Founder – Saint John Bosco


He loved young people. By serving Christ as a priest, he realized his divine vocation to his last earthly days, persistently showing young people the proper Christian model of life. The motto: „Give me a soul and take away the rest” became the way of bringing the words of the Gospel into everyday life. To reinforce faith in young people he not only devoted his strength and own life, but most importantly founded a monastic order, the participants of which realize the goal of redeeming young people. Saint John Bosco was also the forerunner of the Christian vocational school and a pioneer in forming the seedbed of Christian trade unions. He engaged the press in apostolic purposes, and as one of the first propagated pocket books with evangelical, historical and missionary content. His patron became the Bishop of Geneva - Saint Francis de Sales, a man of good heart, deep piety and living love of neighbor. Unique in its simplicity, the pedagogical system was based on faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, an open mind for the works of God, and love for all human beings.


Saint John Bosco had also sent his spiritual sons and daughters – the Salesians - to people unacquainted with the word of the Gospel, and commended the missionaries to offer spiritual and material guidance to young people living in the missionary territories. He was the site supervisor of many sanctuaries, schools and educational facilities. He faithfully served popes and helped people through the gift of prayer, fulfilling the service of love, patience and understanding of/characteristic of a doctor of conscience, performing the Mass and sacramental service. He received God’s gift to make miracles. The Church acknowledged his holiness in the beatification act in 1929. In 1934 the pope Pius XI pronounced him the “Saint of our times”.      


With Mary, Succour to the Faithful, as his helper and master, Saint John Bosco faithfully served Christ throughout his life.


Father Bosco – the story of a life

I wasn’t even two when my Father died. I can’t even remember the look of his face, just my mother’s words „my dear Johnny, you’re Father is gone”. Everyone was coming out of a room where my dead Father laid, and only I wanted to stay inside. What could a child possibly understand at such a young age. After all, I was only two. Since that first painful feeling until I was five I haven’t been able to keep a single memory.


On the 16th of August 1815 in a small village located 30 kilometers from Turin called Becchi, a child was born to the family of Bosco. It was the son of Margaret and Francis, baptized under the name John Melchior. Two years later the child’s Father died of sudden pneumonia

My wonderful mother


Today I am able to estimate my mother’s greatness more accurately. There were five of us at home: my mother, my Father’s sick mother, and the three of us who not always behaved like angels. We were very poor, so don’t find it surprising that our mother wanted us to work. She herself gave us the best example. However, first and foremost she wanted to hand down to us her faith: “God sees you my children. I may be far away but He is always present” – she often repeated. And what an amazing help she turned out when I had dozens, and hundreds of boys! And to think of it, she couldn’t even read...


When her husband died, Margaret was 29. Her life exemplified diligence and maternal devotion. She was noted for her inherent fostering instinct. With prudent moderation she avoided both excessive austerity and false gentleness.  

When I was 9...


I had an unusual dream – I once said during breakfast. – I thought I’ve found myself in a crowd of boys who screamed and cursed. I wanted to silence their shouts by shouting even louder and later by using my fist. Then I saw a mysterious person uttering the words: “You will have to win these friends of yours not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness”. Then those wastrels, who took the shape of wolves, turned into obedient lambs. I heard the voice again: “Johnny, bring them to the meadow. Some day you will understand the significance of what you’re seeing now”.


Johnny’s blood-brother was named Josef, and his half-brother - Anthony. After hearing John’s story Josef said: “Maybe you’ll be a cattleman”. In turn, Anthony concluded: „rather a chief of bandits”. Johnny’s pious mother conjectured: „Maybe you’ll become a priest?”. Many years later Father Bosco alluded to his dream and his mother’s words.  

A bit of a changeling

When I came home with bruised knees and tattered arms my mother would throw down her arms. However, I had the feeling that my contemporaries were better than me when I played with them. Perhaps it was thanks to my conjuring tricks that I was able to keep them in my pocket.  


