St. John Bosco, popularly known as Don Bosco (Italian for Father Bosco) was born at Becchi, in Piedmont, Italy on August 16, 1815. From a very young age he was inspired to work for the poor young people of his time, when Europe was under the grip of the Industrial Revolution and many a young person who came to the cities to study or in search of work, fell an easy prey to the many social evils of his time.
He lost his father at the age of 2 and was brought up by his mother Mama Margherita, who was truly his guide, his model and his educator. From early years of life he discovered his leadership qualities especially among his peers. At the age of nine little John Bosco was given a mission in a vision. He was to transform young people “NOT WITH BLOWS BUT WITH KINDNESS” that became the goal of his life. Overcoming untold hardships and hostility he became a priest on June 5th, 1841. His determination to be a priest for young people combined with his dynamic optimism resulted in the flowering of his long cherished goal.
Don Bosco was an educational practitioner rather than an educational theorist. It is impossible to understand his approach to education without reference to his experiences in life, because he actually incorporated the lessons of his own life experiences into his pedagogy. This style of education consists in involving young people, their parents or guardians and the educators in a family atmosphere. This system is based on Reason, Religion (Faith in God) and Loving Kindness. The goal is integral formation. It embraces developing physical, intellectual, moral, social and spiritual aspects of a person’s life.
In spite of initial poverty, hardships, opposition of all sorts, soon his works flourished. The little seed planted by him grew into a mighty tree, and now there are hundreds of educational institutions catering to thousands of young people all over the world. Rightly, Don Bosco is recognized as the Father, Friend and Teacher of young people. He is the Founder of the Salesian Fathers (SDB), Salesian Sisters (FMA), and Salesian Cooperators (SC).
God’s ways are marvellous. Contemporaneously with Don Bosco, Mary Mazzarello in the hamlet of Mornese a little village in Piedmont, Italy thirsted with the same desire to help girls. she was born on May 9, 1837.
She too received a heavenly mandate. While walking down the uninhabited slopes of Borgo Alto she saw a group of girls playing in the non existent playground and a strong voice-firm and steady, communicated to her the divine mission : “I entrust them to you” Was it a dream, a hallucination? Yet, there she was fully awake. Walking in full consciousness...
In 1864 came the momentous meeting with Don Bosco, “He is a saint! I can feel it!” She said to all. Don Bosco too saw something exceptional in her. In Mary Mazzarello a likeminded soul, Salesian by instinct Don Bosco found a ready, active and creative collaborator. In 1872, he founded the Society of the Salesian Sisters (FMA) with Mary Mazzarello at their head. Imbibed with the spirit of the Founder they would march forward in the quest of providing integral formation and education for girls. 1875 saw the first expansion of the Salesian work outside Europe. India welcomed the first Salesian Sisters in 1922.
Sr. Innocenza Vallino, Sr. Cecilia Da Roit, Sr. Clotilde Appiano, Sr. Maria Bricarello, Sr. Rosetti Antonietta and Sr. Giulia Berra formed the first batch of sisters destined for Assam.