It all began with a young priest, John Bosco now popularly known and loved as St. John Bosco, but the youth of his time hailed him as Don Bosco. In Italy where he began his ministry, priests were referred to as “Don” in common parlance. Today we still lovingly refer to him as Don Bosco.
Starting with a handful of teenagers in 1841, Don Bosco soon had several hundred kids coming to him on Sundays, for Mass, religious instruction and an afternoon of recreation. They met wherever he could find enough space for them, mostly in vacant lots. Don Bosco called this informal Sunday gathering the Oratory. Some of the kids were homeless and all of them were poor.
“Do you want to help Don Bosco?” he asked some of the youngsters. From these young volunteers came the Salesians, a religious community of brothers and priests dedicated to the youth ministry. At first there were 18 “Salesians” ranging from 16 to 22 years of age. Today there are some 15,300 Salesians serving in over 132 countries.
Today the Salesians of Don Bosco number 15,300 Brothers and Priests while the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians number 13,000. They too serve in over 100 countries. They dedicate their lives to the care and education of young people by bringing the Gospel of Jesus to the world.