Don Bosco’s 200th Birthday Celebration in Salesian Style

DB200-060We partied, we sang, prayed and celebrated. A packed Church of Mary Help of Christians in Milford rose to their feet during the Homily to joyously wish “Buon Compleano” or “Happy Birthday” to St John Bosco.

August 16th was a Salesian Family celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Birth of St John Bosco. A large silhouette of the Saint on the back wall of the Sanctuary, beamed down approvingly at the very obvious celebratory crowd. Among them Bishops Brendan Leahy and Donal Murray really caught the mood of the moment, together with a large gathering in of Salesian Priests, Brothers, Sisters, neighbours, young people and many “Family Friends”.

The name “Bosco” means “wood” and at the introduction to the Mass, through the presentation of symbols Sr Mary Bridget made connections between the various Irish woodland trees and the legacy of Salesian living that Don Bosco has mapped out for us.

The Ash Tree is the symbol of healing and compassion. When we hear the cry of pain or sadness, we recognise the cry of Jesus to us to reach out to our brothers and sisters.

We heard that the Elder re-grows damaged branches. It reminds us of all the young people who are troubled and disturbed. Yet they cry out to us, “Don’t write me off.”

“Don Bosco was different”, Fr Jack reminded us in his Homily. A man very much in tune with the Holy Spirit at work in his own life, Don Bosco spoke with inner conviction and integrity to the young people most at risk. To the most challenging, he said, “Believe in yourself”. “You are God’s work of art, his masterpiece”.

Among other things we heard some of the words Don Bosco used most frequently. The word “fire” topped the list. Others following on included “reasonableness, loving kindness, praise, gratitude and love”. The word praise seemed to be a magic word. – “It  works wonders”, Fr Jack said. “Try praising instead of blaming and just see what happens”.

A special word of praise to Maghnus Monaghan for his premier performance of the Bicentenary Hymn to mark the occasion.

The mood of the day was joyful throughout. The celebratory meal was most enjoyable. We all left, feeling very grateful to  “belong to a family” – the Salesian Family.

by Sr Mary McInerney F.M.A.


Bosco means a WOOD. In this Bicentenary Celebration we are going to take a stroll through that wood. Using the symbols of our own native trees, we follow  the Salesian pathway, which is a WAY to live the Gospel with the young.

Our story began when nine  year – old John Bosco had a  Dream that gave him the blueprint for his mission. A surprise encounter with a street lad showed the young priest, Don Bosco, where his pathway lay.

Pope Francis tells us  that  “Don Bosco teaches us first of all not to stand idly by”, and, today, a family of 402,500 members of the Salesian Family world – wide are in the service of young people.  

The Birch Tree is known as the “Lady of the Woods” and is the first tree that grows on bare soil. Don Bosco’s early years were already rich with the roots of his Salesian way of life. In his home and from his mother, Mama Margaret he learned about hard work, loving kindness and gentleness; about the love of God and His fatherly care in daily life. As MARY and VIVIEN bring  this sapling, we thank God for our own parents and for all parents who mirror God’s goodness for their children.

The Holly Tree gets its name from the same root word as “holy”. It is the symbol of our prayer – life. Our visible Salesian life is busy, but, our inner life is sustained by our heart – to Heart conversation with God. Our Salesian prayer is not separate from activity and springs up in the middle of our busyness. As Sr MARIE  Carries a Holly twig, we remember that it is the Holy Spirit who inspires and guides and sustains our activity.

The Pine Tree in our folklore, deals with brokenness and guilt. As followers  of  Don Bosco, we are called to focus on the good we find, so that we may help it to grow. Every young person we meet, no matter how damaged, is still a child of God. We create a sacred place where all young people can grow at their own pace. As AIDEEN lays a Pine seedling we pray for all the young people in our schools, clubs and youth centres,

The words Beech and Book have the same origins. Both are a symbol of education. Don Bosco created a playground, a school, a home and a church. In the playground young people can relax and renew themselves .In school they can grow and change at their personal pace, In a home those who are abandoned can belong. In the Church the presence of God becomes visible to them and they can find meaning in life. As Sr BRIDGET brings  Beech  twigs, we remember that belonging, learning, relaxing and finding meaning are Salesian ways of making sense of life.

Ash is the symbol of healing and compassion. Compassion opens our eyes to the need for loving kindness in the lives of others, When we meet pain and sadness of any kind, we hear God’s call to us to reach out to His people. As DAMIAN brings  the Ash leaves, we each thank God for our call to Christian living.

In all Celtic cultures, the Hawthorn is the symbol of Hope and of the inner journey we each make to reach hope. It speaks to us, as followers of Don Bosco, of the two Pillars on which our hope stands – Our Lady and the Eucharist.  Sr PHILOMENA lays a spray of  Hawthorn and beside it  ANNE and PERPETUA place the symbols of Our lady and the Eucharist and we renew our trust in Jesus and Mary.

The Willow speaks of friendship and joy. Loving kindness is a value at the root of many religious traditions. As Salesians, we open up a Gospel pattern that becomes a way of living. As MARGARET carries  a sprig of Willow, we recall our mission to radiate love, joy, peace, compassion, patience.

Blackthorn speaks to us about reaching out and creating unity. We are called to build bridges between people, to dissolve isolation, to build community. We pray for all who reach out to people far afield – volunteers who give of their time and talents to others. On behalf of VIDES and SAVIO and all Volunteers CATHERINE brings a spray of Blackthorn.

The Elder Tree always re – grows damaged branches. The hearts of many young people are troubled, disturbed. Yet in them is a cry – “Don’t write me off”. “Give me another chance”. “Accept  me”. We think of all who work for the less – fortunate in places like Don Bosco Houses, we pray for all in need of understanding. As Bro. PADRAIG presents the twig of Elder.

Ivy is the binding force. It breaks out everywhere. As KATE places  strands of Ivy, we thank God for the Salesian spirit which we have inherited from those who went before us; for the hope that it offers; for the joy that binds us together and for the mission that God has entrusted to each of us today.