Don Luigi Orione
Don Luigi Orione was born in Pontecurone (Alessandria) on the 23rd of June 1872. He is known in the world as a champion of Christian charity and he is the Founder of the Piccola Opera della Divina Provvidenza; with its orphanages and its professional schools, he was right away concerned of the training of young people "sun or storm of tomorrow" (how Don Orione loved to call them), while in his institutes for disabled (Cottolengo) he helped the needy in poor state of health while always remaining faithful to his principle:
"... you must not ask a person from where he is, whether he has a faith or a name but if he feels a pain!"
He faced any kind of social and religious problems; he met very important people from the worlds of politics, culture and of the Church by enlightening them with his radiant look and his good influence. Don Orione's writings have reached a vast number of people by bringing them consolation, real faith and a wealth of knowledge.
His biographer Pronzato defined him "God's fool" while Pope John Paul I referred to him as the "strategist of charity". He described himself the "bearer of Divine Providence" by confessing his immense faith in God and his desire to serve him alone.
Ignazio Silone compared him to Lenin, because "Lenin was not a Saturday night socialist and Don Orione was not a Sunday morning priest".
Douglas Hyde dedicated to him a biography by the meaningful title "God's bandit". The scholar Don Giuseppe De Luca, describes him as "a man in a constant state of spiritual exhilaration".
When Don Orione died in San Remo (Imperia) on the 12th of March 1940, Pope Pius XII remembered him as "the father of the poor and emirent benefactor of suffering and abandoned mankind". Pope John Paul II beatified him on the 26th October 1980 by presenting him to the Church through the following words: "a wonderful and brilliant expression of Christian charity…he certainly was one of the most outstanding personalities of this century for his openly experienced Christian faith… he had the character and heart of the Apostle Paul, loving and sensitive to tears, indefatigable and courageous to bravery, tenacious and dynamic to heroism".
Pope John Paul II himself proclaimed him saint on the 16th of May 2004. Today his Organization is spread out over 30 countries and comprises the following religious Congregations: The Sons of Divine Providence, The Little Missionary Sisters of Charity, The Secular Institute, and a vast Lay Movement which spreads to the world, above all among the poor, the spirit and the good works of its Founder. Don Orione's strong personal appeal is marked by a vast engagement in several social and charitable activities: Pastoral staff for assistance and human promotion; parochial, and educational Pastoral staff, as well as for missions; Sanctuaries, Boarding-schools, Cultural centers, popular Universities.