Next Tuesday, 31st January, is the Memorial of St. John Bosco (1815-1888), founder of the Salesian Order. He came from Piedmont; his father died when he was two years old and he was brought up by his mother in extreme poverty. He entered the seminary in 1831 and was ordained a priest in 1841. He worked throughout his life in the education and care of children, especially the poorest, principally in Turin. His attractive and charismatic personality soon drew many to his oratory and his evening classes. For a while he lived in poverty with his mother and about 40 destitute boys in the Valdocco area and later he open workshops for training shoemakers and tailors. By 1856, the number had grown to 250 with four workshops; there were also 500 children attached to the oratories and 10 priests to help teach them. John Bosco was an eloquent preacher and writer; he also had a reputation as a visionary and a wonder worker, with an extraordinary gift for handling difficult youths without punishment, but with a gentle yet effective firmness. On Sundays, he would often take the children on expeditions into the country, beginning with Mass, followed by breakfast and open-air games, a picnic, Catechism class and Vespers at the end. He believed in the spiritual value of contact with natural beauty and the uplifting power of music. 1859, he began to organise a Congregation for this work to expand and continue; it was formally approved in 1874 and specialises in pastoral work and schools. He also founded an order of nuns to do the same work for girls. He died in 1888 and his body is enshrined in Turin, where thousands still visit on pilgrimage even today.
Next Tuesday, let’s remember in our prayers the clergy, staff and pupils of Salesian College Farnborough. We wish them a fappy feast day!