John Bosco was born on August 16th, 1815, in the small town of Becchi, just outside of Turin, Italy. When John was two years of age his father died and her was raised by his mother Margaret. With loving care and prudent firmness she prepared her son to become the best he could be. The future proved her Christian faith and maternal guidance to be genuinely successful.
In spite of dire circumstances, through effort and sacrifice he succeeded in obtaining an education that eventually helped him realize his life’s goal - to become a priest, After his ordination on June 5th, 1841, he began his life’s work in the growing city of Turin. Countless numbers of young people came to this city in search of work. The pitiful situation of these youngsters moved John to improve the lot of these abandoned and poor young people.
He dedicated his life to them and began to form Oratories – youth centers to foster healthy outlets in addition to social, intellectual and above all spiritual growth. His genius moved him to establish boarding schools to which he added shops to teach trades. The success of his endeavors and his educational methods began to draw many to him. In 1859 he decided to found a religious society of men, the Salesian Society. Later, in 1872, together with St. Mary Mazzarello he founded a religious group of women, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, to do for girls what he was doing for boys, Today more than forty thousand members belong to these two groups which have large numbers of lay collaborators, called Salesian Cooperators.
In 1875 he initiated a missionary movement that carried his educational and pastoral methods to missionary lands. The Salesians are presently in over 120 countries, and they carry with them this Saint’s educational philosophy. The educational philosophy of John Bosco can be condensed in three words: reason religion, and kindness. The basic principle of his system was a deep understanding and love for young people.
John Bosco, the Friend of Youth, dies on January 31st, 1888, and was declared a Saint April 1, 1934.
Reason that it is most reasonable to reach ‘civil, moral and intellectual’ fulfillment as a human person through a life of faith. The first dimension of this methodology focuses on the concept of reason. It not only challenges the educator to embrace fulfillment through a life of faith but it also requires that the educator be reasonable when interacting with the young. It is essential to acquire the ability to know and understand the human dynamics of young people and to be able to communicate the dialogue with them. This reasonable stance calls for an active and constant presence on the part of the educator – a pleasant and unrestrained being together. This genuine considerate presence opens the way for the young to come to perceive the educator as a caring guide, and counselor. Authentic parents and educators do make a difference!
This reasonable style of education brings meaning and purpose to the roles of parents and educators. Their efforts become more creative and interactive. Their efforts become more creative and interactive. A healthier rapport develops and become a dynamic and constructive force in education. John Bosco would say, “Students must not only be loved, they must know that they are loved.” This he achieved by making himself available, taking a keen interest in their studies, work, sports, clubs and in all their activities while noticing a change in behavior patterns or withdrawal symptoms. Body language does not escape parents and educators who are attentive. We cannot underestimate the need for spending quantities of quality time with the young. Many children feel neglected while surrounded with abundance.
Religion living according to the TRUTH entrusted to the church. The young, through example, will be afforded diverse opportunities to develop an informed conscience, act responsibly, and embrace their sacramental liturgical life, in becoming responsible partners in social living. The second element of this educational method is Religion built upon the Gospel of love and the Beatitudes. It is the ground where personal accountability for one’s actions is encouraged and fostered.There is a significant difference between acting in good conscience and acting from an informed conscience. Genuine formation is found in the official guidance of the Church and consistent involvement in a believing faith community. To study and live according to these truths is an invitation to prayer and grace that comes from embracing a sacramental liturgical life and devotion to Mary and the Saints as role models for true discipleship.
Loving kindness reaching the hearts of youth in demonstrating that one is genuinely concerned with their welfare. With confidence in the transforming power of love, one must foster ‘heart-to-heart’ communication and affirm them in their struggle to grow and mature.
The foundational principle that Don Bosco chose for his approach to help the young to mature and to find their place in society was CHARITY which he expressed by the words LOVING KINDNESS. To quote his own words: “The practice of this system is wholly based on the words of St. Paul: ‘Love is patient and kind. It bears all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.’ This basic virtue was the foundation of all his efforts; it was the mainspring of all his actions on behalf of youth. Scattered through the writing of this nineteenth century educator we find expressions such as these “Education is a matter of the heart, friendly counsels which appeal to the heart of the young and win over the heart, the educator will speak in the language of the heart. I will do all I can if only I will win over the hearts of the young. After winning the heart of a pupil, the educator can exercise great influence over that person. Let us make ourselves loved, and we shall possess their hearts.”
The ‘heart-to-heart’ dynamic of loving-kindness should not be viewed as a weakness on the part of an educator, but as a sign of self-control and inner strength. This dimension, closely related to Reason, calls one to a readiness to be reasonable, especially when circumstances are the result of tension and thoughtlessness. Usually a kind word and an open ear will suffice to bring a person back to duty and responsibility. Loving – Kindness creates an atmosphere of trust where self-expression is fostered and becomes the norm. Through respectful interpersonal relating, confidence is generated between pupils and educators who in Don Bosco’s words are like dedicated parents what encourage, counsel, affirm, and correct at the right moments in the right way.
Don Bosco’s Oratory Model
Don Bosco believed in four pillars of stability in a young person’s life. The four pillars are a Home, a School, a Church and a Playground.
The Salesian philosophy of religious education is never to separate the evangelization from the fun of the playground, nor the family environment. During catechism children will learn to go to church, have a relationship with God and grow in their faith.
School helps to prepare children for their future. The lessons that will be learnt in catechism will help the children grow their faith into mature and happy adults.
A home is a place were people can be themselves. It is a place that welcomes and nurtures everyone. Home is more than a building it is a sense of belonging and care. In Catechism the children will come to build a home - away from home with their peers and catechists in a loving environment.
Naturally, it is important that children are given an opportunity to make friends and have fun in their youth. As children socialize with each other they learn how to live in society. In catechism children will be able to have fun and play with their friends during special catechism events.