Don Bosco and the Salesians

Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco (1815-1888), was an Italian Roman Catholic priest and the founder of the religious congregation “Salesians of Don Bosco”. His teachings gained following worldwide.

The Don Bosco House in Ronda was donated to the local Salesian community and carries the name of Saint John Bosco as an homage. Don Bosco himself has not lived or been at the house. He only went to Spain once in his lifetime, in 1886, when he visited Barcelona.

Don Bosco

In 1841, Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco is ordained as a priest, after having studied for 6 years at the seminary of Chieri. He then receives the traditional Italian honorific “Don”.

During his early priesthood, Don Bosco visits the Turin prisons. It makes him feel deeply saddened to see so many young boys there (12-18 years of age). They are in a desperate situation with nobody to guide them or to help them learn a profession and change their prospects for the future.

Don Bosco then decides to commit himself to putting an end to these social wrongs. He lends a helping hand to street children, juvenile delinquents, and other disadvantaged youth.

Oratory

In 1847 Don Bosco starts an Oratory in the suburb of Valdocco. Here he provides refuge to youngsters that don’t have anywhere to go. They receive catechesis and come together to pray, learn and play. Don Bosco also opens workshops where the boys could learn skills and he assists in negotiating good contracts with employers. Over the years the number of boys sheltered by Don Bosco grows vastly, up to 800 at its maximum.

Education System

Don Bosco develops his own education system based on the values: reason, religion and loving kindness. He is convinced that there is no such thing as a “bad child”. Instead of using punishment, he firmly believes that patience, understanding and caring bring out the best in a young person. In his student-centred approach all are treated as equals. He considers it the educator’s responsibility to inspire cooperation, confidence, self-actualization and social participation.

The Salesians

To help him with his work, Don Bosco gathers people around him who pursue the same ideals and are committed to young people out of their connection with God. In 1859 they form an official society, the “Salesians of Don Bosco”. Don Bosco names the congregation after Saint Francis de Sales. He was a 17th-century bishop of Geneva, known for his kindness and gentleness. Don Bosco wants his Salesians to act in this way whilst carrying out his vision. The number of Salesians grows and Don Bosco’s fame spreads throughout Europe and beyond.

Don Bosco remained involved until the end and when he died at the age of 72, the movement that he inspired was only just beginning. Nowadays, the Salesian Society is the third largest Catholic religious order in the world. These days the Salesians operate shelters for homeless or at-risk youths; schools; technical, vocational, and language instruction centres for youths and adults; and boys’ clubs and community centres.

In 1934, Pope Pius XI declares Don Bosco a Saint.