Birthday: August 16, 1815
Died At Age: 72
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Don Bosco
Born Country: Italy
Born in: Castelnuovo d'Asti, Piedmont, Kingdom of Sardinia, Italy
Famous as: Priest
Spiritual & Religious Leaders
father: Francesco Bosco
mother: Margherita Occhiena
Died on: January 31, 1888
place of death: Turin, Italy
Cause of Death: Acute Bronchitis
Founder/Co-Founder: Salesians of Don Bosco, Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco
John Bosco was an Italian Catholic saint, founder of religious orders and writer. He was affectionately known as Don Bosco and is renowned for his work in educating and rehabilitating poor and disadvantaged youth. Born into a poor family, he took up odd jobs as a boy to help his widowed mother. He was spiritual from a very young age and a devotee of Mother Mary. He soon joined the seminary and became a priest, after which he dedicated his life to looking after street children and their betterment. He developed reformative teaching methods like the ‘Salesian Preventive System’ and set up homes for street boys. He faced much opposition throughout his life, but established various religious orders in the 19th century, like ‘Society of St. Francis de Sales’, ‘Daughters of Mary Help of Christians’, etc. He started writing a bulletin that is in circulation even today. He was declared a saint after his death and is venerated widely across the Catholic world. Various churches, educational, medical and religious institutions around the globe have been dedicated to or named after him.
Childhood & Early Life
John Bosco was born on August 16, 1815, to Francesco and Margherita, in Becchi, Italy. He had two older brothers, Antonio and Giuseppe.
When he was two years old, his father died, and he and his brothers had to help out their mother in earning a living.
In 1825, at the age of nine, John Bosco had the first of a series of divine dreams that guided his work for the rest of his life. He was a spiritual child, a devotee of Mother Mary and follower of St. Francis de Sales. His mother was an early supporter of his beliefs.
His brother, Antonio, was believed to have been opposed to John’s schooling and so John abandoned schooling to work as a shepherd, and left home in 1827 to become a farm-hand.
In 1830, he met a young priest, Joseph Cafasso, who saw a bright spark in him and supported his education.
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In 1835, John Bosco entered a Roman Catholic seminary at Chieri to begin his religious studies.
In 1841, he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Franzoni of Turin. Soon after, he noticed the plight of the poor of Turin and saw 12-18 year old boys in prison who lived in destitute conditions and got involved in criminal activities. He decided to help reform their lives and began to interact with them in marketplaces.
In the early 1840s, he secured two rooms and set up an oratory to educate and instruct the boys on the path of righteousness. It became his full-time occupation and he even looked for jobs for them. By 1846, the number of boys at the oratory had burgeoned to 400.
By 1847, he was living with his mother in three rented rooms of the Valdocco slums where they took in orphans. The number of orphans living with them swelled to almost 800 in the next 13 years.
In the meantime, his oratory became a travelling one since the neighbours had him evicted from each place on false charges.
John Bosco continued with his good work of the upliftment of the downtrodden boys by ensuring that they were healthy, found jobs and were treated justly by their employers. But the situation remained grim.
To bring stability to the life of the poor in his care, he established various religious and allied lay orders between 1859 and 1874. There are more than 2600 houses of these religious orders across the world now.
In 1875, John Bosco sent missionaries to Argentina, after he was told to do so in another divine dream. He wanted to become a missionary too, but his director, Joseph Cafasso, restricted it.
On December 18, 1859, John Bosco founded the 'Society of St. Francis de Sales’ (now popularly known as ‘Salesians of Don Bosco’) to work for abandoned boys. The congregation comprised of priests, seminarians and lay brothers.
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In 1871, he founded ‘Daughters of Mary Help of Christians’ with the help of Sr. Mary Mazzarello to work for the upliftment of underprivileged girls.
In 1875, John Bosco established the ‘Salesian Bulletin’ which he wrote and published too. It continues to be published till date in about 30 languages.
In 1876, he founded the ‘Association of Salesian Cooperators’, a lay organization that worked for the benefit of the poor.
Awards & Achievements
John Bosco is the patron saint of Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.
January 31 has been declared a liturgical feast in his honour and is celebrated across the Catholic world.
Various churches, parishes, religious, medical and educational institutions across the world have been dedicated to or named after him.
In 1935, the biopic ‘Don Bosco’ was based on his life.
In 2004, he was the subject of the movie ‘Saint John Bosco: Mission to Love’.
Family & Personal Life
John Bosco’s belief in the ultimate authority of the pope earned him the ire of various factions. Politicians and police called him a dangerous revolutionist and the clergy accused him of stealing their parishioners. Attempts were made to stab, bludgeon and shoot him, and to send him to a mental asylum.
On January 31, 1888, he passed away and his funeral was witnessed by thousands of people.
On June 2, 1929, Pope Pius XI beatified him.
On April 1, 1934, he was canonized as a saint and conferred with the title ‘Father and Teacher of Youth’.
His remains are buried at ‘The Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians’ in Turin, Italy.
Catholic stage magicians reportedly give free shows to poor children on his feast day.
John Bosco was reportedly against the ideas propagated by thinkers of the French Revolution, Voltaire and Rousseau, calling them ‘two vicious leaders of incredulity’.