Johnny Bosco had a highly developed sense of perceptiveness and a rare gift of imitation. Unlike many boys of his age he was also very athletic. In the summer he demonstrated his tightrope walking abilities and other acrobatic talents before a crowd made up of local children and adults. His sleight of hand allowed him to perform “white magic”. However, the future apostle had a purpose in all of this – all of his performances ended with a common prayer.

I was on duty


Although I was 11 I could barely read and write. I already knew that I would become be a priest. The kind Father Calosso taught me Latin but the situation at home forced me to part ways with him. I’ve ended up at my distant relatives home (or perhaps only the home of my mother’s friends), and stayed there for almost two years.


Because of his brother Anthony’s persecutions, John left his home to search for a job. He reached the Moglia family who lived in Monuco. During the week he worked, and on Sundays he gathered boys around him to teach them the catechism or read them a fragment of the Gospel. He devoted his spare time to self-studying.  

A student’s daily bread

After the death of Father Calosso at whose place I lived after returning from Moncuco, my mother decided that I should go to Castelnuovo to take a course in Latin. Well said, “go”! 20 kilometers a day by foot – trifle – sometimes barefoot not to exploit my shoes too much. I also took the opportunity to learn tailoring which was supposed to be of use in the future. The “real” learning started in Chieri. I was so happy that I didn’t mind tutoring, being a servant at the housewife’s home, and work from dusk till dawn. Even today it makes me laugh that my employer with full seriousness forboded me a career in trade if I’d only put my books down. After two years of studying in Castelnuovo, Johnny began systematic learning in a lower-secondary school in Chieri. In 1834 he entered the seminary .  

1835 and the years that followed


Why haven’t I become a Franciscan? – I guess it was the will of Providence... I didn’t enter the seminary to be able to provide for my family, I remember my mother’s words too well: “I don’t expect anything from you, I just want you to lead a Christian life. I have been born poor so that you could become wealthy, I would never turn to you for anything”.   

Anyway, I have become a clergyman. I have been supported by good people. I was on a straight road to reach my destination – priesthood. On the 25th of October Bosco received a cassock in the church in Castelnuovo where he was once baptized. He spent 6 years in the seminary. The day before receiving his priestly orders the professors have written beside his name “very good with distinction”, and pronounced his religious attitude as full of zeal. On the 5th of June 1840 John Bosco received priest orders. His mother Margaret told him on that day: “to begin to perform the Holy Mass is to begin to suffer. Don’t care about me, think only of redeeming other people”.   


Sometimes dreams come true

In Castelnuovo I met a couple of good priests but I couldn’t become friends with none of them. I used to tell my mother: “If I were a priest I would try to get closer to children, gather them around me - do anything to be loved by them”. It repeated itself again while I was in the seminary. Frankly, I was unhappy that my superiors were so unapproachable towards their seminarists. I felt the need to become a priest as soon as possible to enter between young people, get to know them better to become their friend. I think that I succeeded at least partially in that matter.


Since November 3rd 1841, Father Bosco began his apostolate between young people: he gathered young boys in the so-called oratory where he prayed with them, played with them, taught and educated them, and provided for them. The problem of young people was a burning issue. In 1848 in Turin, a city of 140 thousand people, there were four prisons for juveniles. The boys at first distrustful and unwilling to draw closer soon began to pour. Father Bosco searched for places where they could both have fun and pray, he organized and presided over meetings, and talked to the boys individually. Despite of all difficulties his work began to expand.

In 1852, 150 abandoned boys have found a permanent home and family under to roof of their protector and Father, who in search of young souls made extraordinary things happen. For example, in 1855 he took 300 young prisoners for a Sunday stroll and without anyone’s help, brought all of them back.     


