John Bosco was born in Turin, Italy, on August 16, 1815. His parents were poor farmers. When John was two, his father died. John's mother struggled to keep the family together. As soon as he was old enough, John, too, worked as hard as he could to help his mother. He was intelligent and full of life. John started to think about becoming a priest. He didn't say anything to his mother because he knew they couldn't afford the seminary education. Besides, his mother needed help at home. So John waited and prayed and hope. Finally, a holy priest, St. Joseph Cafasso, became aware of John's desire to be a priest. Father Cafasso helped him enter the seminary. John had to work his way through school. He learned to do all kinds of trades. He was a carpenter, a shoemaker, a cook, a pastry maker and a farmer. He did many other jobs as well. He could never have guessed how much this practical experience would help others later. John became a priest in 1841. As a priest, Don Bosco, which means Father Bosco, began his great ministry. He gathered together homeless boys and taught them trades. This way they would not have to steal or get into trouble. By 1850, there were 150 boys living at his home for boys. Don Bosco's mother was the housekeeper. At first, people did not understand what Don Bosco was trying to do. They were afraid that the boys would never really turn out well. But Don Bosco proved that they would.
"Do you want to be Don Bosco's friend?" he would ask each new boy who came to him.
"You do?" he would ask happily. "Then, you must help me save your soul," he would conclude.
Every night he wanted his boys to say three Hail Mary's, so that the Blessed Mother would help them keep away from sin. He also recommended that they receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion often and with love. One of Don Bosco's boys became a saint, St. Dominic Savio.
Don Bosco started his own religious order of priests and brothers. They were called the Salesians, after St. Francis de Sales. An order of Salesian sisters was started, too, with the help of St. Mary Mazzarello. Don Bosco died on January 31, 1888. The entire city of Turin lined the streets to pay him tribute. His funeral became a joyous proclamation of thanksgiving to God for the life of this wonderful man. A young parish priest who had once met Don Bosco late became Pope Pius XI. He had the joy of declaring Don Bosco a saint in 1934.
We can learn from Don Bosco what an impact for good one person can make. Isn't it a wonderful thing to reach out cheerfully to help others?
When St. John Bosco founded the Salesians in 1859, his mission was clear and simple: to be a friend - a friend to kids who were poor, kids abandoned, kids at risk - and, in so doing, to be a friend to Christ.
Don Bosco (Italian for Father Bosco) left a legacy of love that is as strong today as it was over 100 years ago when he said, "It is enough that you are young for me to love you!"