Saint John Bosco has inspired thousands of people, young and old, priests, brothers, sisters and lay people, to strive for holiness in their lives. The Church has recognised many of them as outstanding in holiness and deserving the titles of Saint, Blessed, Venerable or Servant of God.


Saint John Bosco, 1815-1888

Saint John Bosco, 1815-1888

31st January

Founder of the Society of St Francis de Sales, (the Salesians of Don Bosco) and co-founder of the Salesian Sisters, Giovanni Melchior Bosco was born at Castelnuovo d'Asti on 16 August 1815 into a peasant family.

His father, Francesco Bosco, died when John was two, and his mother, Margherita Occhiena raised her three sons, Anthony, Joseph and young John, alone. She was a wise educator, who made her family home a domestic church by exercising a gentle firmness and love, combined with boundless faith.

Through a series of events in his youth, not least a very powerful dream he had as a young boy, he learned to become a leader for the young people he grew up with, many of whom were very badly behaved. In order to relate to them he needed to develop certain skills. He learned that by combining entertainment with teaching and praying he could achieve positive results. Entertained by his magic tricks and balancing acts, the young people would gladly listen to a lesson or pray with John Bosco.

John began to feel the desire to become a priest from an early age, and as a seminarian, he began to apply the approach he had developed to educating and evangelising boys in the area. When he moved to the city of Turin, he found large numbers of young people who were abandoned and without hope in the midst of the industrial revolution. He was shocked at the conditions they endured and the things they did to enable them to eat, and to survive. This was the human cost of the industrial revolution, and the young priest found it unbearable.

The situation poor boys found themselves in and the lack of compassion and opportunity they faced, led many into criminal behaviour. His mentor, St Joseph Cafasso, known as 'the saint of the gallows' had taken John to visit boys in prison. He was devastated, and wrote "To see so many children, from 12 to 18 years of age, all healthy, strong, intelligent, lacking spiritual and material food, was something that horrified me." In the face of such a situation he made his decision: "I must, by any available means, prevent children ending up here."

In response, he created what was at first a wandering 'festive oratory' (held at different places on Sundays, when working boys had some free time). Eventually the oratory settled at Valdocco, a poor district of the city, where Don Bosco took in orphans, assisted by his aging mother, who left her home to support his work. Here, boys could learn a trade, get an education, have enjoy good company and healthy games, and become closer to God through religious instruction.

His approach became known as the Preventive System, using 'reason, religion and loving kindness', rather than threats and violence. He believed that education was at the heart of the solution, and that by accompanying boys at risk and making them realise they were loved, he could steer them clear of trouble and equip them to live a far better life.

As his work grew, assisted by many of the first boys he educated, and by some very wealthy local people who saw the value in his work, Don Bosco, with the support and guidance of Pope Pius IX, founded his congregation of men dedicated to the salvation and education of young people. It took the title the Society of St Francis de Sales, as Don Bosco was inspired by the charity and kindness of the 'gentle saint'. Soon after, together with St Mary Mazzarello, he founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a congregation of women who could support girls suffering from the disadvantages of poverty, and a lay association, the Salesian Cooperators, who committed themselves to supporting the work.

He had a tremendous devotion to Mary Help of Christians, and placed his work in her hands from the beginning. When others talked to him of his fantastic achievements, he would always interrupt and say 'I have done nothing by myself. It is Our Lady who has done everything.'

Don Bosco died on 31 January 1888, aged 72. By then, there were 773 Salesians, eleven missionary expeditions had been commissioned, there were almost 150 Salesian missionaries in South America, and the work of the Salesians had already expanded to France (1875), Argentina (1875), Uruguay (1876), Spain (1881), Brazil (1882), Austria (1887) and England (1887).

His feast is celebrated on 31 January.

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Blessed Bronislaus Markiewicz 1842-1912

Blessed Bronislaus Markiewicz 1842-1912

30th January

Bronislaus Markiewicz was born on 13 July 1842 in Pruchnik in Galicia (southern Poland), sixth of eleven children, to a religious lower middle class family. He knew what it was to face hunger, poverty and persecution, and when we became a priest in 1867, he strongly felt called to help the poor, espesially the youngest, which led him to Don Bosco in Italy.

He asked to be a member of the Salesian Congregation and in 1887 he made his perpetual vows before Don Bosco himself. He therefore had the good fortune to listen to the saint's recommendations and to assimilate his spirit directly.

