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Don Bosco Youth Centre, St. Marys, NSW - Australia.
The Don Bosco Youth Centre is a sport and recreation centre in St. Marys, NSW Australia. The Centre is run by the Salesians of Don Bosco (brothers and priests) and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (sisters) of Catholic religious orders in Australia, the Salesians of Don Bosco and the Sisters of Mary Help of Christians.
The Don Bosco Youth and Recreation Centre first opened on 24th June 1993 and is a Joint Project by:
The aim of the Centre is to enrich the lives of all young people, but particularly those most in need, so that they become responsible citizens and happy individuals.
The underpinning philosophy and approach is "preventative" and "formative" based on the belief that if young people are provided with the opportunity to participate in many interesting, healthy and enjoyable activities and interests in their leisure time, they will build up their confidence and self esteem, learn to relate more easily with both their peers and adults and use their leisure time in creative and positive ways.
Predilection for the young
Our vocation is graced by a special gift of God: predilection for the young, as St. John Bosco said: "That you are young is enough to make me love you very much".
This love is an expression of pastoral charity and gives meaning to our whole life.
For the young's welfare we give generously of our time, talents and health: "For you I study, for you I work, for you I live, for you I am ready even to give my life".(St. John Bosco).
Do you live around St. Marys and have children aged from 10 to 20 years old? If you do, you can drop them at our Youth Centre after school to play various sports such as trampoline, soccer, basketball, table tennis, cricket etc. And if you are a parent with younger children, then you can take them all to Don Bosco every Saturday at 10:30am to 11:30am.
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Young John Bosco was born on 16 August 1815 in a small collection of farmhouses near the village Castelnuovo d’Asti, in Piedmont (northern Italy), popularly called “I Becchi”.
While still a child, his father’s death made him feel the sorrow of so many orphans for whom he would become a loving father. He found, however, in his mother Margaret an example of Christian life which made a deep impression on his soul.
When he was nine years old, he had a dream that was prophetic. He seemed to be in the middle of a crowd of children at play, some of whom were however cursing. Suddenly, the young John threw himself at these, cursing, hitting and kicking them to make them be quiet. But a man appeared before him who said: “Don’t hit them, but with kindness and love you must win over these your friends. …I shall give you a Teacher under whose guidance you will be able to become wise, and without whom, all wisdom becomes nonsense”. That person was Jesus and the Teacher, the Virgin Mary, under whose guidance, he placed his whole life and whom he honoured with the title “Mary, Help of Christians”.
This led John to want to learn to be an acrobat, a magician, a singer and a juggler so as to be able to attract companions to him and to keep them far from sin. “If they are with me,” he used say to his mother “they don’t curse”.
Wishing to become a priest and to dedicate himself entirely to the salvation of young people, he would work by day, and spend the nights at his books. Finally at the age of twenty, he was able to enter the Seminary in Chieri and to be ordained a priest in Turin in 1841, at the age of twenty-six.
In those times, Turin was chock-a-block with poor young people. These were either orphaned or abandoned, looking for work, and were exposed to many dangers of both body and soul. Don Bosco started to gather them together on Sundays, sometimes in a Church, out on a grassy meadow, or yet again in a town square to get them to play and to instruct them in the Catechism. After five years of enormous difficulties, he managed to establish and open in the outlying suburb of Valdocco his first Oratory.
In it, the boys found food and a bed. They would study or learn a trade, but above all they learned to love the Lord. Saint Dominic Savio was one of them.
Don Bosco was loved no end by his “rascals” (as he used call them). Whenever anyone asked him the secret of such success, he would reply, “With kindness and love I try to win over these friends of mine for the Lord”. On them, he spent what little money he had, his time, his most extraordinary talent and his health. With them, he became a saint. Furthermore, for them he founded the Salesian Congregation, composed of priests and lay people who wished to continue his work, to which he gave as its “principle objective to support and defend the authority of the Pope”.
Wishing to extend his apostolate also to young girls, he founded with Saint Maria Domenica Mazzarello, the FMA, the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
The Salesians and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians have spread throughout the entire world in the service of young people, of the poor and suffering, with schools of every type and level, technical and professional institutes, hospitals, dispensaries, oratories and parishes.
Don Bosco spent all his free time, some of which he snatched from sleep, writing and popularising simple booklets of Christian teaching for ordinary people.
As well as being a man of the greatest practical charity, he was among the greatest mystics. His entire work took its origins from an intimate union with God. From his youth he had jealously cultivated this and he grew in a faithful and filial abandonment to the plan which God had laid down for him, guided each step of the way by the Mother of God, who was his Inspiration and Guide during his entire working life.
But his perfect union with God was, perhaps as in few Saints, united to the richest of humanities as to kindness, intelligence and balance. To this was added the exceptional ability of discernment of the human soul, matured by long daily hours spent in the confessional, in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and in continual contact with young people and with persons of every age and condition.
Don Bosco formed generations of saints because he reminded his young boys of the love of God, the reality of death, the judgement of God, of an eternal Hell, the need of prayer, of fleeing from sin and those occasions which lead to sin, and of frequenting often the Sacraments.
“My dear boys, I love you with all my heart and it is enough that you are young that I can love you so much”. He loved in a manner that made each person feel special.
“You will find writers more talented by far and more learned than I, but with difficulty, will you ever find anyone who loves you in Jesus Christ more than I and who wants your true happiness”.
Exhausted finally by unceasing work, he fell seriously ill. It was especially moving that many young men offered their own life to God in exchange for his. “…What I have done, I have done for the Lord …More could have been done …But my children will do that...Our Congregation is guided by God and protected by Mary Help of Christians”.
One of his last recommendations was, “Tell the boys I am waiting for them in heaven…”.
