Saint of the Day – 25 April – Saint Giovanni Battista Piamarta FN (1841 – 1913) – Priest, Teacher, Apostle of the Poor, Founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth. St Giovanni established his congregation in 1900 in order to promote Christian education across the Italian peninsula. He also founded the Humble Servants of the Lord. Both of which he is the Patron and of jobseekers.
Giovanni Battista Piamarta was born in Brescia on 26 November 1841 into a poor household, his father was a barber.
He lost his parents at the age of nine in 1840 and the orphanage was situate in the slums of the town, where he experienced the desperation of the street children. His maternal grandfather helped him to keep afloat and alive and sent him to the Oratory of Saint Thomas. His adolescence was difficult but thanks to the parish of Vallio Terme he entered the diocesan seminary.
He was ordained to the priesthood on 23 December 1865 and he began his pastoral mission in Carzago Riviera (Bedizzole), spending his first two decades in intense pastoral work and is remembered as a priest “zealous, excellent, flawless in everything”.
During that time he was appointed as the priest (and later director) of the parish of Saint Alexander and then as the parish priest of Pavone del Mella. Brescia was in the process of industrialisation and Piamarta identified with the difficulties and hopes of disadvantaged adolescents, due to his own experiences as a child.
With the support of Monsignor Pietro Capetti and the Catholic Movement he started the Art and Crafts Institute for the vocational and Christian education of the poorest children and adolescents on 3 December 1886. The “Workman’s Institute” grew and they were able to help and teach many adolescents to receive an adequate technical education.
In 1889, he and Father Giovanni Bonsignori began the Agricultural Colony of Remedello. As a result, a range of the religious gathered around Piamarta who shared the ideals and labours of the mission. In March 1900 he established the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth (“Piamartinis”) to continue the work of technical Christian education around the world.
This would, in time, include Italy, Angola, Mozambique, Brazil (from where the Canonisation miracle came) and Chile. Piamarta’s work with the Brescian printing and publishing house, “Queriniana”, helped make Brescia a European centre of Catholic publications.
St Giovanni died on 25 April 1913 in Remedello after a life spent in the service of God and his fellow man. In 1926 his remains were moved to the church of the workmen that he himself had built.
He was Beatified on 12 October 1997 by St Pope John Paul II and Canonised on 21 October 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Son of Man came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (cf. Mk 10:45
“Giovanni Battista Piamarta, priest of the Diocese of Brescia, was a great apostle of charity and of young people. He raised awareness of the need for a cultural and social presence of Catholicism in the modern world and so he dedicated himself to the Christian, moral and professional growth of the younger generations with an enlightened input of humanity and goodness. Animated by unshakable faith in divine providence and by a profound spirit of sacrifice, he faced difficulties and fatigue to breathe life into various apostolic works, including the Artigianelli Institute, Queriniana Publishers, the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth for men and for women, the Congregation of the Humble Sister Servants of the Lord.
The secret of his intense and busy life is found in the long hours he gave to prayer. When he was overburdened with work, he increased the length of his encounter, heart to heart, with the Lord. He preferred to pause before the Blessed Sacrament, meditating upon the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, to gain spiritual fortitude and return to gaining people’s hearts, especially the young, to bring them back to the sources of life with fresh pastoral initiatives.”
Pope Benedict XVI on the Canonisation of St Giovanni, Sunday, 21 October 2012