In 1892 he returned to Poland as a Salesian, where he devoted himself to poor and abandoned youth. To respond in the best possible way to the concrete needs of the poor in Galicia, Bronislaus felt the need to live Don Bosco's principles more radically and, advised by his collaborators, he founded the Work and Temperance Society. Nine years after his death the society, in its male and female branches, was recognized by the Church giving rise to two Congregations placed under the protection of St Michael the Archangel. Its members took the name of Michaelites.

He died in Miejsce Piestowe, Poland, on 29 January 1912, and was beatified on 19 June 2005 under the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

His memorial is celebrated on 30 January.

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Saint Callistus Caravario 1903-1930

Saint Callistus Caravario 1903-1930

25th February

Callistus Caravario was born at Cuorgné, in the province of Turin, on June 18, 1903. He entered the novitiate and became a Salesian. In 1922, Bishop Versiglia was in Turin and spoke of the missions to the Brothers. Callistus told him: "Bishop, you will see me in China."

After travelling as a missionary for a few years, in May 18, 1929, Callistus returned to Shiuchow, where bishop Versiglia ordained him priest and entrusted him with the mission at Linchow.

On February 13, 1930, Fr Caravario was in Shiuchow to accompany the bishop on his pastoral visit to the Linchow mission. Some young boys and girls who had been studying in Shiuchow went with them. On February 25, a group of Bolshevik pirates stopped the bishop's boat, wanting to take the girls. Bishop Versiglia and Fr Callistus stopped them. They were taken by force and ultimately shot, but before they were killed they heard one another's confessions. Their last breath was spent for their beloved China.

Pope Paul VI declared them martyrs in 1976, John Paul II declared them Blessed in 1983 and canonized them on October 1, 2000.

Their feast is celebrated on 25 February.

Source: Salesian Missions

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Saint Mary Mazzarello 1837-1881

Saint Mary Mazzarello 1837-1881

13th May

Maria Domenica Mazzarello, co-founder of the Salesian Sisters, was born on 9th May 1837 at Mornese in the Alessandria region of Italy. In her family she received a grounding in solid piety, hard work and a remarkable common sense and judgement which stood her in good stead when she became a Religious Superior.

At the age of fifteen she enrolled in the Association of Daughters of Mary Immaculate and started to take part in apostolic work for the girls of the area. A serious bout of typhoid contracted when she was 23 had a profound effect on her spiritual development. This experience of being physically frail deepened her sense of abandonment to God, but also moved her to open a dressmaking workshop in order to teach girls about work, prayer and the love of God. Thanks to her devout sacramental life and the wise guidance of Don Pestarino she made great progress in spirituality.

When Don Bosco visited Mornese on 8th October 1864 she remarked "Don Bosco is a saint – I can sense it".

In 1872 Don Bosco chose her to help him found the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. As Superior she showed herself to be an able teacher and guide in the spiritual life. She had the gift of serene and comforting cheerfulness, radiating joy and drawing other young people to dedicate themselves to the education of girls.

After her death the Institute continued to develop rapidly. She left her Daughters a style of education permeated with gospel values: the search for God, known through enlightened teaching and fervent love, responsibility in work, openness and humility, austerity of life and joyful self giving.

She died at Nizza Monferrato on 14 May 14 1881, at the age of 44. At her death the Institute already had 165 sisters and 65 novices scattered across 28 houses (19 in Italy, 3 in France and 6 in America).

She was beatified by Pius XI in 1938 and canonised by Pius XII on 24 June 1951.

Her feast is celebrated on 13 May.

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Saint Joseph Cafasso 1811-1860

Saint Joseph Cafasso 1811-1860

23rd June

Joseph Cafasso was born in Castelnuovo d'Asti in 1811. Son of small land owners, he was the third of four children, of whom the last, Marianna, would be the mother of Blessed Fr Joseph Allamano. From when he was very young the family and the entire village regarded him as a young saint. He completed his theological studies at the seminary in Chieri and in 1833 was ordained priest. Four months later he went to the Convitto Ecclesiastico, a residential pastoral institute for putting the finishing touches to his priestly and pastoral formation. He would remain involved there for the rest of his life, eventually becoming its Rector.

Joseph studied and gained a deeper understanding of the spirituality of St Francis de Sales, which he then passed on to one student in particular: John Bosco. Cafasso, his spiritual director from 1841 to 1860, contributed to forming and guiding Don Bosco's spirituality.

Typical of his teaching was his appreciation of daily duty as a way to holiness. As the Founder of the Salesians also testified: "the extraordinary virtue of Cafasso was his marvellously faithful and consistent practice of ordinary virtues".

Always attentive to the needs of the poor, he visited and also financially supported those who were poorest, bringing them the consolation that came from his priestly ministry. His apostolate also consisted in spiritual accompaniment of prisoners and those condemned to death, and he became known as 'the priest of the gallows', as he stood alongside prsoners to their very last moments.

