The Great Educator
John Bosco the father and friend of youth was born on August 16, 1815, in a peasant family in the little hamlet of Becchi, some 20 kilometers from Turin, Italy. When John was only two years old, his father, Francis Bosco passed away. His grief stricken mother, Margaret Occhiena Bosco, had a tough time to bring him up.
To complete his education John had to do his sharenof work on the family farm and study during his spare time. Working as a servant, teaching, assisting a tailor, doing chores for a black smith and keeping score at a billiard table were some of the things he did in order to pay for his food, lodging and tuition while at school. In due course John entered the seminary and was ordained a priest on June 5, 1841. From then on he was known as Don Bosco (Father Bosco).
Don Bosco’s work for boys started with one boy, a mason’s apprentice. Soon this boy brought others and the number of “Don Bosco’s friends” multiplied. He gave them facilities for games and taught them religion.
Don Bosco called his method of education the ‘Preventive System”, based on REASON, RELIGION and KINDNESS. He told his disciples that education was to be based on love, on selfless service for the mental, emotional, moral and spiritual growth of the pupils.
Don Bosco also founded a Congregation of religious nuns known as the “Daughters of Mary Help of Christians” to educate girls with the same method as the Salesians used to educate the boys.
Don Bosco founded the ‘Salesian Co-Operators’ a Society of collaborators, imbued with his spirit, to assist him in his various works.
Today, a hundred and twenty years after Don Bosco’s death, 36000 Priests, Brothers and Sisters carry out his work in 132 countries around the world. They are engaged in a wide variety of developmental works directed to the welfare of the young – academic, agricultural and technical school, youth centers, hostels and parishes, catechetics, mass media and social communications, youth counselling and rehabilitation centers and a host of special services for the delinquents and the marginalized youth.
Don Bosco died on January 31, 1888 at the age of seventy three. He was declared a saint on April 1, 1934. His feast day is celebrated on January 31 every year.