There are saints with a small “s” and Saints with a capital “S”. The Church teaches that we are all members of the communion of saints (See Phil 2:9-11 above). The communion of saints is made up of the faithful baptized who are in heaven, those living on the earth, and who are dead, under the earth. All these people are small “s” saints. Saints with a capital “S” are people who the Church has set aside as outstanding examples of people who have lived the Gospel way and are in heaven.
Salesian Saints are those individuals who are recognized by the Church to have lived lives of outstanding holiness by following the example of the great Saint from whom the term “Salesian” is taken; St. Francis de Sales.
St. John Bosco
St. John Bosco, popularly known as Don Bosco, was born August 16, 1815. He was an Italian Roman Catholic priest, educator, and writer of the 19th century. While working in Turin, where the population suffered many of the ill-effects of industrialization and urbanization, he dedicated his life to the betterment and education of street children, juvenile delinquents, and other disadvantaged youth. He developed teaching methods based on love rather than punishment, a method that became known as the Salesian Preventive System.
A follower of the spirituality and philosophy of Francis de Sales, Bosco was an ardent devotee of Mary, mother of Jesus, under the title Mary Help of Christians. He later dedicated his works to De Sales when he founded the Salesians of Don Bosco, based in Turin. Together with Maria Domenica Mazzarello, he founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a religious congregation of nuns dedicated to the care and education of poor girls.
On 18 April 1869, one year after the construction of the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin, Don Bosco established the Association of Mary Help of Christians (ADMA) connecting it with commitments easily fulfilled by most common people, to the spirituality and the mission of the Salesian Congregation (CG 24 SDB, 1996, NR. 80). The ADMA was founded to promote the veneration of the Most Holy Sacrament and Mary Help of Christians (Don Bosco, Association of the Devotees of Mary Help of Christians, San Benigno can. 1890, page 33).
In 1876 Bosco founded a movement of laity, the Association of Salesian Cooperators, with the same educational mission to the poor. In 1875, he began to publish the Salesian Bulletin. The Bulletin has remained in continuous publication, and is currently published in 50 different editions and 30 languages.
Bosco established a network of organizations and centers to carry on his work. Following his beatification in 1929, he was canonized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Pius XI in 1934.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was born on July 1647. She was a Visitation nun of the monastery in Paray-le-Monial, France. She was mystic, who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its modern form. St. Margaret Mary worked to prove the genuineness of her vocation and her visions of Jesus and Mary relating to the Sacred Heart. She was initially rebuffed by her mother superior and was unable to convince theologians of the validity of her visions. A noted exception was Jesuit Saint Claude de la Colombière, who supported her. The devotion to the Sacred Heart was officially recognized 75 years after Alacoque’s death on October 17, 1690. She was canonized a saint on May 13, 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.
St. Leonie Aviat
St. Leonie Aviat was born in Sezanne, France in the region of Champagne. Having thus been formed at the school of St. Francis de Sales, she prepared herself for the mission with which she was to be entrusted: the foundation of a congregation committed to Salesian spirituality and to the evangelization of young workers. Along with Blessed Louis Brisson, she founded the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales on October 30, 1868. On January 10, 1914 she died in Perugia, Italy.
St. Dominic Savio
St. Dominic Savio, born in 1842 in the village of Riva, Italy, is one of the few teenage Saints in the history of the Church. He is renowned for his dedication to his studies, his qualities as a student leader, the sincerity of his faith and generosity of community service. In 1854, at the age of twelve, he was enrolled at St John Bosco’s school (The Oratory of St Francis de Sales) in Turin. Dominic used his gifts of leadership to positively influence his friends. Dominic died at the age of fifteen. Dominic Savio was declared Venerable in 1933 by Pope Pius XI, was beatified in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, and declared a saint in 1954.
St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello
St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello, together with St. John Bosco, co-founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Mary Domenica was born into a peasant farming family May 9, 1837 in Mornese, Italy. Sister Mary Mazzarello as the Superior, proved to be a skilled formator and teacher of the spiritual life. She had the gift of discernment, a strong educational ability, serene and reassuring cheerfulness, and the art of involving other young women in the commitment to dedicate themselves to the promotion of young women so that they could be good Christians and honest citizens in the family, in the Church, and in society. At 44 years of age Sr. Mary Mazzarello contracted a severe form of pleurisy pneumonia and died on May 14, 1881 in Nizza Monferrato. She was beatified November 20, 1938 and canonized as a saint June 24, 1951.
