St John Bosco
Celebrated on January 31st
Founder of the Salesian Order. St John was born on 16 August 1815 in Piedmont, the youngest son of a peasant farmer who died when he was only two. His mother brought him up in extreme poverty. When he entered the seminary in 1831, his clothes and shoes were provided by charity.
John was ordained in 1841. Originally he dreamed of becoming a foreign missionary, but soon settled into what became his life’s work - teaching young men and boys mainly in Turin. For a time he was appointed chaplain at a girls’ refuge.
He then went to live with his mother and 40 street boys. More and more boys came to stay. By 1856 there were more than 150 living in the centre and 500 children who came to visit daily. John set up day and evening classes for them, recruiting ten priests as teachers, and he established workshops to train them to become tailors and shoemakers.
A charismatic, cheerful personality, John Bosco developed a reputation for being a visionary and wonder worker, with a particular gift for handling difficult youths. He never used any form of punishment, but was kind and firm.
On Sundays he used to take boys on trips into the countryside, with Mass to start with, followed by breakfast, open air picnics, games and vespers, before going home. He believed natural beauty and music were very important for the development of young people.
In 1859 he began to organise his Congregation which was formally approved in 1874. He also helped set up similar schools for girls. By the time he died in 1888 there were 768 members in 64 houses around the world. There are now many thousands, with schools specialising in technical, agricultural subjects as well as seminaries.
John Bosco had great trust in Providence providing finance for projects which looked impossible.
St John Bosco died on this day in 1888. A large proportion of the population of Turin turned out for his funeral. More than 40,000 people visited his body as it lay in state. He was canonised in 1934.