Blessed Giovanni Battista Piamarta
Italian Blessed Giovanni Battista Piamarta found structure – and eventually a vocation – through a parish outreach to poor young boys and girls.
Ordained a priest in 1865 for the Diocese of Brescia in northern Italy, he spent years serving in parishes and running the same kind of oratory programs for youth that gave him education, a stronger faith and some relief from his family's extreme poverty.
Brescia and the surrounding towns in the late 1800s were experiencing booming industrial growth, which attracted poor young people from other towns and from the countryside.
Through his ministry in the parish, Piamarta learned of the harsh working conditions in the factories and the impact being away from home had on many of the young workers.
In 1886, he returned to Brescia and launched his dream: an institute that would train the young people in a craft or trade while giving them a Catholic education.
According to the religious order he founded, Piamarta did not promise the young people their lives would be easy, but he believed they would become better Christians, be able to take pride in jobs well done and, in turn, would become better citizens.
He also believed that solid morals, responsibility, hard work and an ability to get along with others would prepare them to start their own Christian families. Eventually, he founded a typography plant, which continues to operate today, along with a Catholic publishing company.
Interacting with the young people, and with priests and other adults who joined his efforts, he made constant references to Nazareth where the Holy Family worked, prayed and loved each other.
In 1900, he founded the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth, an order of priests that continues his work in Italy, Brazil, Chile, Angola and Mozambique, where members run parishes, schools and technical schools.
Along with Elisa Baldo, a young widow who supported his work, Piamarta set the foundations for the Congregation of the Humble Servants of the Lord, a religious order of women.
Piamarta died in April 1913 at the age of 71. His feast day is April 26.