Commonly known as Don Bosco, St. John Bosco was born in Italy on Aug. 16, 1815. His father died two years later and he was reared in poverty by his very holy mother, Margaret. In 1841, he became a priest and took on as his principal work – the training of young boys to be good Christians, mainly through his own example. He founded the oratory of Francis de Sales to educate them and his mother served as housekeeper until her death.
In 1850, he founded two workshops to train boys in shoemaking and tailoring, 150 boys in total. Later, he founded the printing press, where he wrote and printed pious pamphlets for youth.
His reputation as a preacher became widespread and even miracles were a tribute to his intercession. With the encouragement of Pope Pius, Don Bosco founded a religious congregation called the Salesians, which spread rapidly throughout the world in Italy, Spain, France, England, Argentina and Brazil.
In 1872, Don Bosco, with St. Maria Mazzerello, founded the Salesian Sisters, also known as the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, for a similar apostolate among young girls. When Don Bosco died on Jan. 31, 1888, there were 773 Salesians. Today, there are about 17,000 Salesian priests and brothers, 18,000 sisters and tens of thousands of laypeople working in every continent to continue the spirit and mission of Don Bosco among the young. Don Bosco was canonized in 1934. He was named the patron saint of publishers and young apprentices.
His feast is celebrated on Jan. 31.