John Bosco was born at Castelnuovo d’Asti on 16 August 1815, of a family of peasant farmers. His father, Francis Bosco, died when John was just two, and Margaret Occhiena found herself bringing up Anthony, Joseph and John alone.
With firm kindness and unbounded faith Margaret, wise educator that she was, made her family into a domestic church.
From when he was small, John began to feel a desire to become a priest. he spoke of having had a dream at nine years of age, which revealed to him his mission: “Make yourself humble, strong and robust”, a woman resplendent as the sun told him, “and what you see happening to these wolves which change into lambs, you will do for my children. I will be your teacher. In time you will understand”. While still a lad, John began to do magic tricks, learned with hard effort, for his friends, and he alternated this with work and prayer.
The elderly Fr Calosso started him off with his studies for the priesthood, studies that cost him effort, to the point where he had to leave home because of his brother anthony’s opposition. He wanted John to work in the fields.
As a seminarian at Chieri, he thought up the idea of the ‘Cheerful Society, which gathered boys from around the town. In June 1841 he was ordained priest. His spiritual director, Fr cafasso, advised him to complete his studies at the Ecclesiastical Institute. Meanwhile Don Bosco gathered his first boys around him, and organised a festive oratory, initially on the move but then stabilised at Valdocco. Margaret, by now elderly, accepted to come to Turin and help him, and become ‘Mamma Margaret’ for the boys.