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Tuesday, 16 April 2024
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St John Bosco


St. John Bosco was born in Piedmont, a small kingdom in northern Italy, in the year 1815. Of poor peasant stock, his father died when John was only two years old. John's mother raised four children and taught them the importance of their faith.

At the age of four, John began to do small jobs to earn money to support the household. As a child, John's pastime was to go to fairs and carnivals and to watch the jugglers, tumblers and magicians. When he returned home, he practiced their tricks until he had mastered them. Soon he could play the violin, sing, tell stories, get up theatricals, games and excursions ? skills that would one day be used mightily by God. From his childhood, John had a great desire to become a priest and to help young boys like himself. He worked hard so he could afford to attend school, and eventually entered the seminary where he excelled in his studies. At the age of 26, John was ordained to the priesthood in the city of Turin.

Fr (Don) Bosco began his ministry to the young by forming catechism classes that met after Sunday Mass. These began and ended with simple catechism instruction, the recitation of the rosary or an explanation of the day's Gospel. At these classes he would offer schooling in the faith for free, and by 1845 he had a group of over 800 children to teach. His emphasis on teaching boys drew ridicule from some of his peers, but John saw the need to train the future of the Church. Catechism school grew into a full-time technical school, where boys could receive an education, learn a trade, and discover the love of Jesus.There was frequent confession for the boys and daily Mass. Don Bosco also understood the importance of good catechetical material for youth and became involved in publishing.

With the encouragement of Pope Pius IX, John gathered 17 men together into a community and founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales (Salesians) in 1859. John Bosco died on January 31st, 1888 after spending his whole life working for youth. At his death there were already 200 Salesian houses formed and these had fostered 2,500 priestly vocations. He was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929 and canonised by the same pope in 1934. He is patron saint of youth and Catholic publishers.

The year 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Salesians and has been declared a 'year of grace'.

The Year of Grace

The "year of grace" will be marked by special dates and events including the celebration of the feast of Mary Help of Christians (May 25), the name day of Don Bosco (June 24), and Don Bosco's birthday (Aug. 16).

On Dec. 18 all the Salesians in the world will be invited to renew their religious profession.

A casket containing relics of Don Bosco will visit the various countries where the Salesians are present. The long journey will begin in July this year beginning in Chile and will come to an end in 2015, the year of the bicentenary of Don Bosco's birth.

The Salesian Congregation is present today in 129 countries with 16,092 Salesians: 10,669 priests, 2,025 coadjutors, 2,765 seminarians, 515 novices, 118 bishops and five cardinals.


O Mary, powerful Virgin,

You are the mighty and glorious Protector of the Church.

You are the Marvellous Help of Christians.

You are Terrible as an Army set in Battle Array.

You alone have destroyed every heresy in the entire Church.

In the midst of my anguish, my struggles and my distress,

Defend me from the power of the enemy,

And at the hour of my death,

Receive my soul into Paradise.

(Saint John Bosco, C. 1880)