Giovanni Bosco was born into a poor farmer’s family on the 16th of August 1815 in Becchi, a small village in Northern Italy’s countryside near the city of Turin. This was a turbulent period in European history; it was the time of the rise and fall of the Napoleonic Empire and the industrial revolution.
Turin was in the middle of this turbulence. The Napoleonic wars consumed tens of thousands of Italian men.
The Salesian province can be a state, regions within a state or a combination of (regions of) states. The head of a province is the provincial. The province has the same departments as the General Directorate. The province is divided into ‘houses’ which are usually animated by communities of SDB.
This year 2021 marks the first centenary of the death of Fr Paul Albera (1845–1921), the second successor of Don Bosco at the head of the Pious Society of St Francis de Sales.
Like Don Bosco, We Stand By You
We have dedicated our lives to helping young people and to build up thier lives by bringing them closer to Christ.
IT STARTED WITH A DREAM
At a very young age, the future saint knew God called him to serve youth. When he was just nine years old, he was inspired by a dream that would change his life forever. He saw a multitude of very poor boys who were fighting and cursing amongst each other. Suddenly a man of majestic appearance emerged and told him: “With meekness and charity, you will conquer these your friends.” The boys then turned into the wild animals that they had been acting like. Once again the man then told John that the field was John’s life’s work and that once John changed and grew in humility and faithfulness, he would see a change in the children a change that the man then demonstrated in the dream. The wild animals suddenly changed into gentle lambs.
A Lady just as majestic appeared and added: “Make yourself humble, strong and robust. At the right time you will understand everything.”
The beginning of Don Bosco's Ministry
Ever since that dream, he knew it was his destiny to become a priest and would dedicate himself to assist the poor youth but in order to fulfill his dream, he had to leave home and assist the city school where he would walk for hours to receive an education. One of John’s favorite hobbies was to watch traveling performers that juggled or walked the tightrope over time he saw this as an opportunity and learned all these tricks as well and caught the attention of the kids. Soon after he started his own shows, kids and neighbors would gather around to enjoy performances. By the end of the show, the young Bosco didn’t want to receive money but instead would recite a homily and ask everyone to join him in prayer.
Don Bosco was 26 years old when he was ordained to the priesthood in Turin. He would now be called Don Bosco and would come to celebrate his first mass the day right after in the church of St. Francis of Assisi. Following his dream, he immediately went out into the streets and came to the rescue of the youth; he began by working with orphan boys that would roam the streets of Turin or would come to him for shelter. With the growing number of boys shortly after he opened a hospice where his mother would help him and would become known as Mama Margaret for her tenderness and love for the children. He not only fed the homeless orphans whom he took in but also provided them with educational skills like teaching them how to read, write and helping them find stable jobs.
The Birth of the Salesian Family and Preventive System
His work began in Turin and then he moved around the world. In 1854, speaking to the group of young people with whom he founded a religious congregation, Don Bosco said: “Our Lady wants us to found a Society. I have decided that we will call ourselves Salesians. Let’s put ourselves under the protection of St. Francis de Sales.” Several years later, in 1859, Don Bosco founded the Salesian Congregation. Also in 1872, he co-founded, together with Maria Mazzarello, the Community of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. A congregation that would do a job similar to that of St. John Bosco, but with women. By 1875, he would send missionaries to various parts of the world, with the job to work for the poor, young, and create a more equitable, and Christian society
St. John Bosco would dedicate his life to young people, writing many books, promoting the creation of workshops, schools, oratories, and proposing a new educational system: The Preventive System.
This system sums up John Bosco’s educational philosophy in three words: Reason, Religion, and Love. It was impossible for him to educate a young man by reason, if he is not loved, his problems are understood and he is supported to solve them, This unique system sculpts a person in body, heart, mind, and spirit. He emphasized strongly that the youth should be taught through love patience and empathy and not with intimidation or punishment. This system is now globally practiced by many institutes, colleges, and Institutes of Higher Education.
Don Bosco's Holiness
Don Bosco’s last years weren’t easy, as years passed he became old and weary but yet he still kept up with all the Salesian activities and passed on his Mission and teachings in schools, technical schools, youth hostels, and oratories. Don Bosco’s soul passed to his God on January 31, 1888, along with his Salesians praying beside him. in his last prayers that he recited with his brothers: “never forget these three things: devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, devotion to Mary Help of Christians, and devotion to (always be in support and come to the defense of) the Holy Father!”
On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1934, Pope Pius XI declared Don Bosco a saint, and was to be recognized as “Father and Teacher of Youth.” To this day his ideals, his spirit, and teachings still live and are practiced by priests, brothers, and sisters who continue life and practice his principles on this earth. Today “The Salesians of Don Bosco” is an international society that is dedicated to Society’s work for the development and education of the young especially those who are at risk or in need.
The Salesians of Don Bosco serve the youth worldwide irrespective of religious differences or social inequality. His values and teachings are present in 4.000 schools, Colleges, technical schools, and youth centers in 133 countries.