Saint Louis Guanella, son of Lawrence Guanella and Mary Bianchi Guanella, was born in Fraciscio, a little town located in the Italian Alps near Switzerland on December 19, 1842. After completing his studies at the diocesan seminary of Como, he was ordained a Priest on May 26, 1886, and zealously cared for souls in his diocese for nine years.
Following his interior impulse, and urged by divine signs and the desire to help distressed and indigent brothers and sisters, he continued his mission with St. John Bosco, who welcomed him gladly.Summoned by his Bishop, Father Guanella returned to work in his diocese, confidently and patiently waiting for the time he used to call “the hour of the mercy of God,” when he could start those works of charity, for which he felt an inborn attraction and a divine vocation.
His attempts, stamped out from their very beginnings, by suspicion, lack of understanding and persecution by his fellow priests and the local government.
His Bishop eventually sent him to Pianello, a town on the shores of Lake Como, where he found a group of young women formed in piety and sacrifice by his predecessor, Fr. Carlos Coppini. In only a few years they were ready to venture toward the unlimited borders of Christian charity and on April 6, 1886, he was able to send a little boat carrying two sisters, a few orphan girls, and a few pieces of furniture across the lake to Como, where Father Guanella prepared a simple home for them. This would, years later, become the “Mother House” of the Religious Congregations he dreamed of founding, the Daughters of St. Mary Providence and the Servants of Charity.
Here God’s work took root, among trial, opposition and persecution. The houses multiplied and the two Congregations helped him to increase assistance to those he called the “favorites” of Providence: incurable, abandoned, aged, physically and mentally impaired, and orphaned and needy children in Italy and Switzerland.
Still energetic in his seventies, Father Guanella sailed to North America in 1912 to begin his work of mercy in Chicago with the Italian immigrants.
In January 1915, he hastened to help the victims of the disastrous earthquake in a central region of Italy which caused the deaths of more than thirty thousand people. Father Guanella reached the area with his priests and sisters, caring for survivors and sheltering the orphans and the elderly. This was his last labor, which weakened him physically and quickened his end. He died a martyr of charity, in Como on October 24, 1915.
After a regular canonical process, Father Louis Guanella’s heroic virtues and sanctity were recognized, and Pope Paul VI declared and venerated him BLESSED on October 25, 1964.
His canonization was announced by the Holy Father in 2010.