don bosco and the salesians

Don Bosco (1815-1888) was a talented educator and animateur. He was particularly concerned with the needs of young people. His work initially looked to encourage work with children and young people in the sorts of settings familiar to youth workers. The main form he adopted was the youth oratory - a mixture of what might be called a youth club and a youth parish. Later he was to turn his attention to schooling, particularly trade schools.  His educational system is often described as the 'preventive system'. It was an approach built on love and the character of the educator. The concern, in Don Bosco's words, was for learners 'to obey not from fear or compulsion, but from persuasion. In this system all force must be excluded, and in its place charity must be the mainspring of action'. He taught that educators should act like caring parents; always be gentle and prudent; allow for the thoughtlessness of youth; be alert for hidden motives; speak kindly; give timely advice; and 'correct often'. Alongside love, Don Bosco stressed the importance of reason and religion. His educational method was largely developed through reflection upon his own experience and disseminated through letters, talks and example.

Don Bosco also founded the Salesian Society - now the third largest Catholic religious order in the world - in 1859. The Society was named after St. Francis de Sales who was known for his kindness and gentleness, a trait which Don Bosco wanted his Salesians to acquire. In Britain they have focused on the provision of Catholic secondary schools initially for 'the aspiring working class', homes and residential schools for children at risk, and more recently local community projects and retreats.

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