16th of August marks the 200 years of birth for a popular saint St. John Bosco. He is the founder of the second largest religious society called the Salesians of Don Bosco, who work for youth in various ministry settings. Participating in these festivities Pope Francis recently said, “… St. John Bosco is remembered in the Church as a holy educator and pastor of the young who opened the way of holiness for young people, offered a method of education that is at the same time a spirituality, and received from the Holy Spirit a charism for modern times.”
Little John Bosco was only nine years old. He was almost obsessed with the idea of becoming a priest, so as to work for poor and abandoned boys like himself. One day he had a strange dream. In the dream he found himself in a large field among wild animals fighting and killing themselves. As a little boy he ran away and sheltered himself away from the furious beasts. Suddenly the wild beasts turned into meek lambs and moved around the meadows peacefully.
Then the dream repeated in another form. A group of hooligan youth fought among themselves and cursed heaven and earth. Unable to bear this sight John jumped into action. He began beating the boys so as to keep them calm and tamed. As he was into the fierce action a woman of majestic appearance came along with a man who looked like her son. The man said to little John, “This is the field of your ministry. Care for these boys. Tame them, not with blows but with loving kindness. I give you my mother, she will be your guide and teacher.”
As John Bosco continued to gaze at the divine persons, they disappeared and left him to guess and wonder, “what sort of message this might mean?” Unable to settle his mind he shared the dreams with his family members. His kind brother said, “As you saw many animals, you will become a cattle keeper.” His grandmother merely retorted, “Don’t believe in dreams…” His pessimistic step-brother made an annoying statement, “As you saw many thugs, you will probably become a gang leader.” But his prayerful mother thoughtfully said, “John, you always wanted to become a priest, take this as an invitation from God to strengthen your vocation.”
John Bosco was born near Turin, in northern Italy on 16th August 1815. At that time Italy was disunited and suffered from political turmoil, invasion from France and endured several social upheaval caused by the advent of industrial revolution. His own family was poor and struggled for basic needs. The family was pushed further into misery at the death of John Bosco’s father who was a peasant farmer.
As his father’s body lay in the room John Bosco who was only two and half years old insisted that he will not leave the room until his father comes with him. At those feeble words his mother Margaret broke into tears. John Bosco would write later in his life, “That was the earliest memory of my family.” Having suffered the loss of a parent he vowed to be a father to boys who were orphaned.
Even as a little child John Bosco was a natural leader. He used all the God-given talents to serve Him from his young age. He was an acrobat, a musician, a story-teller and a magician. Bosco used his talents to attract children of his age to be around him and motivated them to engage in good activities. After rigorous games with village-mates often he came home wounded. When his mother tried to stop him from playing, he would say, “Mother please do not stop me from playing with boys, because, when they are with me they behave well.” That was the beginning of his educational method of Loving-Kindness.
Unable to find resources to go to school he found part-time jobs as a cobbler, metal worker, waiter in a restaurant, and keeper of cattle. He was ready to endure any hardship for the sake of finding resources to go to seminary and fulfil his dream of becoming a priest and serve the young.
When the time came for him to go to the seminary his mother visited their neighbours in the village to ask for help. People came forward to donate clothes, shoes, books and other items necessary. As the son prepared to leave, the mother said, “Son, when you were born I consecrated you to the Blessed Mother, when you began your studies I asked to you be devoted to her, now as you enter the seminary, I ask you to be friendly with those who love her.”
After several hardships John Bosco was eventually ordained a priest and he let go of many offers that gave him prestigious jobs with handsome remuneration. On the day of his ordination his good mother admonished him, “My son, to begin to celebrate Holy Mass is to begin to suffer. Love the poor and be poor yourself. If ever you become rich I will never enter your house. I will be happy to have a son who is a poor farmer rather than a son who is a rich priest.”
As he always desired, Don Bosco (meaning Father Bosco) went around the city of Turin to look for boys in the street corners, worksites, juvenile homes, and public squares. He gathered them in places which he called, “Oratory”. It was meant to be home away from home. There he provided for all their needs–Biological, intellectual and spiritual.
The beginning of Don Bosco’s work among the boys was not easy. He had to fight opposition from the church’s authority, civil leaders and neighbours who lived around him. But with the help of his mother, friends and later with the help from his own boys Don Bosco extended his work beyond Turin and Italy.
Don Bosco’s work was guided by the motto, “Give me souls and take away the rest”, meaning, the souls of the boys are of primary importance. Through his presence and education among them Don Bosco and his Salesians wanted to make boys saints. One such a holy boy was St. Dominic Savio. On the day he reported to the Oratory, he read the motto in the wall and he exclaimed, “So… here you deal with the business of souls; I want to become a saint as well.”
Soon Dominic Savio realized that it is easy to become a saint. To be holy one has to do ordinary things in an exordinary way. We can attain sanctity by being cheerful all the time, because “God loves the cheerful giver.” Soon Don Bosco came to be called “A Saint of Joy”. He used Reason, Religion and Loving-Kindness as his guiding principle to make young people holy.
