1815 – 1888
John Bosco was born into a farming family on the 16th of August 1815. His father died when he was two after which his mother taught him to work in the fields and to see God in nature as well as in the faces of those who were poor.
John had a vivid dream at the age of nine in which he saw wild animals change into boys who were fighting and swearing at each other. Just as he was about to jump in among them and give blow for blow, a majestic lady appeared to him saying: loving kindness is the way you are to follow in order to lead poor young people successfully. This dream made such an impression on him that her remembered it right through his life.
Following his ordination to the priesthood in 1841, Don Bosco was now in a position to assist those abandoned boys he saw in his dream. Due to the effects of the industrial revolution at this time, the city of Turin was crowded with adolescents who came from country areas in the hope of finding work. Their hopes were soon dashed! They found themselves unemployed and liable to get into trouble. In the hope of improving their situation, Don Bosco opened a Youth Centre (the Oratory) to keep the lads off the streets, help them find work and give them some basic education. Before long it was frequented by hundreds of boys who looked on Don Bosco as their father and friend. He found jobs for them and begged their employers to treat them fairly. He also encouraged the youngsters who had the ability to study to do so at the Oratory.
Don Bosco’s mother was his first full time helper. She left her own home to help her son in the enormous work he was doing to enable young people become honest citizens and good christians. She became a mother to the boys who needed care and protection and made great personal sacrifices in order to have money to feed them. A number of the boys at the oratory were inspired by the example of Don Bosco and his mother and chose to dedicate their own lives in the service of poor young people. This is how the Salesian Congregation began.
Don Bosco opened trade and professional schools which continue to flourish throughout the Salesian World, most especially in the developing countries for the benefit of countless young people who are seeking an honest livelihood.