Margherita Occhiena

Venerable Margherita Occhiena Bosco
Born (1788-04-01)April 1, 1788
Valdocco, Turin, Italy
Died November 25, 1856(1856-11-25) (aged 68)
Capriglio, Asti, Italy
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Influenced John Bosco

Venerable Margherita Occhiena Bosco (1 April 1788 - 25 November 1856) was the mother of Saint John Bosco and worked with the poor and the less fortunate. Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed her to be Venerable in 2006.


Margherita Occhiena was born April 1, 1788 in Capriglio in Asti, the sixth of ten children. Country girls at that time worked on the farm rather than attend school, so Margherita did not learn to read or write. At the age of 24, she married a family friend, Francesco Bosco, a widower whose wife and infant daughter had died shortly after childbirth, leaving him with a three-year-old son. The family settled in Becchi, a hamlet of Castelnuovo d'Asti (today Castelnuovo Don Bosco). The death of her husband in May 1817 left the 29-year-old Margherita a single mother with three sons: Antonio, Giuseppe and Giovanni (John). She also assisted her mother-in-law.[1]

A strong woman with clear ideas, Margherita raised her sons with a regimen of sober living at once strict yet reasonable. The boys were quite different in temperament. Still, Margherita made sure she presented them with the beginnings of a Christian education. She gave them the example of faith, wisdom, and courage in facing the difficulties of life.[1]

While Antonio served as the bread winner for the family, he also made life difficult for his more studious young brother, John. To keep peace in the family, Margherita convinced Antonio to let John leave home to continue his schooling. With the support of his mother, John was able to complete his studies and be ordained a priest.[1]

With her sons grown, Margherita left her beloved village of Colle, and at the age of 58 moved to the city of Turin. There she assisted John, now called "Don Bosco", in his work with the poor and abandoned boys who were flocking to the city. For the next ten years she served as a surrogate mother, by the moniker of "Mamma Margherita", for the hundreds of boys being cared for and educated by Don Bosco.

The school and boys' club called the Oratory continued to expand. Some of the older boys stayed to help with the work begun by Don Bosco. He formed them into a religious order he called the Salesians (after the French saint, Francis de Sales).

Though she herself was illiterate, Margherita's wisdom and goodness became the model for the "preventive system" that was the basis of Don Bosco's educational approach. Throughout her life, Margherita put God first and above all, consumed in a life of poverty, prayer and sacrifice. She died at the age of 68 in Turin on 25 November 1856.

Cause of beatification

The cause of beatification for Margherita Occhiena commenced on 7 March 1995 with the declaration of "nihil obstat" (nothing against) by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints under Pope John Paul II, thereby declaring her to be a Servant of God. On 23 October 2006, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed her to be Venerable, having lived a life of heroic virtue.


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