By Frank Lavin
Salesian Cooperator, former Club member and past board president
On Saturday, June 18, the Salesian Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in San Francisco, California, USA celebrated its 100th anniversary. Fr. Mel Trinidad, SDB provincial of the US West province (SUO) presided at Mass for the feast of Corpus Christi assisted by pastor Fr. Tho Bui, SDB before the evening celebration. Highlights of the evening included a reunion of sorts of over 450 former Club members and friends, performances by the Club youth’s theatrical group, and the premier of a forty minute video documentary chronicling the Club’s rich history. Likely the oldest living former Club member. Fr, Armand Oliveri, SDB, enjoyed the evening and the “shout out” and applause given to him. The current Club directors, Randal DeMartini and Sherri Hughston are both Club alumni with DeMartini ministering there for over forty years. Former director, Russ Gumina who served for almost fifty years was coincidentally on a pilgrimage to Salesian Holy Places and praying for the Club at Don Bosco’s tomb during the festivities. Many past pupils enjoyed visiting their FMA teachers at the celebration who have served at the parish school since 1950.
The Salesians came to North America at Sts. Peter and Paul in 1897 (celebrating 125 years this year). After many requests from the San Francisco Archbishops, starting with Bishop Joseph Alemany, O.P. during Don Bosco’s lifetime, Blessed Michael Rua assented to Archbishop Riordan’s request and sent the first group of Salesians to minister to the Italian immigrant community. Italian youth accounted for over 60% of the juvenile delinquency. Over time, youth activities such as athletics, dramatics, scouting, in addition to catechetical and educational instruction gave boys a positive direction under the care of those early Salesians. By 1921, an official Boys’ Club with a fulltime director, Angelo Fusco, under the supervision of Fr. Oreste Trinchieri, SDB was borne. Over the next hundred years, the Club would boast an unbelievable record of accomplishment developing young boys into community leaders, successful businessmen, devoted Catholic fathers and husbands and loyal Club benefactors. Quite a number of Salesian vocations sprang during the 1930’s to 1950’s especially. Although an official girls’ club ran alongside its big brother Oratory, the “wandering girls’ oratory” was finally folded into it and the Salesian Boys’ and Girls’ Club became a reality in 1994. Today, the Club has over six hundred youth members and is doing the same activities with kids since its founding: athletics, theatre, educational support, a safe place for kids to congregate, accompanied by devoted lay ministers, many whom are former Club kids themselves. Last year, the club awarded over $250,000 in scholarships to approximately fifty members to assist with grammar, high school and college tuition assistance. The Salesian Center at Sts. Peter and Paul Church has a lively parish, a grammar school, Oratory (Club) and is deeply rooted in the San Francisco community.