Saint John Bosco was born in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy in 1815, the year that Napoleon's armies were finally defeated and driven out of Italy.
Brought up in a peasant family and raised by a widowed mother, John endured many hardships in pursuit of an education and growth in the Christian life. He demonstrated great initiative and creativity at a very early age and learned magic tricks and acrobatics in an attempt to gather an audience so that he could evangelize and catechize the children and adults of his town.
After his ordination to the priesthood, he settled in the industrial town of Turin which was flooded by peasants in search of work.
'Don' Bosco focused his efforts on ministry to the orphans and working children of the city and established homes called oratories where they could live, learn productive trades, and be educated in the faith.
In the face of much resistance by anti-clerical politicians and unfriendly churchmen, his oratories grew so quickly that by 1868 over 800 boys were under his care.
As if this work were not enough, he wrote and printed countless pamphlets that popularized Catholic teaching and answered the objections of anti-Catholics and secularists and as a result, several attempts were made on his life.
Miracles reported by numerous eyewitnesses accompanied his work, including the multiplication of food. He was also known to receive supernatural guidance from God in the form of vivid dreams which he often recounted to his companions.
To ensure the continuation of his work, St John Bosco founded a religious congregation named in honour of one of his favourite saints, St Francis de Sales.
This holy saint died in 1888, but today John Bosco's Salesians continue his work all over the world.