Published: Thursday, 7th March, 2013 5:18pm
St Don Bosco
The relics of St John Bosco, the patron saint of young people and founder of the Salesian congregation, are visiting St Mary's Church, Navan, at the weekend as part of an international tour. The relics are scheduled to arrive from Knock Basilica to St Mary's Church Navan at 7.30pm on Sunday 3rd March and will available for veneration until 11am. Early morning Mass will be celebrated on Monday at 7.30am on Monday followed by public veneration of the relics until 9.30am. Concelebrated Mass at 10am will be followed by visits of school groups until 3.30pm, when a concluding ceremony with secondary schools takes place, prior to departure of the relics from Navan. John Bosco was born on 16th August, 1815, to the east of Turin in Italy. From a very early age he decided that he would dedicate his life to helping young people. He was ordained in June, 1841, and began his work for the poor youth of the city of Turin, where social problems abounded. The industrial revolution had begun and many young people were flocking into the city looking for work in factories. They were often used as cheap labour, and there wasn't work for everybody and many were disappointed. Money was scarce, accommodation was dreadful and crime escalated. The prisons were filled with boys and young men in particular. Only the elite could afford education and in 1848 there were, in the city of Turin, 30,000 illiterate young people - about 40 per cent of the population. Part of John Bosco's work as a priest was to visit the prisons around Turin. Here he experienced first-hand the misery of many vulnerable teenagers. Their plight made a deep impression on him. He knew something had to be done about the situation, and adopted a novel approach. He mixed with the roughest of young people. He played cards with them in pubs and invited them to be his friends. This scandalised many of his fellow priests. Some of them actually thought his behaviour so insane, that on one occasion, they tried to commit him to an asylum. Overcoming problems and prejudices took time. However, his unique ability to be at ease with the young who were homeless, illiterate and in need, spurred him on. He progressed from Sunday catechism classes in a local-field, to a daily trade school in an adapted shed. Young people flocked to him for education and shelter. He fought for the rights of and proper working conditions for, apprentices. His fame and his work spread. People began to see John Bosco not as someone deranged, but as an extraordinarily holy man. He was making the seemingly impossible, possible. As his work grew many young men came forward to help him. They became the first members of his religious congregation known as 'Salesians'. These young men became the core group who would further his work. Many lay people including his mother 'Mama Margaret' also came to help in his work. Currently, there are over 400,000 lay people working as part of the wider Salesian family. John, with the help of Mary Mazzarello, later founded the Salesian Sisters to work for girls. County Meath has a close association with the Salesians through the former College of Agriculture in Warrenstown, Drumree, which they operated for many years.