Maybe I was mad but it was madness born out of love


That was in the beginning... Once, two canons came to me with a “reconnaissance mission”.  I couldn’t believe that soon we would have churches, yards, houses, priests, and thousands of boys here. I must’ve convinced them that I was out of my mind because a couple of days later they sent a carriage and two people who were supposed to take me to a mental institution. Poor priests! I insisted that they should enter the carriage before me, and when they did I locked the door and shouted to the coachman: “go where you were told”, and before the mistake was explained, they experienced what I was meant to experience in the institution.


Although he didn’t have any money, Father Bosco made wonderful things happen. In 1860, he provided for a couple hundred boys. When he was dying that number grew to 300 thousand. Earlier, he organized different kinds of workshops for young people: a shoemaker’s shop, a tailor’s shop, a carpenter’s shop, a bookbindery and forge, and finally a printing office. He himself wrote about 70 different works and published 2500 books and brochures. Apart from building the Church of Saint Francis de Sales and several youth houses, John Bosco had also built three basilicas: two in Turin, and (as ordered by the pope Leon XII) one in Rome.       

I had a mighty helper in the Succor to the Faithful

In August 1831 I had a dream which apparently foretold my destiny. A wonderful woman came up to me and pointing at a huge herd said: “Do you see this herd? I entrust it to you.” When I expressed my uneasiness she said: “Don’t be afraid, I’ll help you”.


Very often I had to explain that I am not responsible for making miracles, I only pray and encourage people to pray in the intention of those who commend themselves to me. That’s all. God makes miracles, often through the intercession of the Holy Mother. She sees that Father Bosco needs money to feed and bring up thousands of boys in a Christian way. She brings benefactors and sends down on them special graces. Because of his humility, Father Bosco did not attach much significance to the fact that he was the mediator of these unexceptional graces. When the Shrine to the Virgin Mary had been built, Father Bosco humbly stated that there isn’t a single brick that wouldn’t testify to the grace given by Mary - Succour to the Faithful. Despite of his modesty during his life he already enjoyed unwanted reputation of a miracle-worker. Many healings and other extraordinary facts testified to this opinion.   


Work, work, work

“I will rest when the devil stops doing harm” – Father Bosco used to say. In 1884, the university professor Combo urged him to rest: “Father Bosco destroyed his health because he had too much work. His organism is like a piece of clothing – worn out because of using it too often. The only remedy is putting it to the closet”. “Dear doctor” – said Father Bosco – “it’s the only remedy I can in fact apply. There’s too much to do”. Three years later a different doctor wrote: “His organism is completely affected, the hearth is threatened, the liver is attacked, the spinal column causes the paralysis of the lower limbs, and he can barely speak. To make matters worse, the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, and the lungs are in a fatal condition. Father Bosco is not dying because of one illness. He’s like a lamp which is fading because its lacking fuel”.


On the 18th of January 1888 at 4.45 AM, the great apostle of our times has ended his life – a life which he devoted to distribute God’s love through the work undertaken for poor and abandoned young people.

When Father Bosko was gone


The work taken up as a result of clear inspiration from Heaven and having a mighty protector in Mary Succor to the Faithful could not collapse when its founder died. Father Bosco had prepared for this by founding the Salesian Order. On May 14th 1862, 22 young people have taken their vows on the hands of Father Bosco. In this way a new community in Christ’s Church was given life.   

A peculiar innovation designed and introduced by the Founder of this community is a salesian-coadjutor. As opposed to brothers from different monastic orders, he doesn’t wear a dress typical of any monastic community, thanks to which he can fulfill his service anywhere a priest is unable to get.


Father Bosco told the first coadjuctors: “I need helpers. There are cases in which priests and clerics cannot operate, but you will deal with those cases”. The salesians-coadjuctors participation is on par with that of the salesians-priests – they exercise the same rights and take upon themselves a collective responsibility. In unfavorable political conditions, amidst indifferent or hostile religions, in the everyday humdrum of people at work, not by their clothing but with the force of an authentic Christian life, the salesians-coadjuctors testify to Jesus Christ taking up various types of apostle work for the good of the whole community.