- Giovanni Battista Scalabrini
- Apostle of the Catechism
Third of eight children in a deeply religious family. Studied philosophy and theology at the seminary at Como, Italy. Ordained on 30 May 1863. Professor and rector of Saint Abundius Seminary. Pastor of Saint Bartholomew‘s Church in 1870. Bishop of Piacenza, Italy on 30 January 1876 at age 36.
Conducted diocesan visitation five times, visiting all 365 parishes, half of which could only be reached by foot or mule. Celebrated three Synods, one of which was dedicated to the Eucharist. Encouraged frequent Communion and perpetual adoration. Reorganized seminaries and reformed their curricula, anticipating the Thomistic reform of Pope Leo XIII. Preacher, teaching always to love the Pope and the Church.
Worked with cholera victims, visited the sick and prisoners, helped the poor and bankrupt nobility. Saved thousands of farmers and workers from famine, selling his horse, chalice, and the pectoral cross that Blessed Pope Pius IX had given him in order to buy food. Founded an institute to help hearing and speech-impaired women. Organized assistance for young single women employed in rice fields. Established mutual aid societies, workers‘ associations, rural banks, cooperatives, and Catholic Action groups. Ordered that catechism be taught in all parishes. Planned and presided over the first National Catechetical Congress in 1889.
He was convinced that devotion to religion and one’s country could be reconciled in the hearts of Italians. Promoted reconciliation between Church and State, and helped solve a painful moral dilemma for Italian Catholics. He aimed at preparing this religious reconciliation on a practical level, combining religious belief and patriotic love in his work with migrants. Worked with millions of Italians forced to emigrate, often in dire conditions, always in danger of losing their faith and their attachment to religious practice.
With the approval of Pope Leo XIII, on 28 November 1887 he founded the Congregation of the Missionaries of Saint Charles (Scalabrinians) for religious, moral, social and legal care of migrants. Convinced Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, the Mother of Migrants, to leave for America in 1889 to care for children, orphans and sick Italian migrants. In 1895 founded the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles for migrants. Even the sister Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were encouraged to care for migrants. His spirituality and his love for migrants inspired the Scalabrinian Lay Missionary Women.
John was devoted to the Eucharist and spent hours in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, to Our Lady, preaching many Marian homilies, and making Marian pilgrimages. His last conscious words were, “Lord, I am ready, Let us go”.
The Catholic Church is called by its divine apostolate and by its age-old tradition to make its imprint on the great social movement of migration, whose goal is economic recovery and the merging of Christian peoples. – Blessed John Scalabrini, memorandum, 1905
He who lives from faith not only loves God, but feels impelled to make others love him. Hence the fever of saints to sacrifice their whole selves for the salvation of souls. And hence those wonders of charity and zeal that we read about in their lives and that call forth the admiration of every age. The zeal of God’s glory consumed them, never letting them rest for a single instant. – Blessed John Scalabrini, Pastoral Letter of 1877
The spirit, the character, the sole ambition of the bishop lies in sacrificing himself in every way to spread the kingdom of Jesus Christ in people’s souls, risking, if necessary, his own life for the salvation of his beloved flock, placing himself, so to speak, on his knees before all the people in order to beseech the favor of their permission to do them good. He uses everything – his whole authority, skill, health, strength – for this noblest of purposes. – Blessed John Scalabrini
- “Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini“. CatholicSaints.Info. 26 May 2015. Web. 29 May 2016. <>