St. John Bosco – Popularly known as “Don Bosco” was born of a peasant family on August 16, 1815 at Becchi, small village on the outskirts of Turin, Italy. He was sent into the world by God at a time when the spirit of man had reached the lowest ebb in Europe after the residual memories of the French Revolution, the agonies of the Industrial revolution and the year of the defeat of Napoleon. The young people wandered on the highways of Europe, looking for opportunity, food and future and seldom found any. He would keep alive in the hearts of young people hope, cheer and thoughts of God, not only at that time of dereliction, dismay and distress, but for centuries after
Johny Bosco had a difficult childhood. His father died when little Johnny was just two years old. He had to face many hurdles to continue his studies. Although dogged by poverty and unfriendly environment, John’s determination saw him through his course of studies. Seeing the enthusiasm of the boy, his mother, Margaret, stood by him and encouraged him to study convinced that God would one day use her son to work marvels.
Johnny, however, knew right from the beginning, what he wanted to do in life. Even as a boy, Johnny gathered around himself children of the village by means of fun, laughter and song. He became their juggler, gymnast and acrobat in the order to win them over. Gradually he began to teach them to pray and show them the way to love God. His great desire was to spend his life with young people, who, John saw, were in dire straits due to the prevailing economic, social and political conditions. He had this task in mind while entering the seminary to study for priesthood.
A brilliant student, but unable to meet the cost of education, John had to fend for himself – by working as a cobbler, carpenter, dishwasher and doing other odd jobs. He did all this to achieve he cherished goal.
He successfully completed his studies, was ordained a priest in 1841 and began to live with and live for boys who were poor and uncared for.
Religious and political authorities of the day initially failed to understand Don Bosco and his doings. They found Don Bosco far too daring and operating outside the framework of the rigorous theology and conservative thought of the times they were familiar with.
Undaunted by difficulties and criticism, Don Bosco trusted in Lord Jesus and continued his work for the young. He fed them, trained them both in formal and non-formal education, taught them the dignity of labour and helped them live a purposeful life.
He thought big. He dreamt big. He thought of lands and people beyond the seas; of wherever youth were in need. By the time Don Bosco died, he had ensured that the task God had given him, would be carried on, all over the world, by his followers. The tiny seed planted by Don Bosco has now grown into a mighty tree, cutting across caste, creed, cultures and lauguages, the Don Bosco concern has become an international movement contributing to peace and universal brotherhood in over 132 countries.
Don Bosco died on 31st Jan, 1888. He was 73 years old. He was declared a saint of the Catholic Church on 1st April, 1934.
The most significant achievement of Don Bosco was the revolution he brought about in the concept of education. While living with youth, teaching them and sharing his life with them, Don Bosco understood the importance of reason, kindness and Godliness in dealing with youth.