St. John Bosco, commonly known as Don Bosco,was born in 1815 at Becchi, a village near Turin, Italy. At the age of two his father died. He was brought up by his mother.
Through heroic sacrifices and by dint of hard work he became a priest, in 1841. As a priest, he dedicated himself to the service of boys, especially the poor by offering them food, lodging and education. Through the help of generous persons, he opened technical schools, hostels and other institutions. Soon he founded a society of collaborators and extended his work to all Europe and to other continents.Johny Bosco had a difficult childhood. He had to face many hurdles to continue his studies. Although dogged by poverty and unfriendly environment, John’s determination saw him through his course of studies. Seeing the enthusiasm of the boy, his mother, Margaret, stood by him and encouraged him to study convinced that God would one day use her son to work marvels.
Johnny, however knew right from the beginning, what he wanted to do in life. Even as a boy, Johnny gathered around himself children of the village by means of fun, laughter and song. He became their juggler, gymnast and acrobat in order to win them over. Gradually he began to teach them to pray and show them the way to love God. His great desire was to spend his life with young people, who John saw were in dire need due to the prevailing economic, social and political conditions. He had this task in mind while entering the seminary to study for priesthood. A brilliant student, but unable to meet the cost of education, John had to tend for himself- by working as cobbler, carpenter, dishwasher and doing other odd jobs. He did all these to achieve his cherished goal. He successfully completed his studies, was ordained a priest in 1841 and began to live with and live for boys who were poor and uncared for.
Religious and Political authorities of the day initially failed to understand Don Bosco and his doings. They found Don Bosco far too daring and operating outside the frame-work of the rigorous theology and conservative thought of the times they were familiar with undaunted by difficulties and criticism. Don Bosco trusted in Lord Jesus and continued his work for the young. He fed them, trained them both in formal and non-formal education,taught them the dignity of labour and helped them live a purposeful life.
He thought big. He had big dreams. He thought of lands and peoples beyond the seas, of wherever youth were in need. By the time Don Bosco died, he had ensured that the task God had given him, would be carried on, all over the world, by his followers. Don Bosco died on 31st January 1888 at the age of 73. He was declared a saint of the Catholic church on 1st April, 1943. Don Bosco is “the Father and Friend of Youth”, and educator par excellence.