Saint of the Day – 24 October – St Luigi Guanella (1842-1915) – Priest, Founder, Apostle of Charity, Marian devotee, Eucharistic Adorer and passionate apostle – born Aloysius Guanella on 9 December 1842 in Fraciscio di Campodolcino, Sondrio, diocese of Como, Italy and died on 24 October 1915 (aged 72) in Como, Italy of complications from a stroke he suffered on 27 September 1915. Founder of the Daughters of Saint Mary of Providence (1890) and the Servants of Charity (24 March 1908) alongside his friends Fr David Albertario (1846-1902) and Blessed Giuseppe Toniolo (1845-1918). Guanella also founded the Pious Union of Saint Joseph (1914) with his supporter and first member St Pope Pius X. These religious communities focused on the relief of the poor throughout the world. The Servants of Charity motto reads “In Omnibus Charitas” – “In all things Love” which became the cornerstone for Guanella’s own life. Patronages – Daughters of Saint Mary of Providence, Servants of Charity and the Pious Union of Saint Joseph.
Louis Guanella was born in Fraciscio di Campodolcino in Val San Giacomo (Sondrio) on 19 December 1842. The particular geographical location where he grew up, formed Louis into a solid character – firm, temperate and with a spirit of sacrifice. He was always distinguished for his great faith, strengthened by popular piety, a faith alive for its closeness to the poor and simple.
He studied at the Gallio College in Como and in various diocesan seminaries. In 1866 he was ordained priest and, soon after, appointed parish priest at Savogno. He dedicated himself zealously to young people busying himself with helping them in their schooling and revitalising Catholic Action.
He was in contact with St Don Bosco SDB (1815-1888) at the time. Fascinated by the Salesian charism, he tried opening a College for the young but the operation didn’t go ahead. However, he wanted to stay with Don Bosco and in 1875 became a Salesian. He was in charge of the “Saint Aloysius” Oratory in Turin and soon after was appointed Rector of the “Dupraz” College in Trinità (Cuneo). He remained in the Salesian Congregation for just three years, because the Lord had arranged otherwis -: the bishop in fact called him back to the diocese. Louis had no fear of defending young people and the poor even in front of the powerful and the politicians.
This was another reason why he had to close the school he had opened for poor children in Traona. Sent by the bishop to look after a hostel for poor elderly people, he founded a group of Ursulines there, whom he organised into a Congregation – the Daughters of Holy Mary of Providence. The new Congregation was dedicated to the education of youth, especially those who were poor and on the margins but also, to support and be with poor elderly folk. In Como he founded the House of Divine Providence, at the centre of which he built a Shrine to the Sacred Heart. With support from the bishop he also founded a male branch – The Servants of Charity, with the same aims.
His Congregations flourished in Italy, Switzerland and the United States. In support of the dying he founded the Pia Unione del Transito – Pious Union of Saint Joseph. He built various churches and works for emigrants and fringe-dwellers.
What he gained from his experience with Don Bosco was not only a love for the young that he carried with him all his life but in particular, blind obedience and sacrifice in his relationships with his superiors. Like Don Bosco he was obedient to the bishop even when it meant suffering and misunderstanding. He died at Como 24 October 1925.
Declared Venerable on 6 April 1962, Beatified on 25 October 1964 by Paul VI and Canonised on 23 October 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI.
His older sister was the Servant of God Caterina Guanella (25 March 1841 – 13 June 1891).