"The school was not the end; it was rather the instrumental means for improving the way of life."
John Bosco was born in the little hamlet of Becchi some twenty kilometers from Turin, Italy. His father, Francis Bosco, was a hardworking peasant who died when John was only two years old. The grief-stricken words of his mother, telling him that he was now fatherless remained deeply impressed in the child's mind and perhaps, helped to instill in his mind, an intense pity for the orphans and the homeless which became the dominant note of his life.
At the age of nine John had a dream. He saw himself in a vast field, surrounded by youngsters, laughing, singing and playing. Before long the boys began to shout and curse, and a fight broke out. John tried to restore order by swinging his fists around and shouting at the trouble makers. A mysterious person stopped him, saying "Not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness you shall win them over"
John recognised in his dream his future mission. This experience deepened his desire to become a priest and dedicate his life for the welfare of young people.
John's path however was full of hurdles. His mother, Margaret, though poor, was prepared to make any sacrifice to educate him. But his elder step-brother strongly opposed his going to school. He had to do his share of work on the family farm and study during his spare time. To earn the little extra money needed for his books, he had to work often as a labourer, shepherd, tailor, shoe maker, barber and cook-skills which he later taught his orphans.
As a teenager, John used to gather boys of his age and entertain them with magic, jugglery and acrobatics. His performance, however, always ended with a good story and a brief exhortation to live a good and honest life. In due course John entered the seminary and was ordained a priest on 5th June 1841. From then on he was affectionately known as Don Bosco (Father Bosco).
In 1853, to train boys in some useful trades, Don Bosco turned his backyard into a makeshift workshop for shoemaking, carpentary, tailoring. Smithy, book binding and printing. This was the first Catholic trade school in Italy.
He did even more. He went from factory to factory begging work for his poor boys and drew up labour contracts for them. His work progressed steadily. Some of his own boys, as they grew up, became priests and brothers and stayed with him as his most loyal helpers.
To give permanence to his work, in 1859 he founded a Religious Society of Priests and Brothers which was named Salesians, after his favourite saint, Francis de Sales. Today they are known - Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB).
In l 872, with St. Marry Mazzarello, Don Bosco founded a congregation of nuns whom he called Daughters of Marry help of Christians, also known as Don Bosco Sisters, to look after poor girls.
In 1876, he founded a third group called Salesian Cooperators. They are men and women who, without becoming priests or nuns, work for youth in the spirit of Don Bosco. His wonks were marked by an extraordinary number of spiritual gifts and miracles earning him the name "Wonder worker of Turin". He had an ardent devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, who proved herself a powerful advocate and support in his every need.