GLOBAL: Thousands of Salesian Missionaries and Youth around the Globe Celebrate Bicentennial of St. John (Don) Bosco’s Birth
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries along with young people, families and other Don Bosco supporters came together in countries around the globe to celebrate the bicentennial of St. John (Don) Bosco’s birth on August 16. Salesian parishes and programs held week-long celebrations including parades, parties, community events and Masses to honor the life and legacy of Don Bosco.
In anticipation of the day, Pope Francis sent a letter on June 24 to Father Ángel Fernández Artime, the Salesian Rector Major, after the Pope’s visit to Turin, Italy. In the letter, Pope Francis praised the work of Don Bosco and the Salesian Family and highlighted Don Bosco’s call to service and his work with poor and disadvantaged youth. Pope Francis also praised Salesian efforts in establishing education and social development services that are open to all youth regardless of language, race, culture or religion.
As part of the letter, Pope Francis states, “A characteristic feature of Don Bosco’s pedagogy is loving kindness, which is to be understood as a love that is manifested and perceived, and reveals itself in caring, affection, understanding and involvement in the life of another person. In the experiential process of education, according to Don Bosco, it is not enough to love, but love needs to be expressed in gestures that are concrete and effective. Thanks to this loving kindness, so many children and adolescents in Salesian settings have experienced an intense and serene emotional growth, which has proved very valuable in the shaping of their personality and in their life’s journey.”
The work of Salesian missionaries was started in 1859 by Don Bosco, a young priest at the time, along with 18 young men who were once poor street children cared for by Don Bosco. Their goal was to bring hope to thousands of poor youth and instill in them confidence while training them in the skills needed for a better life. Despite the anti-religious age in which Don Bosco lived, he served thousands before his death. More than 125 years later, this legacy continues and impacts millions of children in need.
Don Bosco was born in the village of Becchi in northern Italy on August 16, 1815. From an early age, he was drawn to helping disadvantaged youth. He joined the seminary in 1835 and supported himself by working as a tailor, blacksmith, shoemaker, carpenter, violinist, acrobat and magician. His various talents would later help him to meet and inspire youth in need. As the founder of the Salesian order, he spent his ministry educating and helping improve the lives of disadvantaged children by setting up homes and schools for them within the city of Turin, Italy as well as in other parts of the world.
During the Industrial Revolution, Don Bosco saw many young boys migrating from villages to towns looking for better education and work opportunities only to end up sleeping on the streets facing exploitation and often being forced to beg for food and other basic needs. He began looking out for these young boys, meeting with employers to ask for better wages and treatment for them. Eventually, he founded a trade school to help young people develop skills and gain an education. He also introduced many to music and sports. Don Bosco died on January 31, 1888 and was canonized a saint in 1934.
Today, his work continues in primary, secondary, vocational, trade and professional schools around the globe. Through Salesian programs, poor youth and their families have access to education, workforce development, humanitarian relief, youth clubs, health services, feeding programs and more. Salesian missionaries focus on rebuilding lives and helping young people become self-sufficient by learning a trade that will help them gain long-term employment.
“Just like Don Bosco, Salesian missionaries work and live among the youth they serve,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Following his example, Salesian missionaries continue to provide innovative programs that are customized to meet the immediate needs of poor youth in the communities they serve. On Don Bosco’s bicentennial, we reflect back on the foundation of this great work as well as on how far we have come in providing youth hope for a brighter future.”
During many of the bicentennial celebrations of Don Bosco’s life and work, current and former Salesian students expressed their appreciation and gratitude for their education and the many additional services that have helped them break the cycle of poverty and access opportunities for a better life.
National Catholic Register – Bosco Bicentennial: Street Party for Saint Draws 15,000 People