Don Bosco Youth Centre – ‘my home away from home’

By Sr Jenny Doudle FMA, 17 January 2023
Children are seen at the Don Bosco Youth and Recreation Centre in St Marys. Image: Supplied


As two boys race through the front door of Don Bosco, one yelled out to the other, “What is this place?”, to which the other replies, “This is my home away from home, come in!!”.

This is precisely the reason that Don Bosco Youth and Recreation Centre in St Marys exists.

“The idea is to provide a safe place for underprivileged kids instead of them needing to go around looking for trouble, they can be here,” Director Fr John Walenciej, explained.

“The first thing with unhappy kids is to make them feel welcome and comfortable. It’s a Gospel of joy and loving kindness. This experience of freedom and fun is deeply transformative for many of the children.”

For nearly 30 years, over 70,000 young people a year, free of charge, play on the extensive sporting facilities at the Recreation Centre. This is THE place where overjoyed young people flip and jump on trampolines, play energetic games of volleyball, soccer, basketball, billiards and table tennis or sit around to chat enjoying pizza!

The young people come from a range of communities, including Caucasian, Pacific Islander and Indigenous communities. In recent years, the children of refugees from Sudan became one of the largest groups attending the Centre.  The Centre is open to people of all faiths as well as the unchurched.

Don Bosco Youth and Recreation Centre is a joint project by the Salesians of Don Bosco, the Diocese of Parramatta and Penrith City Council. The Diocese of Parramatta, in particular, have provided continued financial support during the nearly 30 years of operation. Recently, we have been generously provided with a vehicle – a Subaru – to provide for the transport needs of the Centre. We are very appreciative of this much-needed support.

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta (left) presents Don Bosco Youth and Recreation Centre Director Fr John Walenciej with a car for use at the service. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

St John Bosco

St John Bosco was born in 1915 in Becchi, northern Italy, of a poor farming family. At the age of nine, he had a dream where Our Lady appeared to him and told him one day, he would be a leader of boys if he remained humble, steadfast and strong.

Overcoming tremendous obstacles and setbacks, Don Bosco was ordained a priest in 1841, and began his ministry among the street kids of Turin. Many of these boys had come from the countryside in search of work and most of them had little or no family support. They were often victims of unscrupulous employers and became involved in petty crime to survive.

Don Bosco gathered these boys on Sundays for games, fun, education and evangelisation.

In time, the number of boys grew and so did the need for Don Bosco to find more permanent places to gather.

From the “Pinardi Shed”, in a rough area of Turin, an educational empire was born that has spread throughout the world and has ensured the continued holistic education of the young, especially those in most need.

In 1856, Don Bosco founded the Salesian Priests and Brothers and in 1872, with St Mary Mazzarello, the Salesian Sisters to carry on his vital mission, using the spirituality of the Preventive System of Education, Reason, Religion and Loving Kindness.

Don Bosco was often heard to say, “I would give my life for my boys”, and, “It is not enough to love the young, they must know that they are loved”.

Celebrating 100 years of Salesians in Australia

In 2023, the Salesian Society celebrates 100 years of presence in Australia. As part of this celebration, the Don Bosco centre are very honoured and privileged to have present with us the Salesian Rector Major, F. Angel Fernandez Artime SDB, who will join us in celebrating on 23 April 2023. The celebrations will include 10.30am morning Mass, followed by various activities with the kids at Don Bosco. At this time, we will be celebrating 30 years since the opening of Don Bosco St Marys. All are welcome!

We have much to be grateful to the Lord for. Don Bosco Youth and Recreation Centre continues his legacy, providing the young with a place of fun and recreation where they feel loved and noticed. Under the loving gaze of Mary and Joseph, the Good Shepherd reaches out to them and gives them hope and confidence for a bright future.

May the Lord bless all who continue Don Bosco’s legacy of kindness and love for the young.

In November 2022, on behalf of the Diocese of Parramatta, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, presented the Don Bosco Centre at St Marys a new Subaru for use at the service.

Sr Jenny Doudle FMA. Image: Supplied

Sr Jenny Doudle FMA is a Salesian Sister and has been on the team at Don Bosco for nine years.



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