After a short illness he died at just 49 years of age on 23 June 1860. He was beatified in 1925 and canonised by Pius XII in 1947, who later proposed him as a model for priests.

His feast day is 23 June.

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Blessed Francis Kęsy & Companions

Blessed Francis Kęsy & Companions

12th June

The five young Polish Salesian martyrs, Blesseds Francis Kęsy, Edward Klinik, Jarog Wojciechowski, Czesław Jóźwiak and Edward Kazmierski, attended the Salesian oratory in Poznan, Poland, and were involved in the youth work there. Following the Nazi occupation, Francis took a job in a factory, spending his free time at the oratory, and after the house was taken over by the Nazis as a barracks, the young people gathered in the woods, to continue their prayer and the work of the youth groups. In September 1940, these five young men were arrested, accused of belonging to an illegal organisation - the fear was that Catholic groups like these could form the basis of a resistance movement.

Following torture they were sentenced to hard labour, split up in different prisons for some of the time. They prayed the office daily, said the rosary and made novenas to Don Bosco and Mary Help of Christians. and remained strong and courageous in their faith, cheerfully supporting other prisoners and reassuring their families in notes smuggled out to them.

In 1942, they were returned to their home town, found guilty of high treason, and sentenced to death. They faced this with exemplary faith and courage. In his final letter, Francis wrote: 'My dearest parents, brothers and sisters, the time has come to say goodbye to you on August 24, the day of Mary Help of Christians ... May the Good Lord take me to himself. Don't have regrets that I am leaving this world so young. I am now in a state of grace. ... I am going to heaven. There I shall pray to God ... Pray sometimes for me ... I'm going now.'

They were guillotined in a prison in Dresden on 24th August 1942. At the time of their deaths, they were aged 19 - 23.

Their memorial is celebrated on 12th June.

Franciszek Kęsy 1920-1942
Czesław Jóźwiak 1919-1942
Edward Kazmierski 1919-1942
Edward Klinik 1919-1942
Jarogniew Wojciechowski 1922-1942

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Blessed Joseph Kowalski 1911-1942

Blessed Joseph Kowalski 1911-1942

2nd July

Joseph Kowalski was born in Siedliska near Rzeszów, Poland, on 13 March 1911, into a modest farming family. He attended the Salesian College at Oswiecim (Auschwitz). In 1928, he made his first vows as a Salesian, and received his priestly ordination on 29 May 1938 in Krakow.

During the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Salesians tried to continue with their education and youth work, despite the ban on non-approved programmes, but on 23 May 1943, Joseph was one of twelve Salesians in Krakow were arrested by the Gestapo.

He was sent to Auschwitz on 26 June, receiving the number 17,350. In the camp, he did all he could to encourage his fellow prisoners in Block 25, bringing them spiritual comfort and urging their will to survive; secretly administering the sacraments, talking to them about Don Bosco; and at least once, publicly giving absolution to all of the condemned at a mass execution.

He suffered beatings and humiliation for being a Catholic priest, and on 3 July 1942, he was severely beaten and then drowned. He was 31 years old.

In his last letter to his parents, he wrote: 'Do not worry about me; I am in God's hands. I want to assure you that I feel His help at every step. Despite the present situation, I am happy and completely at peace.'

Blessed Joseph was one of the 108 Polish martyrs who died at the hands of the Nazis, beatified on 13th June 1999 by St John Paul II, and we celebrate him on 29th May.

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Blessed Augustus Czartoryski 1858-1893

Blessed Augustus Czartoryski 1858-1893

2nd August

Augustus Czartoryski was born a prince in Paris on 2 August 1858, where his family lived in exile from Poland. He felt God's call to a simpler life, and against the wishes of his family, became a Salesian priest.

'Gucio', as he was called by his family, suffered from poor health from his childhood, and contracted TB from his mother, who died when he was six years old. Despite his fragility, as the only son, the family's hopes of restoration and unity for their land were focused on him.

When he met Don Bosco at his family's home in Paris when he was 25, Augustus realised his vocation was to the Salesians, and he travelled to Turin on retreat as often as he could. Despite his father's opposition to his vocation, Augustus was sure God would show him the way: 'If God wants this, all will be well, since he can remove every obstacle. If he does not want this, then neither do I.'

Although his father did not attend the ordination, he and the family reconciled themselves to his decision shortly afterwards.

Augustus died of tuberculosis in the Salesian house in Alassio on 8th April 1893, a year after he was ordained a priest. A gift he made on entering the Society helped establish the Salesians in Battersea.

