DON BOSCO
EDUCATOR & FRIEND OF YOUTH
(1815-1888)

John Bosco was born on 16th August 1815, in a peasant family at Becchi, near the city of Turin, Italy. He was only two years old when his father, Francis Bosco passed away.

 

THE DREAM
At the age of nine John had a mysterious dream. He saw himself in a vast field, surrounded by youngsters, laughing, singing and playing. Before long the boys began to shout and curse and a fight broke out. John tried to restore order by swinging his fists around and shouting at the trouble makers. A majestic personage stopped him, saying: ‘Not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness you shall win them over.'


THE VISION
John recognized in this dream his future mission. This experience deepened his desire to become a priest and dedicate his life for the welfare of young people.
John’s path however was full of hurdles. His mother, Margaret, though poor, was prepared to make any sacrifice to educate him. But his elder step-brother Anthony, strongly opposed his going to school. He had to do his share of work on the family farm and study during his spare time. To earn the little extra money needed for the books, he had to work often as a labourer, shepherd, tailor, shoemaker, barber and cook – skills which he later taught his poor students.


As a teenager, John used to gather boys of his age and entertain them with magic, jugglery and acrobatics. His performance however, always ended with a good story and a brief exhortation to live a good and honest life. In due course, John entered the seminary and was ordained a priest on 5th June 1841. From then on he was affectionately known as DON BOSCO (= Father Bosco).


THE MISSION
In 1853 to train boys in some useful trades, Don Bosco turned his backyard into a makeshift workshop for shoemaking, carpentry, tailoring, smithy, book binding and printing. This was the first Catholic trade school in Italy.


To give permanence to his work, in 1859 he founded a religious Society of Priests and Brothers which was named Salesians, after his favourite saint, Francis de Sales. Today they are known as the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB).


THE METHOD
Behind the immense success of his work with youth was a unique way of educating the young, a system of education that he developed. He summarized it in three simple words – Reason, Religion and Love.
‘It is not enough to love the young’, he used to tell his helpers, ‘but they must know that you love them.’ To the youngsters he would tell: ‘It is enough that you are young for me to love you.’


THE OUTCOME
Today, a hundred and twenty two years after Don Bosco’s death, 36,000 Priests, Brothers and Sisters carry out his work in 132 countries around the world. They are engaged in a wide variety of developmental works directed to the welfare of the young: academic, agricultural and technical schools, youth centres, hostels and parishes, catechetics, mass media and social communications, youth counseling and rehabilitation centres and a host of special services for delinquents and marginalized youth.
Don Bosco died on 31 January 1888 at the age of seventy three. He was declared a saint on 1 April 1934. His feast day is celebrated on 31st January every year.