A Catholic Monthly Magazine

October Saints

24 October

Saint Luigi Guanella

Luigi Guanella was born in Fraciscio, Italy, the ninth of thirteen children of strongly religious parents. When he was twelve years old, he entered the minor seminary. He was ordained in 1866.

From 1875 until 1878, he assisted St. John Bosco in his care of homeless children. Shortly thereafter, he began a pioneer programme dealing with the rehabilitation of boys and girls abandoned and rejected by society because of their physical and mental disabilities. He believed their disabilities should not cut them off from love and attention and that efforts should be made to ensure they were not alienated from society. The opposition of civil authorities, criticism of the elite, and his personal reputation as a dreamer, did not matter, nor did they quell his zeal for his work.

In 1886, Fr Guanella’s goal became a reality. He opened the first established residential school in Como, Italy, for these beloved ‘Good Children,’ as he called them. Some young men and women had joined him, and two religious congregations were subsequently established: the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence and the Servants of Charity.

In 1912, Fr Guanella went to the United States and toured some of the principal cities. In 1913, he sent the first six Daughters of St Mary of Providence to work with girls with intellectual disabilities in Chicago. The First World War made it impossible for the Servants of Charity to go to the United States at that time.

As Fr Guanella grew older, he said, “When my captain calls me, He will send someone else to take my place.” This prophecy became a reality in 1960 when Fr. Luigi Alippi, the fourth Superior General, was able to establish foundations of the Servants of Charity at Don Guanella Village in Springfield, PA and at St Louis Centre in Chelsea, MI.

Two years before his death, Fr Guanella founded the Pious Union of Saint Joseph, whose members pray for the dying. The first member of the prayer association, of what has now become over a million members, was Pope Pius X. St Luigi died on 24 October 1915.

Saint Luigi, teach us to appreciate the preciousness of the disabled in the sight of God.

16 August

Blessed Petra of St Joseph Perez Florido

Blessed Petra was born to a Christian family in Malaga, Spain. From her early years she felt called by God to prayer and to belonging totally to him. “I thought about nothing else but becoming a nun,” she would later say, “and I was consumed by this longing.” While her childhood was a time of preparation for the apostolate, she demonstrated a special empathy with the poor, understanding their heartache when their pleas for help were met with indifference. “When they asked for something and were given nothing, I felt as grieved as they were,” she wrote.

While still a lay person, Petra started begging for the poor, an activity her father opposed vehemently, but through the intercession of St Joseph, she was able eventually to overcome his opposition and enlist his support for her works. Soon three young girls joined her, attracted by her simple and joyful way of living out charity in action.

With the approval of the Bishop of Malaga, she founded the Congregation of the Mothers of the Helpless and of St Joseph of the Mountain in 1880. In fact, it was the Bishop who named the ‘Mothers of the Helpless’ because of the way they treated the poor and destitute. Amid many trials, the congregation grew and new homes were opened. 

In 1895, Petra began working on Montana Pelada, a royal sanctuary of St Joseph of the Mountain in Barcelona. The church was dedicated in 1901. Petra lived her faith deeply and her delicate charity led her to be available always to serve those in need like a caring mother. Serene and full of love, guiding her growing communities and promoting more efforts for the poor, Petra continued her labours until her death in Barcelona on 16 August 1906.

Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1994, declaring her virtues heroic and praising her for being consumed by divine love.

Blessed Petra, help us to serve the poor and needy with joy.

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