Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco was born August 16, 1815, to poor parents in a little cabin near Piedmont, Italy. His ministry and work, especially with poor young men, led to the founding of the Society of St. Francis de Sales (often called the Salesians of Don Bosco). St. John Bosco was canonized on April 1, 1934, and he was given the title “Father and Teacher of Youth” for his dedication to the young men and women he served throughout his life.
Born into poverty, St. John Bosco (or Don Bosco, as he is often called) developed a faith and devotion that strengthened him in his upbringing and would eventually lead him to the priesthood. Being ordained a priest in 1841, he was assigned to the city of Turin, and seeing the struggles of many of the young men there, he began a small ministry for the city’s disadvantaged youth.
This work increased over time to helping the young men of the city in a variety of ways, and ultimately, it flourished into the founding of the Society of St. Francis de Sales. A follower of the spirituality and philosophy of St. Francis de Sales, St. John Bosco dedicated his work to de Sales and attempted to follow his example of gentleness, kindness, and love in the society's service to youth and to the poor. As their charter states, the Salesian mission is “the Christian perfection of its associates obtained by the exercise of spiritual and corporal works of charity towards the young, especially the poor, and the education of boys to the priesthood.”
This work would later extend outward to young women when, together with St. Maria Domenica Mazzarello, the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (often called the Salesian Sisters of St John Bosco) was founded in 1872 to care for and educate poor girls. In addition, Bosco founded a lay movement in 1876 called the Association of Salesian Cooperators to allow lay men and women to join in the Salesian mission of educating the poor. Today these Salesian groups are serving in more than 130 different countries with approximately 17,000 priests and brothers, over 15,000 sisters in the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, and over 27,000 Salesian Cooperators.
Having completed a lifetime of incredible work serving and educating young men and women, St. John Bosco died on January 31, 1888. He was declared “blessed” in 1929 and canonized on Easter Sunday of 1934. Having been so dedicated to the young men and women served by the Salesians, St. John Bosco is remembered and admired as the “Father and Teacher of Youth.”
For additional information on St. John Bosco or any of the Salesian groups, please go to www.salesians.org.