Blessing and re-dedication of the statue of Don Bosco at Dominic College – Monday 12 May 2014
Don Bosco died 125 years ago. Today his name is known in at least 125 countries, where the Salesian Family (the organization he created) is present. And throughout the world, Don Bosco is honoured as ‘The Father and Teacher of Youth’, and the ‘Patron of Apprentices’.
At Dominic College, for many years, there was a statue of Don Bosco. This was damaged by vandals some years ago. There are two important reasons why I was determined to have it restored.
This statue came to Glenorchy with the first Salesians in the late ‘40s; and for some years it was placed on the balcony of the first floor of ‘Grantleigh’ – looking down towards the entrance of the property. There is photo dating back to the early days of ‘Boys’ Town’, with a group of boys on the lawn in front of Grantleigh, showing the statue of Don Bosco looking down on them.
The Salesians had six of these statues made and placed in various schools in Australia. Today the exact replica of this statue can be found at: Dominic College Glenorchy; Dunlea Centre Engadine (Sydney); Don Bosco Centre Brunswick (Melbourne); Salesian College Sunbury (Vic.); Salesian College Chadstone (Melbourne); and at St John Bosco Primary School in Adelaide.
When the Salesians first arrived in these places, they brought with them Don Bosco, as their model and inspiration in the work of education. Very few, if any, of the original Salesians are still alive today; but Don Bosco is still there – reminding Salesians, Teachers, Staff, parents and students, about the value of Christian education according to Don Bosco. The statue is a permanent historical link with the pioneer Salesians.
The first boys that Don Bosco cared for, at the height of the industrial revolution in the city of Turin, Italy, were working boys, aged between 10 and 20, who came to Turin from the countryside, looking for work in factories and on building sites.
These boys were illiterate, and they were exploited by ruthless bosses. They would sleep under bridges, or in make-shift accommodation, they had very little to eat, and many died young in work accidents. For every one that died, there were ten others taking their place! Society did not care. Those boys were factory fodder.
On Sundays these boys would get into gangs and cause problems. Don Bosco started gathering these boys together on Sundays. During the week he would visit them at their work places, and speak with the bosses. Don Bosco was the first to write up a work contract with clear conditions of work and pay, between the boss, the young worker and himself as witness. We still have copies of these contracts.
Then he realized that these boys needed an education, and skills. He set up classes, and workshop. The statue of Don Bosco shows him looking kindly towards a young boy, who has a hammer in his hand – no doubt a young apprentice or worker, rescued by Don Bosco. One of the many helped by him. His own mother ‘Mamma Margaret’ became mother to hundreds of orphans and homeless youth.
So the statue is a reminder of the origins of the Salesian mission to young people – a mission which continues today. The statue is now located in the foyer of the Dezani Design and Trade Centre. The young person Don Bosco is looking at today has a name: the name of all those young people who are learning new skills for life, like Jack, Michael, Jonathan, Jessica, Kate, Julia… Don Bosco is watching them all, encouraging them to learn new skills and the value of work, to be grateful for the opportunities and enjoys seeing their work displayed in the foyer…
May I thank and congratulate the sculptor, Mr Ian Munday, for undertaking the tough job of restoration of the statue; it took several years and many enquiries before we found someone who was willing to restore the statue.
Thanks also to our Maintenance Staff, especially to Mr Darren Lonergan, Mr Ian Buckley, and to Staff members Mr Peter Allsopp and Mr Rocco Mangione; as well as to Catholic Church Insurances for financial assistance.
By Fr Frank Bertagnolli SDB