St. Leonard Murialdo
St. Leonard Murialdo was born in Turin, Italy in 1828. He was amongst those fostering the first popular Catholic Libraries and Catholic Workers Unions. In 1873 he founded the Congregation of Saint Joseph (Giuseppini of Murialdo). Their apostolic purpose was the education of youth, especially of poor and abandoned youth. He opened oratories, technical school, family homes for young workers and took on further commitment in lay associations, especially in the field of technical formation of the young and printing works. He died in 1900. Paul VI beatified him in 1963 and canonized him on 3 May 1970.
St. Louis Versiglia
St. Louis Versiglia was born in Oliva Gessi, Italy on June 5, 1873. As a twelve-year-old, he was taken in by Don Bosco and later joined the Salesians. He was a missionary to China where he opened orphanages and oratories and eventually was appointed Bishop of Shiuchow. On February 25, 1930 a group of Bolshevik pirates stopped the bishop’s boat, while he and Fr. Callistus Caravario were traveling with a group of students. They were forcibly taken and eventually shot. Paul VI declared them martyrs in 1976, John Paul II declared them Blessed in 1983 and canonized them on October 1, 2000.
St. Callistus Caravario
St. Callistus Caravario was born at Cuorgné, in the province of Turin, on June 18, 1903. At five years of age, he and his family moved to Turin close to the Porta Nuova Oratory where he attended as a student. In 1922, Bishop Louis Versiglia was in Turin and spoke of the missions to the Brothers. Callistus told him: “Bishop, you will see me in China.” On May 18, 1929, Bishop Versiglia ordained him priest in Shiuchow and entrusted him with the mission at Linchow. Fr. Callistus was in Shiuchow to accompany the bishop on his pastoral visit to the Linchow mission. Some young boys and girls went with them; they had been studying in Shiuchow. On February 25, a group of Bolshevik pirates stopped the bishop’s boat, wanting to take the girls. Bishop Versiglia and Fr. Callistus stopped them. They were taken by force and ultimately shot. Paul VI declared them martyrs in 1976, John Paul II declared them Blessed in 1983 and canonized them on October 1, 2000.
St. Louis Orione
St. Louis Orione was born in Pontecurone, Italy on June 23, 1872. He was then accepted at the College in Valdocco, where he came to know Don Bosco. In Turin, he breathed in the Salesian spirit and came to know the nearby Cottolengo work. In 1892 he opened an Oratory in Tortona, and the following year a College. In 1895 he was ordained a priest. In 1903 he founded the male Religious Congregation of the Small Work of Divine Providence and in 1915 he founded the female branch — the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity, to whom, in 1927, were added the Sisters Adorers and, following that, the Contemplative Sisters of Jesus Crucified. Later came a Secular Institute and Lay Movement based on his spirit. In 1940, Fr. Orione died in Sanremo, Italy. He is a Patron Saint of the Poor, Homeless and Abandoned. He was canonized as a saint in 2004.
St. Louis Guanella
St. Louis Guanella was born in Fraciscio, Italy on December 19, 1842. He was for a time a Salesian and later went on to be founder of several religious institutes: the Daughters of Saint Mary of Providence (1890) and the Servants of Charity (24 March 1908) and cofounded of the Pious Union of Saint Joseph (1914) with his supporter and first member Pope Pius X. These religious communities focused on the relief of the poor throughout the world. The Servants of Charity motto reads “In all things Love,” which became the cornerstone for Guanella’s own life. Guanella was beatification on 25 October 1964 by Pope Paul VI and was canonized on October 23, 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI.
North American Salesian Network
The North American Salesian Network (NASN) is an organization of both lay and religious groups that live the Salesian teachings of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. NASN facilitates the sharing of Salesian resources, educational services, vocational efforts, and a variety of resources, bringing this optimistic, joy-filled spirituality to people throughout the world.