Saint John Bosco, popularly known as Don Bosco (Italian for Father Bosco) was born at Becchi, in Piedmont, Italy on August 16, 1815. At a very young age, he felt that he had been called to work for the poor boys of that era, at a time when Europe was in the grip of the Industrial Revolution, and many young people questing to study or work, moved to the cities and became easy prey to the many social evils of the time.
After being ordained a priest of the Catholic Church in 1841, Don Bosco worked hard to rescue these poor boys with a novel method of educating them through a programme of total dedication and personal involvement in their lives and problems.
To ensure that this dedication to their cause was sustainable, he worked out an action-oriented plan. His system of education was based on the three great principles of Reason, Religion and Loving-Kindness, loving those to whom he dedicated his life as a caring father, and doing everything possible for their welfare. Don Bosco was keenly attuned to the needs of the society of his time.
For him, education in isolation , far away from the community parameters within which it functioned was not his calling. Vocational guidance, vocational training, job placement and follow-up were as integral to Don Bosco’s scheme of things as they are in modern day education.
The system of education that emerged from these principles of Don Bosco is popularly known as the Preventive System and is followed to the letter, in Don Bosco Schools India. The system aims at creating a generation of young men and women steeped not only in a sound knowledge-based education but also in a strong value-based education for life. “Education is a matter of the heart and God is its only master. We will never succeed unless He teaches us the art and puts the keys into our hands” – Don Bosco.
Who are the Salesians?
To be Salesian is to belong to a family. St. John Bosco began his work with a religious community of Brothers and Priests, known as the Salesians of Don Bosco. The Salesian Sisters, officially known as the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, is a Catholic religious community of women founded by St. Maria Domenica Mazzarello and St. John Bosco.
Don Bosco also established a group called the Salesian Cooperators. The cooperators are lay men and women who live the spirituality and ministry of the Salesians. They bring the Church into their lives at the workplace, the home and society at large.
Don Bosco’s Past Pupils are men and women who as young people, attended a Salesian school, club or parish, and like the Cooperators, live the Salesian Spirit at the workplace, the home and society.
What do Salesians do?
All Salesians minister to young people through schools, parishes and youth centers, in a word, wherever the young can be found. It is our mission to be signs and bearers of God’s love for the young. Don Bosco wanted us Salesians, to use all our energy and creativity to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to youth through the Salesian Youth Ministry.
How did it start?
It all began with a young priest, John Bosco now populary known and loved as St. John Bosco, but the youth of his time hailed him as Don Bosco. In Italy where he began his ministry, priests were referred to as “Don” in common parlance. Today we still lovingly refer to him as Don Bosco.
Starting with a handful of teenagers in 1841, Don Bosco soon had several hundred children coming to him on Sundays, for Mass, religious instruction and an afternoon of recreation. They met wherever he could find enough space for them, mostly in vacant lots. Don Bosco called this informal Sunday gathering the Oratory. Some of the children were homeless and all of them were poor.
“Do you want to help Don Bosco?” he asked some of the youngsters. From these young volunteers came the Salesians, a religious community of brothers and priests dedicated to the youth ministry. At first there were 18 “Salesians” ranging from 16 to 22 years of age. Today there are some 15,300 Salesians serving in over 132 countries.
Today the Salesians of Don Bosco number 15,300 Brothers and Priests while the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians number 13,000. They too serve in over 100 countries. They dedicate their lives to the care and education of young people by bringing the Gospel of Jesus to the world.
The Salesian Coat of Arms
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES
The Salesian Coat of Arms, designed by Professor Boidi, appeared for the first time in a circular letter of Don Bosco’s on 8th December 1885.
The shining star, the large anchor, the heart on fire symbolize the theological virtues; the figure of St. Francis de Sales recalls the Patron of the Society; the small wood in the lower part reminds us of the Founder; the high mountains signify the heights of perfection towards which members strive; the interwoven palm and laurel that enfold the shield either side are emblematic of the prize reserved for a virtuous and sacrificial life. The motto Da mihi animas, caetera tolle, expresses every Salesian’s ideal.
St. Francis de Sales, the zealous pastor and doctor of charity, inspired Don Bosco by his optimistic humanism and his complete dedication to the pastoral care of souls. In 1854 he declared: “The Madonna wishes that we begin a Society. I have decided to call ourselves Salesians. Let us put ourselves under the protection of St. Francis de Sales, so that we may obtain his extraordinary gentleness.” In 1854, Don Bosco gave the name ‘Society of St. Francis de Sales’ to the first band of 17 young men who wished to follow him in his work for youth.