Our history began, we may say, when little John Bosco dreamed a very strange dream at the age of 9. Or we may date the origins of our society to a surprise encounter that brought him face to face with a frightened street urchin in a church sacristy on 8 December 1841. Or perhaps to the little band of 17 young men to whom Don Bosco first gave the title ‘Salesians’ on 26 January, 1854.
But these historical facts barely explain our international existence as a ‘family’ of nearly 402,500 members in the service of young people.
With a feeling of humble gratitude we believe that the Society of St. Francis de Salescame into being not as a merely human venture but by the initiative of God.
(source: Const. Art. 1)
John Bosco is a priest born for young people. For them, he launched many attractive projects. He was a tireless worker who dreamed great dreams that extended into a future not even he would experience. His “dreams” revealed, little by little, God’s plan that he was to realize.
Take the time to know and enter into his dream!
DREAM FOR THE FUTURE
His dream at 9 years of age guided Don Bosco throughout his life. In it John found himself amidst a large group of boys who were fighting. A man magnificently dressed appeared:
“It is not with blows, but with kindness and charity that you will make them your friends”.
Then, a beautiful Lady appeared:
“Here is your field of action! It is among these young people that we are sending you. Later… you will understand!”
THE DREAM IS REALIZED
Who were these boys? Most were illiterate, unemployed, uprooted, abandoned. It was for them that John Bosco, once ordained a priest, made himself their teacher. He organized night courses. He published, with urgency and aptitude, more than one hundred works. For all, he wanted knowledge, a roof, bread and a trade. He organized youth centers (oratories). These places were privileged places to gather together with friends and have some good fun.
Don Bosco is also a gifted craftsman, competent and full of initiatives. To pay for his own studies, he plied almost every trade. He opened vocational centers: they will be the professional and technical schools that will keep expanding in the future. He wanted young people to be competent.
GAMES AND JOY
Amid the work Don Bosco made time for his young people to experience moments of cheerful games. As a youth he would dance on a tight rope to entertain his friends. And as a priest he would initiate games, play music, sing and do magic tricks to amuse and to keep the hearts of the young cheerful. He would lead his boys in unforgettable outings, hikes, and walks. Singlehandedly he took three hundred young offenders from a Turin prison on a day picnic without the escort of the prison guards.
Games allow a real educative encounter.
Games diffuse joy.
“To serve God in joy” was the first slogan of Don Bosco’s mission.
A legacy we must not forget…
With simplicity and in words that young people could understand, Don Bosco opened for them Heavenly treasures. Through retreats, sermons, conferences and reflections he enthusiastically led youth to the hearts of Jesus and Mary.
LEADER AND GATHERER
This educator is also a gatherer. He formed in order to be a founder. It is here that we see his genius. Very early, John Bosco revealed his gift as leader of men. At 17 years old, and a young university student, he established the “Joyful Union”, a kind of recreational club:
“I was the accepted leader of this little army.
I only had to fix my gaze on someone
And I would read his intentions”.
In 1841, upon arriving in Turin, he quickly began his work among youth. There were hundreds and even thousands of poor boys abandoned and left on their own. Educators came to help him: fathers of families, priests, the “Salesian Cooperators” of the first hour, and his own mother, Mama Margaret.
But is there a future? Where would he find the material to build? The Lady of his dream had told him:” right there”. And among his own, Don Bosco searched.. He studied the character of his young people: the country boy, the student, and the worker. All generous! The dream had told Don Bosco:” You will understand”. With a handful of generous young men, a congregation is born. «The sheep have become the shepherd”.
On January 26, 1854, five volunteers take the name of SALESIANS (from Saint Francis de Sales, model of kindness and charity). Five years later, in 1859 his congregation, – THE SALESIANS OF DON BOSCO, is officially founded. Don Bosco even invented a new type of “worker”, the coadjutor, a lay religious man “in a working shirt”, to be a leader in his technical centers. In 1875, the first missionaries depart for South America.
AT YOUTH’S SERVICE
Throughout the history of mankind, there have existed men who will never be forgotten: Napoleon, Beethoven, Pasteur, Karl Marx, Leo XIII, and Ozanam… From a little village in Piedmont, north of Italy, a humble priest took his place among these renowned inventors, artists, chiefs of State, and thinkers: JOHN BOSCO.
A priest guided from on High, and who had a dream: to minister to young people, especially the poorest. He was not only a dreamer but also a creator, an achiever, and an initiator: he wanted, in the name of God, to lead young people to new heights in spiritual and human life.