OUR FOUNDER – ST. JOHN BOSCO
St. John Bosco, fondly known as Don Bosco, was born in Becchi, a simple hamlet in Castelnuovo d'Asti in Turin, Italy. Founder of a great big Salesian Family, consisting of the Society of St. Francis de Sales or the Salesians of Don Bosco, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians or the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco, the Salesian Cooperators and many other institutes and associations, John Bosco was from a poor and humble household. His father, Francis Bosco was a peasant, a farmhand to the landowners who had given him a little shed to live with his family. The family consisted of Margaret Occhiena, the second wife after Francis' first spouse died leaving behind a son, Antony Bosco. Margaret bore two sons to Francis, Joseph Bosco the elder and John Bosco the youngest among the three sons of the family. Francis' mother too lived with that household.
John Melchior Bosco, born on August 16, 1815, lost his father within two years and grew up experiencing the hardships of a boy with a single parent and a boy without a father. He would later decide in his time, that there should be no one who feels he has no father - he would become one to them!
Johny as he grew up, was filled with an extraordinary grace of intelligence and memory and picked up limitless skills. These became handy in the future when the Lord would entrust him with young boys to guide and form, as a shepherd and pastor. But that future did not come by without pain and sweat. Beginning with Antony, the eldest brother who found it odious that his youngest brother wished to take to books while they were slogging in the field, there were numerous blocks on the journey that John undertook.
He could withstand all those hurdles because he was given a grand roadmap in a dream when he was nine. That dream, which would repeat itself in varied and continuously clarified versions all through the life of John, set the tone for his entire life. He dreamt of a new world for the Young and while he himself never enjoyed it in his youth, he ensured that he did something towards realising that world.
His brother's indignance, unprecedented demise of an initial benefactor in his Parish Priest Fr. Calosso, the circumstances that led him out of his home and far away working in a farm and the rest of the hindrances notwithstanding, John entered the seminary and formed himself into a wonderful minister of the Lord - he was ordained a priest in 1841.
He had the entire scope of becoming a chaplain for a rich household or a chaplain for an institution which looked after orphan girls with a handsome remuneration. But he chose his boys, the poor, abandoned, orphaned and homeless young boys! ‘For you I study, for you I work, for you I am ready to give my life to its last breath', he would declare in all earnestness to his boys.
It was not all a rosy walk when he began this journey, there were thorns and thistles, pits and hurdles, blocks and barriers. Don Bosco worked it all through with the help of the Teacher and Guide, who was given to him by Our Lord already in his dram at nine - that was Mary Immaculate, the help of Christians. He found and worked numberless miracles with and through her and the mission entrusted to him found itself live and throbbing.
In 1859 he founded the Society of Francis de Sales, in 1872, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and in 1874, the Association of the Salesian Cooperators - as a means to keep that dream and mission alive in God's divine plan. Hardly two decades after they were founded, in 1875 the Salesians of Don Bosco landed in Patagonia, as missionaries.
Today the Salesians of Don Bosco find themselves in 133 countries spread all over the 5 continents with over 14,350 Salesians (priests and coadjutors) and over 400 novices. Don Bosco died in 1888 on January 31st and was canonized in 1934.