Don Bosco (St. John Bosco) was inspired to create a vast movement of persons to bring the Gospel of Jesus to young people and to work for their benefit.
Born: August 16, 1815 Castelnuovo d’Asti (now Castelnuovo Don Bosco), Italy
Ordained: June 5, 1841 Turin
Died: January 31, 1888 Turin
Canonized: April 1, 1934
Feast day: January 31
Popularly known as Don Bosco, St. John Bosco is one of the most beloved of modern saints. From his childhood, he wanted to dedicate his life to keeping youngsters close to God. As a boy he used to repeat to his friends, stories he had read or sermons he had heard and would then lead his listeners in the recitation of the rosary. From travelling jugglers, acrobats, and magicians he learned tricks and put on his own shows; the price of admission being the common recitation of the rosary.
As a young priest, Don Bosco went to Turin. Hordes of boys were descending on the capital, looking for work in the factories and construction projects. Many of these youths were orphans, many were seasonal workers from the outlying farmlands, and those with families were usually poor and often had family problems. Don Bosco devised a plan to care for delinquents after their release in order to keep boys out of trouble. He called the institution that he envisioned an “oratory,” a place of prayer. It was much more than that; it was a place to play and make friends, a school, an employment service, and a home. Every Sunday and feast day Don Bosco gathered the poor and the abandoned youths of Turin, heard their confessions, celebrated Mass for them, preached in the language they could understand, led them in games and hikes, told them stories and listened to their problems. He found them places to stay and before long he opened a hospice that eventually housed hundreds. He found them jobs with reputable employers. He opened a night school, and later a trade school and what we would call a college prep programme.
All of this work Don Bosco put under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales, who was known for his patience and gentleness, qualities essential to educators. Hence the institution was called the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales.
The first Salesian work outside Turin opened in 1863; by the time Don Bosco died, his Salesians- men and women- numbered 1,400 and were in 9 countries of Europe and South America. Today they labour for the poor and abandoned young people on all 6 continents, in about 130 countries, and number about 28,000. In addition there are tens of thousands of members of the wider Salesian family: co-operators, alumni, a secular institute, and several small religious congregations.