He died on 31 January 1888, in his meagre room at Valdocco, at the age of 72 years. On 1 April 1934, Pope Pius XI, who had the good fortune to know him personally, proclaimed him a Saint.
The Salesians of Don Bosco are an international organisation of Catholic Priest, Brothers and Sisters who run Youth Centres in practically every country of the world, patricianly in the poorer third world countries. In Australia we have Youth Centres, Hostels, Schools, Camps and other youth activities in every State except Queensland.
The Salesians of Don Bosco were founded by John Bosco and Mary Mazzarello last century in Northern Italy. During the Industrial Revolution youth as young as 12 years of age were flocking to the big cities of Italy looking for work. In the city of Turin many couldn't find work and became street kids who turned to crime simply to survive. Don Bosco roamed the back streets of Turin inviting these young people at risk to his Youth Centre and later on was able to provide accommodation for them and teach them trades such as carpentry, tailoring, shoe making and masonry. Such were the humble beginning of what is now an international organisation helping young people worldwide, especially those most in need.
The Salesians of Don Bosco manage the Centre and provide 4 full-time staff, to ensure adequate and friendly supervision at all times, and train a large number of Adult Volunteers and Youth Leaders to work together with them. The young people are encouraged to take a very active part in the planning and running of the various programs.
The Development of the Oratory
Don Bosco began his work with “the poor and abandoned” young people of Turin in 1841, while he was undertaking post-ordination studies. Don Bosco would gather them for recreation, religious instruction, Mass and prayer. He eventually acquired a permanent place in the suburb of Valdocco and named it the Oratory of St Francis de Sales.
The oratory developed over a period of time to include a youth centre, school, workshops for various trades and boarding facilities. Twenty years after its establishment, the Oratory was a very large and successful establishment with 600 boarders, a few hundred day boys, and even greater numbers on Sundays and holy days. Part of Don Bosco’s genius was that even in the midst of increasing institutionalisation, he was able to maintain the sense of familiarity, confidence and trust with the students and empower his ever increasing number of co-workers to relate to others in a similar fashion.
The Formation of the Salesian Society
Don Bosco cultivated the leadership abilities of his older boys and was joined by many collaborators. He gradually formed his followers into a unified group and trained them in his pastoral and educative spirit. On the evening of January 26, 1854, a small group of “Salesians” gathered for the first time and a little over a year later made private vows to Don Bosco. His plans received the blessing of Pope Pius IX, but it took him more than 15 years to gain final approval from the Vatican for the Constitutions of the Society of St Francis de Sales.
The work of the Salesians expanded quickly, first in Italy and then beyond. By the time Don Bosco died in 1888 there were 773 Salesians, eleven missionary expeditions had been commissioned, there were almost 150 Salesian missionaries in South America, and the work of the Salesians had already expanded to France (1875), Argentina (1875), Uruguay (1876), Spain (1881), Brazil (1882), Austria (1887) and England (1887).
Expansion in Europe and South America continued after Don Bosco’s death under the leadership of Fr Michael Rua. World War 1 (1914 – 18) severely disrupted the growth and operation of the Salesians, especially in Europe. The vitality of the Salesians was revived after the war and many new and difficult mission territories were accepted in Central Africa, Brazil, China, Paraguay and Assam. Works were also established in new countries including Hungary, Germany and Cuba.
Trying Times of War and Persecution
World War II was as disastrous for the Salesians as it was for the whole world, with many priests and brothers killed in hostilities or falling victim to the violent persecution of the Nazi regime. Many works were closed or destroyed. Even the Oratory in Turin was damaged.
After World War II, the Communist persecution of the Church brought immense suffering to the Salesians of Central and Eastern Europe. Many works were closed. Large numbers of Salesians were deported, executed or imprisoned.
Such religious persecution was not an entirely new experience for the Salesians. They had already suffered persecution in Ecuador, France, Portugal and Spain. In 1930, Bishop Louis Versiglia and Fr Callisto Caravario were martyred in China; both were canonised saints by Pope John Paul II in 2000. Further persecutions occurred in China and Vietnam.
Despite the trials and sufferings of war and persecution, the Salesians re-organised and expanded after World War II. In 1950 there were close to 15,000 Salesians working in more than 1,000 houses. By 1965 there were in excess of 20,000 Salesians throughout the world.
The renewal of the life of the Church initiated by the Second Vatican Council had a deep impact upon the Salesian congregation. Like all religious institutes the Salesians were encouraged to return to the spirit of their founder, and to re-interpret that spirit in the light of the contemporary situation. This process of renewal led to a greater emphasis upon understanding the person and spirit of Don Bosco, a re-focusing of efforts to work with young people who are poor, disadvantaged or marginalised, a highlighting of the uniqueness of the “Preventive System”, the typically Salesian way of working with the young, and a renewal of the Salesians’ missionary spirit.
In 1988, on the 100th anniversary of the death of Don Bosco, the Salesians officially launched ‘Project Africa’, which aimed to increase the Salesian presence and work in Africa. By 2005, there were 1,145 Salesians in 171 houses in 42 countries.
The collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe enabled a renewal of Salesian activity throughout the former communist nations. In 1990, the informal works that had continued in countries in the former Soviet Union was once again made official. This had led to an expansion of works in countries including Belorussia, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine. The Salesians returned to Albania in 1992 and opened new works in Bulgaria (1994) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (1995).
Missionary efforts have also intensified in Asia and Oceania. Since 1980 the Salesians have opened works in Papua New Guinea (1981), Samoa (1981), Indonesia (1985), Cambodia (1994), Solomon Islands (1995), Nepal (1995), Fiji (1998), Pakistan (1999), Mongolia (2001) and Kuwait (2001)