John arrived in times of great hardship, with drought and poverty in the region following the Napoleonic wars, and the Industrial Revolution was adding to the chaos in urban and rural areas. When he was only two, his father, Francesco, died, leaving his mother to provide for the three young boys alone. The good sense, charity and piety of 'Mamma Margaret' kept the family going, and impressed John with the values he would carry into the religious congregation he would found in later life.
A powerful dream he had as a boy showed him that his vocation was to lead and guide young people who were struggling to survive, unable to improve their situation as they were denied an education, and frequently had no families to support them. He rapidly realised that the way to reach tough street boys was to treat them with loving kindness and to make learning fun. His approach to education was was very much ahead of its time, and has been adopted all over the world, both in mainstream education, and in working more widely to support young people who are homeless or abandoned.
Fondly referred to by the Italian honorific title 'Don', John Bosco became a priest and, in response to the hardship he saw in and arround Turin, he founded a religious order to care for and educate poor boys. The Society of St Francis de Sales took the gentle saint as its patron, although its members are more commonly known as the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB). Together with St Mary Mazzzarello, Don Bosco also founded the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMA), the Salesian Sisters, to look after and educate poor girls, and a lay movement, the Association of Salesian Cooperators, to support the priests and religious in their work.
Don Bosco, Pray for us!