As his mission grew, at the time of his death in 1888, Salesians were over 800. Now they number about 17,000 working in 133 countries, serving young people through schools, higher institutions, youth centres and other centres for the care of young people with difficulties.
As we celebrate St. John Bosco’s bicentenary, may we come forward to support, serve and care for young people in our own capacities, as parents, teachers, community workers, civil servants and church’s ministers. May St. John Bosco, the Father and Teacher of youth continue to inspire us and pray for us in heaven. May his 200th Birth Anniversary bring blessings to the youth.
Few Popular Quotes from St. John Bosco
“Try very hard, young men, to imitate Jesus in His obedience. He should be your only model in this.”
“Be obedient and you will become a saint.”
“Why is it that we have so little liking for spiritual things? This is because we love Jesus Crucified so little.”
“Do good while you still have time.”
“If you want to do something beautiful for God, help in the education of poor youth.”
TO BECOME SALESIANS…
AS PRIESTS AND BROTHERS
Please contact the author: Fr. Lazar Arasu SDB, as in Home page
Or the nearest Salesian community in Uganda:
Namugongo: Fr. Jean-Marie Mushibwe – 0774 338 796
Kamuli: Fr. Denis Habamungu 0783 433 702
Gulu: Fr. Thomas Oloya – 0757 912 052
Bombo: Fr. Callist – 0775 646 056
Vocational Training Centre Kamuli
Invites young men and women to be job creators
Join Us and Make Your Career Bright
Where are you located?
St. Joseph Vocational Training Centre (VTC), Kamuli is located within Kamuli town near the Catholic Mission. It is about one kilometre from Kamuli town. Kamuli is 60 kilometres from Jinja town.
Why technical education is important?
We are aware of high rate of unemployment in Uganda. Even after finishing university studies it is hard to find employment. After spending several millions of shillings, academic oriented courses have failed to provide employment.
Technical training is a very good alternative to find an employment or continue to study at higher levels. It is good to know that there are many possibilities for higher education after basic technical and vocational courses. Vocational school is a short-cut to several engineering courses.
What are the admission requirements?
St. Joseph VTC offers two years Craft Courses for Senior Four Leavers in various technical courses. A Senior Four Leaver should have at least Passes in English, Maths for all courses.
Pass in Physics is required for courses such as Building Science, Electrical Installation, Carpentry, Metal Fabrication, Plumbing, Motor Vehicle Mechanic, and Tailoring.
Pass in Biology is required for Catering and Agriculture. Having Credits in English and Maths is an advantage for course in Business Management.
What is the duration of courses?
Craft Courses take two years (Craft I in First Year and Craft II in Second Year). Skills training is done in three months, one year or two years according to individual arrangement.
What are the courses offered?
Craft I and Craft II courses done in two years is offered in:
Motor Vehicle Mechanic,
St. Joseph VTC also offers two years courses for those who did not complete Senior Four in Welding, Carpentry, Tailoring, Building Science, Motor Vehicle Mechanic, Hair-Dressing and Computer Technology. They sit for DIT exams.
On special arrangement short courses can be given to individuals in different skills.
We also teach Driving and process Driver’s Permits.
Who conducts examinations?
Craft Examinations are conducted by Uganda Business and Technical Examination Board (UBTEB) of UNEB. All are advised to sit for Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT) Examination conducted by Ministry of Labour which is skill based having employment opportunities.
What about fees?
For all courses St. Joseph VTC charges 250,000 as tuition per term and Boarding Fees will be 180,000. On admission special charges will be made for admission, Identity Card, uniform, working dress and few other charges.
What are the facilities the St. Joseph VTC offers?
St. Joseph VTC is situated in 18 acres of land having separate workshops for all departments fully equipped with machines, play grounds for different games, brass band and jazz band, different facilities for modern agriculture, farm with different cattle and birds.
Our different departments have production units making quality furniture in wood and metal, clothes such as uniforms, agricultural products and involve in economic activities. Some of our products are outstanding in the local and national market. They give practical skills to our students.
What are the possibilities of going to the university?
After completing UBTEB Craft I and Craft II examinations, successful candidates can go for Advanced Course of 10 months offered in a higher institute after which diploma courses at university level is possible in very many fields.
Our VTC is in the process of upgrading its courses in the coming years.
Who are the founders of St. Joseph VTC, Kamuli?
Our centre is owned and managed by the Salesians of Don Bosco, an international religious society that has similar institutes all over the world. This centre operates within Jinja Catholic Diocese. As a Catholic institution it follows Catholic principles giving integral formation, taking care of learners’ physical, intellectual, social and spiritual needs. The centre has completed 25 years of existence and today it stands as one of the largest private vocational institutes in Uganda. Don Bosco Missionaries want to reach out to many poor young people by offering them skill based vocational education, thus giving them a brighter future.
OUR ACADEMIC YEAR STARTS IN JANUARY
Our contacts are:
St. Joseph VTC, P. O. Box 173, Kamuli.
0783433702 or 0758172965 (Principal)
0777579882 or 0752579882 (Director)
(Admission to St. Joseph Vocational Training Centre, Kamuli)