Skip to content ↓

Salesian Charism

Don Bosco founded a youth work based congregation which also included formal education in schools. He achieved this during a chaotic period in the mid 1800s in Turin in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars and the start of the industrial revolution.

The city of Turin tripled its population in Don Bosco’s lifetime so that the whole city was a building site for much of his life. The labourers were often young boys from the country, uneducated and exploited through long hours of work on dangerous building sites. Don Bosco began to gather these youths, especially on Sundays, primarily to give them a space to play and relax and avoid the danger of a corrupt city. He was praised by some who recognised the need and hated by others who suspected that he had political motives. It was this group of abandoned youth that focused Don Bosco’s mind and heart. They became the crucible for a new charism in the church focused on the needs of the young.

It is not quite true to say that Don Bosco created a new charism. As he developed his work in Turin he adopted an earlier charism and re-shaped it for working with the young. He adopted the spirituality of St Francis de Sales which emphasised a number of qualities that seemed to fit in with working with the young. Here are some of them:

  • Optimism about people
  • Gentleness
  • Management of anxiety
  • Kindness
  • Awareness of God in ordinary things
  • Cheerfulness
  • Everyone can be holy

Don Bosco adopted these values in his work with young people and encouraged his staff and students to follow the example of this gentle and optimistic saint.

Taken from ‘Charism in Catholic Education’ by Fr David O’Malley SDB