John Bosco was born in the little hamlet of Becchi some 14 miles from Turin, Italy in 1815. His Father Fracis Bosco was a hard working peasant who died when John was only 2 years old. The grief stricken words of his mother telling him that he was now fatherless remained deeply impressed in the child’s mind and perhaps helped to instill in to his mind the intense pity for orphans and the homeless which became the dominant note of his life.
On 5th June 1841, John Bosco was ordained priest. After few years, he went on to pursue a postgraduate course in Technology with some practical training in priestly duties.
Don Bosco’s work for boys started with one boy, a mason’s apprentice. Soon this brought others and the number of Don Bosco’s friends soon multiplied. Don Bosco gave them facilities for games and taught them their religion.
In the meantime Don Bosco had finished his postgraduate course of sacerdotal studies and was full-time employed in the work of the Oratory. Soon he started offering shelter to destitute children who had nowhere to go. Thus in 1846 in his Sunday Oratory there were over 600 boys while some 20 youngsters lodged with him. In 1853 two small workshops had been opened, one a shoe maker’s the other, a tailor’s for teaching the unemployed youngsters of the Oratory a trade in order to provide them with the means of earning an honest livelihood. All this while from his old boys Don Bosco had been building up a society of men who would help him to develop his work and would carry on when he died. In December 1859 these young men were formed into a simple society for the purpose. In 1869 this community was officially recognized by the Catholic Church and it took the name of SALESIANS after St.Francis of Sales.
Praises and triumphs greeted Don Bosco in the last years of his life. The Government of Italy recognized him as an outstanding public benefactor. Educationists sought his advice and profited from the system practiced in his schools. Church authorities including Popes regarded his work as providential, rightly fitted to the needs of the times.
He lived for 73 years, not an old age but his work was done. So indefatigably had he worked that it was firmly established. He could no longer stand. His right hand was paralyzed, and he asked Do you know where I could buy a new pair of bellows?’ pointing to lungs,”for these won’t work much longer”. Don Bosco died on 31st January 1888. He was declared a saint of the Catholic Church on April 1, 1934.
That is all he wanted: to guide the young along the path of virtue and goodness and make them a credit to themselves and to society.