John Melchior Bosco, affectionately called Don Bosco (Father Bosco), was born into a family of poor farmers on August 16, 1815 at Becchi, a hamlet near Turin, Italy.

A mysterious dream at the age of nine left an indelible mark on his life. He saw himself amidst scruffy street kids who were fighting and using abusive language.

Intending to stop them he jumped into the fray hitting out wildly with his fists. Suddenly, a majestic personage stood in their midst and stopped him short. "Not with blows, but with gentleness and love". He entrusted Johnny to his mother, a beautiful lady who appeared by his side. She would teach John how to change the ‘wild animals’ into ‘gentle lambs’. There and then, Mary, the mother of Jesus, began her first lesson: “Johnny”, she said, “make yourself humble, steadfast and strong."

John saw in this dream a divine commission to work for young people especially those who were poor and abandoned. He decided to become a priest – in imitation of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, totally dedicated to caring for underprivileged youth. Everywhere in the rapidly industrialising city of Turin, he saw the urgency of his call. He grew concerned about the different forms of human misery that were affecting vulnerable young people the most. There were hungry and lonely orphans, uneducated and unemployed urchins, migrant youth from rural areas in search of work, young victims of abuse by unscrupulous adults. He began reaching out to them in the by-lanes and market places of the city. He brought them to a safe and secure place at Valdocco, which he called the ‘Oratory of St. Francis de Sales’. It was his very first educational enterprise - the first step in the realisation of his dream.

To make this first attempt at designing a suitable pedagogy for young people reach the far corners of the world he set up the ‘Salesian Family’ network. Today it consists of 26 different organizations that have a total of about 310,900 members scattered in 128 nations through nearly 2040 works for young people.* Each of the members have one common heritage: Don Bosco's Way of educating young people for a happy life.

Art: The dream at the age of nine, Zonta
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Further information:
- A short biography of Don Bosco's Life - text and audio version
- Watch the tele-serial
- Geon Henri, The Secret of St. John Bosco

* Statistics mentioned are of the year 2008 and are taken from