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For the love of the young

The feast of Saint Don Bosco is celebrated with great fervour all over the world, including Goa, on January 31.
NT BUZZ finds out how this saint has especially influenced young people


Saint Don Bosco or Don Bosco is remembered as a priest who dedicated his life in service of abandoned, troubled, and marginalised youth.

Born on August 16, 1815 in Italy, Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco had a dream as a young boy where he saw a man and many young poor boys. In this dream, the man instructed Bosco to make these boys his friends. He also told Bosco that he had the traits and skillsto conquer the wildness of these children. And it was this dream that motivated him to become a priest.

Ordained on June 5, 1841, Bosco then set about trying to help the downtrodden youth. Around this time, Italy was going through poverty and turmoil and youth were going down dark paths. Shocked at these conditions Bosco began visiting prisons and trying to find ways to prevent young boys from ending up there. He found the traditional methods of reformation ineffective and decided to interact with these children at the places where they worked or gathered. He gave them an education and a home filled with love rather than using punishment. This method came to be known as the Salesian Preventive System. He also called on others to help and this led to the formation of the Order of the Salesians.

He also founded a group of religious sisters to do for girls what the Salesians were doing for boys. They were called the Daughters of Mary Help of

Don Bosco passed away on January 31, 1888 and was beatified on June 2, 1929, in Rome by Pope Pius XI. He was canonised on April 1 1934, in Rome by Pope Pius XI.

Centuries after his death, his legacy is still carried forward by the Salesians of Don Bosco. “We are called Salesians because of the patron saint of the congregation, Saint Francis De Sales, who Don Bosco looked up to. Saint Francis De Sales was a kind priest with a lot of affection, and Don Bosco wanted Salesians to be kind to young people,” says rector and principal, Don Bosco High School, Panaji, Fr Avin Carvalho.

Fr Carvalho adds that the current generation are not directly influenced by the saint but by the work of the people who carry forward Don Bosco’s mission. “It is the Salesian priests who have an influence on the current generation. They carry out the mission of Don Bosco today. They interact with the students, spend time with them, educate them, council them, provide them with opportunities to discover themselves and so on,” he says. “Don Bosco also believed in using lay people, past pupils, and all the people who are associated with Don Bosco institutions in some way or the other to carry the mission all over the world. He wanted everybody to be involved, especially those who had a liking to work with young people.

And it is the lively spirit that they employ that draws people to Don Bosco and his mission, says Fr Carvalho. “We are not people who spend most of the time praying. Our spirituality is basically being with the young, animating them, and educating them,” he says.

The many students who have studied in Don Bosco institutes or been a part of the work attest to this. “Studying at Don Bosco, I came to know so much about his life and his compassionate nature,” says ex student, Don Bosco, Panaji, Domnic Fernandes. Celeste Carneiro, who only studied at the Panaji institute for a year also agrees that Don Bosco has greatly helped her. “I believe being at Don Boscos’ has shaped my personality in a better way. The lesson that I have learned from his life through this institution is to be kind to everyone possible,” she says.

And the Don Bosco feast which will be celebrated on January 31 at Don Bosco Shrine, Panaji will be done with great zeal and zest. In fact, activities begin prior to the feast to ignite the spiritual feeling in a subtle manner. “There are games, singing practices in preparation for the feast, novena prayers, etc,” says Fr Carvalho, adding that other Don Bosco institutes around the state will be having their own separate celebrations too.

The theme for this year’s feast celebration is ‘Christ is alive’ based on the post-synodal apostolic exhortation document by Pope Francis. “It is telling the young that Christ is alive. So the mass is celebrated in that sense to make them believe that God is close to them,” says Fr Carvalvo.

The main celebrant for the feast mass at Don Bosco, Panaji will be vice provincial of the Salesians province of Panaji, Fr Clive Telles. Following the feast mass there will be a short programme put up by the students from the institute.

(The high mass will be held on January 31, 6 p.m. at Don Bosco, Panaji. Prior to that a mass will be held at 8:15 a.m.)

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