FATHER & FRIEND OF ALL
John Bosco, commonly known as Don Bosco, was born in a little hamlet of Becchi, in Turin, Italy, on August 16th, 1815. At the age of two, his father, Francis died. The words of his mother, ‘John, your father is no more,’ remained deeply impressed in his mind and perhaps this had something to do with his intense love and care for orphans and the homeless.
His mother, Margaret’s deep religious convictions, ardent love and hard work moulded the character of little John. Poverty was no bar for him from pursuing his studies. Working as a servant, assistant to a tailor, helper to a blacksmith or as a teacher, paid for his food, lodging and tuition at school. His regularity and diligence earned for him the respect of his companions and masters.
With the help of his kind neighbours, John entered the Ecclesiastical Seminary at Chieri in 1835. He was ordained a priest on 5th June, 1841. While pursuing his post-graduate studies in Theology, he came in contact with neglected youth of Turin, youth in prison, youth in streets, youth in garrets, and youth in cellars. There and then he decided that his life’s task would be to save these youth.
He started his work with one boy, a mason’s apprentice. Soon this boy brought others and the number grew. And his work demanded helpers. His own ‘old boys’ joined him in his noble task and became his first collaborators. Thus a society was formed in 1859. In May, 1862, 22 of them took their religious vows thus forming, a religious congregation. They took the name of “Salesians” after St. Francis of Sales.
John was a born leader and his rare intuition led him to use modern educational methods long before modern education even wrote about them. He called it the “Preventive system” and is based on Reason, Religion and Kindness. The educator was to spend himself in the service of his pupils. He was to make reasonable demands on them; he was to teach them a deep love for truth and virtues, he was to be patient and kind with them in all his dealing.
Don Bosco impressed on his followers that love was to be the source of all education. Love transformed all giving services for the mental, emotional, moral and spiritual growth of the pupils.
Don Bosco died at the age of 73 on 31st January 1888. He was declared a saint of the Catholic Church on the 1st April, 1934. His work was done. He founded his religious organisation with three main branches: the Fathers and Brothers who take care of boys, the sisters who take care of girls and the Co-operators who live like ordinary people but through their work they try to make the world a better place to live in.
Millions are now the past pupils of Don Bosco all over the world. They are proud of their education. Many, who occupy place of responsibility in different countries, are among them.