by Pietro Francipane
The oratory of St Aloysius was founded officially in August 1847. At that time, the area was on the southern outskirts of the city. There were small houses all around. Most of the land was uncultivated. There was no church, but there were hundreds of young people who had come to the city during the industrial revolution to seek their fortune. Don Bosco rented a small house, a shed and a yard from a certain Mrs Valienti. The stable became a chapel, a storeroom became the sacristy, the yard became a playground, the shed a theatre and a classroom.
Today the activities of the oratory have not changed much, despite the great changes that have taken place in the city. The oratory still tends to attract many street children, now as then seeking their fortune, the only difference being that in most cases they come from foreign countries. There are fifteen young people of various nationalities actually living in the oratory. They share the living space like a real family and they create lasting affective bonds.
The oratory also provides several possibilities for remedial teaching and opportunities to participate in leisure moments through guided tours, excursions and many other initiatives run by volunteers.
Other important activities include the "School of life" and the opportunity to attend after-school activities. The oratory gives support to the nursery and primary schools in the district, offers Italian language courses for foreigners, and English and computer science for all age groups and nationalities. For years the oratory of St Aloysius has been engaged in Street Education, going out to the streets, parks and squares most frequented by young people.
All those who collaborate still believe what Don Bosco told Fr Giovanni Cagliero before he left for the missions: "Do what you can: God will do what we cannot do ourselves."