At his beatification in 2004, St John Paul II held him up as an example of discernment for young people: 'My dear young friends, learn from Blessed Augustus to ask ardently in prayer for the light of the Holy Spirit and wise guides, so that you may understand the divine plan in your lives'.

His memorial is celebrated on 2 August, the date of his birth.

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Blessed Joseph Calasanz Marquès 1872-1936

Blessed Joseph Calasanz Marquès 1872-1936

22nd September

Fr Joseph Calasanz (1872-1936) was born in Azanuy. In 1886 in Sarrià, he saw Don Bosco, by this time tired and suffering. He became a Salesian in 1890, and a priest five years later. He was secretary to Fr Rinaldi and following that superior of the Province of Perù-Bolivia.

After returning to Spain he became Provincial of Terraconense (Barcelona – Valencia). He was a man of great heart and a hard worker, interested in the salvation of his confreres from the outset.

Between 1936 and 1939 Spain erupted into a bloody and dramatic civil war: It was a conflict which ignited ideological enmities, resulting in a battle between democracy and fascism, between republicans and rebels led by General Franco. The Spanish Church also paid the price, subjected as it was to anarchic militias, and violent persecution.

Blessed Joseph was captured together with other Salesians while he was running a Retreat in Valencia. He was killed while being taken away, with a single shot to the head.

He was beatified together with 31 companions from the Salesian Family from Valencia who were martyred during the Spanish Civil War, between 1936 and 1939: 15 priests; 7 brothers; 6 clerics (priests in training); 2 Salesian Sisters; and a lay co-worker.

Their memorial is celebrated on 22 September.

For more information on all 32 members of this group of Beati, and downloadable resources, visit


Blessed Michael Rua 1837-1910

Blessed Michael Rua 1837-1910

29th October

Michael Rua was born on 9th June 1837, the last of nine children. He entered Don Bosco's Oratory in 1852. One day Don Bosco told him: "We two will go halves in everything".

He was among the first few with whom Don Bosco shared the idea of forming the 'Salesian Society'. For 36 years he was Don Bosco's closest collaborator in the development of the Congregation, and accompanied him on his journeys. At the explicit request of Don Bosco, Pope Leo XIII designated him to succeed our Founder and confirmed him as Rector Major in 1888.

Nicknamed "The Living Rule" because of his austere fidelity, Don Rua was also known for his fatherliness and goodness. As the numbers of members and communities increased he sent Salesians all over the world, showing special care for the missionary expeditions. He visited the Salesians in Battersea several times, and supported them closely as they became established there.

In the long journeys which he undertook to visit the Salesian works in Europe and in the Middle East he was a constant source of comfort and encouragement, always referring to our Founder: "Don Bosco used to say... Don Bosco used to do it this way... Don Bosco wanted..."

When he died, on 6th April 1910 at the age of 73, the Society had grown from 773 to 4000 Salesians, from 57 to 345 communities, from 6 to 34 Provinces in 33 countries.

He was beatified in 1976 and his memorial is celebrated on 29 October.

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Blessed Alexandrina da Costa 1904-1950

Blessed Alexandrina da Costa 1904-1950

13th October

Alexandrina Maria da Costa was Salesian Cooperator and mystic who lived in tremendous pain for over thirty years, finding happiness in her suffering, and managing to care about the troubles of others despite her own situation.

When she was 14, she severely injured her spine jumping from a window to escape from an attempted rape, and by the age of 21, she was totally paralysed. After praying for a cure at first, she came to see her vocation as a 'victim soul', and received the grace to bear her suffering, offering it 'for the salvation of the young' and for peace in the world.

In his homily at her beatification in 2014, St John Paul II said: 'With the example of Blessed Alexandrina, expressed in the trilogy "suffer, love, make reparation", Christians are able to discover the stimulus and motivation to make "noble" all that is painful and sad in life through the greatest evidence of love: sacrificing one's life for the beloved. Her secret to holiness was love for Christ.'

Her memorial is celebrated on 13 October, the date of her death in 1955.

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Saint Luigi Guanella 1842-1915

Saint Luigi Guanella 1842-1915

24th October

St Luigi Guanella was born in Italy in 1842. He was a Salesian for several years, and dedicated his life to serving the poor.

As a young parish priest in the 1860s, he was especially drawn to improving the lives of the young, and his encounters with Don Bosco led him to become a Salesian in 1875. He ran the St Aloysius Oratory in Turin and took charge of adult vocations until he was recalled to the diocese by his bishop to run a hostel for the eldely poor.

