St John Bosco grew up dirt poor in the country working as a shepherd. His father died when he was an infant. After becoming a priest he went to the big city, Turin, and saw how the urban poor lived, which changed his life. He began a ministry to poor boys in which he said Mass, heard confessions, taught the gospel, went on walks, cooked meals and taught practical skills like book binding.
He went on to found the Salesians, named in honor of his own hero, St Francis de Sales. the Salesian programs of charity and education spread around the globe; by the time of St John Bosco’s death in 1888 the Salesians had 250 houses the world over caring for 130,000 children. their work continues today.
Don Bosco (“Don” was a title of honor for priests and teachers, among others) did not know what rest was and wore himself out by being all things to all men. His reputation for holiness lived well beyond his death.
He was canonized on Easter Sunday 1934 by Pope Pius XI, who had met Don Bosco in 1883, when he was a young priest in northern Italy, then known as Fr. Achille Ratti.
January 31 is the Memorial of St John Bosco, Priest.