
“That evening”, writes Fr. Bonetti, “after expressing their wishes, various members of the newly constituted Pious Society, who… felt called to do so formally professed the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for the first time. Oh, if only words could describe the great humility with which this memorable event took place. We found ourselves cramped in a small room, without so much as a bench to sit on. Most of the members were in the prime of life, some studying rhetoric, some in the first or second year of philosophy, others in the first courses of theology and a few in holy orders … There were twenty-two of us – not including Don Bosco who was among us, kneeling at the table on which the Crucifix was placed – who made our vows according to the regulations”.
After this, Don Bosco stood up and spoke words that gave us peace of mind and great courage for the future: “Who knows what plans the Lord has for this Society of ours and how he will use it to do much good in his Church! In the next twenty-five or thirty years, if the Lord continues to help us as he has done so far, our Society will have spread to different parts of the world and have grown to include a thousand members … How much good could be done”. Paul Albera was seventeen years old. From that moment on, the Salesian Congregation became his entire life. Many presumed that at this point Don Bosco’s work was already complete. But they had not considered his formidable creative vision. It was precisely to the timid and serious cleric Albera, at the end of that year, that Don Bosco revealed his next step: “Paul, our Church of St. Francis de Sales has become too small: it can no longer hold all our young people, even if they were to stand up one against the other. So we will build another church that is bigger, more beautiful and more magnificent. We will call it: The Church of Mary Help of Christians “.
Even as Don Bosco’s health was becoming an issue, the “Salesian revolution” could not be stopped. In 1863, the first group of Salesians, all of whom were very young, swarmed from Valdocco to found the first house outside of Turin, in Mirabello Monferrato. It was the first step in an expansion that continues to this day, after 157 years. In his five years at Mirabello, Paul Albera manifested prodigious skills. He taught highschool, completed his theological studies and earned a degree in literature from the University of Turin. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1868, Don Bosco called him back to Turin to replace him as the admissions officer for young people applying to the Oratory. This was a very delicate role, which required not only a generous dose of common sense but also a big heart, two qualities which Paul Albera possessed in abundance. He held this office for two years, during which he learned much about the human suffering of so many. During this period, he also served as a member of the General Council of the new Society.