SalesianSaints of May: St. Louis Orione, priest

15 May 2019

St. Louis Orione, priest


May 16, optional memorial



Louis Orione was born in Pontecurone in the diocese of Tortona on June 23, 1872. As a youngster he helped his father at mending roads until he turned thirteen. Louis wanted to study to become a priest and went to the Franciscan monastery at Voghera, but he had to abandon his efforts because of serious illness.

He was then accepted at the secondary school in Valdocco, where he came to know Don Bosco, by now quite elderly. He gained the privilege of going to confession to him, and after he wrote up three entire exercise books worth of sins (!), the Saint tore them up, saying to him among other things, “We will always be friends.”

In Turin he breathed in the Salesian spirit and also came to know the nearby Cottolengo work. In 1889 he began his philosophy studies at the seminary in Tortona. In 1892, still a cleric, he opened an oratory in Tortona, and the following year a high school. In 1895 he was ordained. At the same celebration the bishop gave the clerical habit to six of his high school students.

He began opening works throughout Italy, and in 1903 the male religious congregation of the Little Work of Divine Providence was recognized by the bishop of Tortona. It comprised priests, coadjutor brothers, and hermits, with the apostolic charism of “collaborating in bringing the little ones, the poor, and the people of the Church to the Pope, through works of charity.” After the terrible earthquake in 1908 he helped those orphaned in Messina and Reggio Calabria, and people in general.

St. Pius X made him vicar general of the Messina Diocese. After leaving Sicily, he was busy with the growth of his congregation, bringing assistance throughout Italy when World War I broke out. In 1915 he founded the female branch: the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity, to whom, in 1927, were added the Sisters Adorers and, following that, the Contemplative Sisters of Jesus Crucified.

Later came a secular institute and a lay movement based on his spirit. These foundations spread through much of the world: in Latin America, the United States, England, and Albania.

In 1940 Fr. Orione died in a house belonging to his work in San Remo. Fr. Louis had always kept Don Bosco’s words in mind: “We will always be friends.” After having prayed at the Saint’s tomb for a long time, he was convinced that the Lord did not want him to join the Salesians. But he never discounted the Valdocco model, so much so that he said many times, “I would walk on burning coals to see Don Bosco again, and I would say thanks to him.”

St. John Paul II beatified him in 1980 and canonized him in May 2004.