The reality of Marsala towards the end of the 19th century recalled the one of Turin: widespread poverty, illiteracy, strong Masonic presence, lack of interest for the material, social and spiritual needs of poor youngsters and orphans.
In May 1880 some Canons of the zone, who corresponded with Don Bosco, with the support of their bishop opened a first shelter for 5 needy orphans, testing the “educative method of Don Bosco”. About one year later, the orphans hosted in the house were already 34 and it was not possible to receive more due to financial difficulties and to lack of rooms. So they wrote once again to Don Bosco, asking for an overall project for the construction of the house and Don Bosco – who was then following the project of the house of Mogliano Veneto – sent a copy of that project to Marsala and suggested that they dedicate the house to the Divine Providence.
After many requests from the priests, the bishop and the orphans themselves, eventually the Salesians arrived officially in Marsala. Fr. Rua, who visited Marsala in February 1891, made the official commitment and the first Salesians commenced their work in October 1892, with Fr. Giacomo Ruffino as first Rector.
Due to some difficulties, the house was closed several times, but the Salesians always returned there to work for the needy youth. In 125 years, there were also shadows: as it happened during WWII, when the house was bombed by the Allies and three religious men and two orphans were killed; or in 1964 when, during a boat excursion, 16 boys and a Salesian cleric died, a disaster for which a Salesian confrère was also arrested.
The house, however, always remained and continually grew: in 1928 a traditional tailoring workshop was opened, and after WWII they also opened the boarding school, then the oratory, the Union of Past Pupils and of Salesian Cooperators. Later on the parish of Mary Help of Christians was created, and its first parish priest was Fr. Giorgio Spitaleri; eventually the boys of the detention home of Palermo were also hosted there.
Even today there are many youth in need, who are victims of many forms of poverty and to whom the House of Marsala continues to respond with the charism of Don Bosco.