He was fearless in defending the weak - young or old - against the powerful, and he founded several religious institutions including the Daughters of Saint Mary of Providence and the Servants of Charity, to work with the poor across the world. He also founded the Pious Union of St Joseph, whose first member was Pope Pius X.

Although God guided his life in another direction, he retained his devotion to Don Bosco, which can be seen in a prayer he wrote in his monthly magazine, Divine Providence, in 1908: 'May the great soul of John Bosco, who from on high protects the Congregation of his sons the Salesians, now too numerous to count, be pleased to turn his gaze on the Institutes of Divine Providence and extend the kindness of his protection on all those who belong to these works and especially on his devoted admirer and student, Fr Luigi Guanella.'

St Luigi was canonised in 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI.

His feast is celebrated on 24 October, the date of his death in 1925.

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Blessed Alberto Marvelli 1918 - 1946

Blessed Alberto Marvelli 1918 - 1946

5th October

Alberto Marvelli was an inspiring young man, whose life also reminds us that we are called to be involved in the running of our communities, using our voices and skills for the common good - to create fairness and justice in our society.

Alberto Marvelli was born on 21st March 1918, and attended the Salesian Oratory at Rimini. He was a valued catechist and leader, whose strong faith and belief in caring for the poorest and weakest led to his involvement in politics.

During the second world war, he was at first conscripted into the army, but later exempted as his brothers were also serving. He studied for a degree in engineering, graduating in 1942, risked his own life helping the wounded, dying and homeless during air raids, and was part of a group that freed people being sent to the concentration camps, by breaking open sealed train carriages.

After the war, Alberto was closely involved in the reconstruction of his home town. He became a town councillor, opened and volunteered in a soup kitchen for the poor, and started a cooperative for construction workers. St John Paul II called him 'the engineer of charity'.

He was an electoral candidate for the Christian Democrats when, on 5 October 1946, he was killed by an army truck while cycling to the polling station. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

His memorial is celebrated on 5 October, the date of his death.

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Blessed Artemides Zatti 1880-1951

Blessed Artemides Zatti 1880-1951

13th November

Salesian lay-brother Artemides Zatti, was a child of poor Italian immigrants who settled in Argentina hoping for a better life. He had only been able to attend elementary school as he was working as a day-labourer to help support his family by the time we was 9 years old. When he acted on his call to become a Salesian, he was greatly challenged by his studies.

Another difficulty came when, as a novice, he contracted TB from a young priest he was looking after. In the hope of a cure in the pure air of the Andes, he travelled to Viedma, where he found his true vocation, working alongside Fr Evaristo Garrone, a Salesian doctor who ran a pharmacy and hospital, and never turned away those who could not pay.

Working as a pharmacist for many years, Bl Artemides also trained as a nurse, and devoted himself to his patients. After the death of his mentor, he took on responsibility for the entire hospital. He could be seen cycling to visit patients each morning, and worked tirelessly in the hospital for the rest of each day.

At his beatification in 2002, St John Paul II said: 'Blessed Artemides lived what St John Bosco said to the first Salesians leaving for America: "Take special care of the sick, the children, the elderly, the poor, and you will receive God's blessing and the respect of those around you".'

He died of cancer on 15 March 1951. His nephew, Fr Fr Juan Edmundo Vecchi SDB, became the 8th successor of Don Bosco as Rector Major.

His memorial is celebrated on 13 November.

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Maddalena Morano 1847-1908

Maddalena Morano 1847-1908

15th November

Maddalena Morano, Salesian Sister, educator and catechist, was born in Chieri, in the province of Turin, on 15 November 1847. She overcame poverty and hardship to answer the call she felt from God to be a religious sister and a teacher.

Although she knew from an early age that she was called to both religious life and teaching, when her father died, 8-year-old Maddalena had to find work to help her mother support their large family, and it was only with the help of an uncle who was a priest, that she was able to continue her education as she worked. With her family dependent on her earnings, Madeleine could not leave them to enter a religious order, but she was able to begin training as a teacher at the age of 14, when she was employed at a new school close to home, and she gained her teaching certificate five years later.

By the time she was 30, she had supported her younger siblings into adult life, and saved enough to make sure her mother had a comfortable old age, and then she began to pursue her religious vocation. When she met Don Bosco, she was set on living a cloistered life with the Vincentians, but he persuaded her that her gifts were needed in a different life, and he accepted her into the Salesian Sisters shortly after.

In 1881, her superiors sent her to Sicily, where in addition to teaching working class girls, she trained teachers and set up new schools, workshops and hostels. She was also responsible for the formation of new sisters, and became Provincial.

Maddalena died from cancer in 1908, and was beatified by St John Paul II in 1994.

Her memorial is celebrated on her birthday, 15 November.

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