Going over again in his mind the path that brought him to lead a numerous group of people, enthusiastic about the education of youth, Don Bosco recalled the humble beginnings in this way: “In 1841 Fr John Bosco joined other priests to gather, in suitable quarters, the most abandoned youth of the city of Turin”.
This was the chronological beginning and also the essential principle, the origin of the existence of the Salesians. Since then, our concern for young people in difficulty has imbued all our time with a vibrantly renewed purpose.
Today a fundamental malaise is affecting the young and pushing many of them towards the margins of society. All youth is at risk. Family and other educational institutions, as well as lagging behind the evolution of youth, have to come to grips with a society open to all kinds of stimuli and with powerful currents proposing alternative messages and forms of life. Confusion and deviance lie in wait on all sides. Therefore, in our six-year program, we have indicated youthful poverty as one of the principal challenges to our mission as educators.
There are many forms of poverty and rightly we speak of them in the plural. Some are old but are appearing under new forms. Others are recent and linked with the prevailing system of life in our society. All of them, in line with their degree of seriousness, block development and can destroy the educational possibilities of a person.
The poverty of youth that we encounter daily is caused by economic needs that are sometimes extreme: uncertainty in the family want of elementary education, lack of preparation for work, exploitation by third parties, social and ethnic discrimination, unjust conditions of employment, various addictions, lack of prospects in life, absence of future goals, and affective loneliness. All these problems flow into the streets which then become the primary place for their manifestation, activity and interaction. The streets therefore become a vantage point from which educators can observe. "When we look at the social condition of poverty, and see how it destroys so many young people whose horizons do not extend beyond their immediate needs for survival or an ideal devoid of sense", declared our GC23, "we feel challenged to make our salesian presence among the poor more consistent and effective"