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St. John Bosco

St. John Bosco by Brenda Nippert

Artist Narrative:

John Bosco was famous for his work with wayward boys, and for founding the Salesians who work worldwide today, to better the lives of the under privileged. John's widowed mother, Margaret, instilled in him a strong faith and encouraged his desire for education in spite of their extreme poverty. Even at a young age, John had a creative way of drawing people to God using his talents. He would put on shows with juggling and acrobatics, slipping in catechism lessons. From childhood on, he had inspired dreams which opened his heart to God's plan for him. He became a priest and gathered streetwise boys to nurture their faith, extend kindness, and educate them with his unconventional methods and witty sense of humor. Soon a few boys swelled to 400 and continued to grow.

John accomplished everything with such love and kindness that his goodness was contagious, inspiring all he touched to pass the generosity on. Never underestimate the influence of one kind heart, coupled with a great sense of humor and faith filled determination.

His feast day is January 31.

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John Bosco’s theory of education could well be used in today’s schools. It was a preventive system, rejecting corporal punishment and placing students in surroundings removed from the likelihood of committing sin. He advocated frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. He combined catechetical training and fatherly guidance, seeking to unite the spiritual life with one’s work, study and play.

Encouraged during his youth to become a priest so he could work with young boys, John was ordained in 1841. His service to young people started when he met a poor orphan and instructed him in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. He then gathered young apprentices and taught them catechism.

After serving as chaplain in a hospice for working girls, John opened the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales for boys. Several wealthy and powerful patrons contributed money, enabling him to provide two workshops for the boys, shoemaking and tailoring.

By 1856, the institution had grown to 150 boys and had added a printing press for publication of religious and catechetical pamphlets. His interest in vocational education and publishing justify him as patron of young apprentices and Catholic publishers.

John’s preaching fame spread and by 1850 he had trained his own helpers because of difficulties in retaining young priests. In 1854, he and his followers informally banded together, inspired by Saint Francis de Sales.

With Pope Pius IX’s encouragement, John gathered 17 men and founded the Salesians in 1859. Their activity concentrated on education and mission work. Later, he organized a group of Salesian Sisters to assist girls.

John Bosco educated the whole person—body and soul united. He believed that Christ’s love and our faith in that love should pervade everything we do—work, study, play. For John Bosco, being a Christian was a full-time effort, not a once-a-week, Mass-on-Sunday experience. It is searching and finding God and Jesus in everything we do, letting their love lead us. Yet, because John realized the importance of job-training and the self-worth and pride that come with talent and ability, he trained his students in the trade crafts, too.