From the Rector

Dear Friends,

You will be reading this reflection during the week known as “Holy Week” in the Christian tradition – that is the week of the commemoration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. I hope that many readers will take advantage of the various celebrations in your local churches and attend some of the religious events during this important week.

Easter celebrates the core belief of all Christians – that is, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead – thus assuring all his followers of the same destiny!

But Easter is also a very important celebration for the members of the Salesian Family all over the world. This is because Father John Bosco (more commonly known as “Don Bosco”) was declared a Saint of the Catholic Church on Easter Sunday, 1st April 1934. As far as I now, he is the only person who has been declared a Saint on Easter Sunday!

And Easter also marks the beginning of Don Bosco’s work at Valdocco, a suburb of Turin (Italy) – where the “Mother House” of his work (with the beautiful church of Mary Help of Christians that also houses Don Bosco’s body) attracts thousands of pilgrims every year!

That work began on Easter Sunday in 1846.

And this is how it happened: every Sunday Don Bosco used to gather together hundreds of boys and young men – many orphan and homeless – in what he called an “ORATORY” – a place of prayer, celebration, learning, fun, games, food, and friendship. However Don Bosco did not have a permanent place. He rented some rooms, church halls, open fields, even an abandoned cemetery… But in every case, the locals complained to the Council that Don Bosco and his mob were disturbing the peace; and so Don Bosco was forced to move his boys on from one place to another.

In 1846, after several years of attempting to secure a permanent place, on the Sunday before Easter, at the end of the day, the owner of the field that Don Bosco was renting and where his boys were playing, approached Don Bosco and handed him an eviction notice (once again!)…

Later on Don Bosco remembered that occasion: “I was alone, worn out and in poor health. I walked up and down all by myself in tears… My God, I exclaimed, tell me what to do…”

A few moments later, Don Bosco saw someone coming towards him – not an angel, by a small man who was stuttering, and who told Don Bosco that he had the right place for him to set a “laboratory” (“An Oratory” – Don Bosco corrected him). Don Bosco followed the little man a few hundred metres and was introduced to a Mr Pinardi, who was the owner of an open paddock and a shed. After some negotiations, Don Bosco struck a deal with Mr Pinardi, and rented his property for twelve months, paying the rent in advance – it was almost all Don Bosco could earn in a year!

So on the following Sunday – EASTER SUNDAY – Don Bosco took possession of the Pinardi shed (which had been partly converted into a small chapel), and of the surrounding field. The boys arrived in waves. Don Bosco blessed the small chapel and celebrated Mass. Then, as usual, Don Bosco handed out a free lunch of bread rolls and fruit; and they began to celebrate with fun and games, until late in the afternoon.

The Risen Lord had provided a permanent place for Don Bosco’s Oratory – and the same place is still there today, as the “cradle” of Don Bosco world-wide enterprise.


Fr Frank Bertagnolli SDB