History of the founder Saint Joseph Marello
The Stages of Life
Joseph Marello, son of Vincent and Anna Maria Viale, was born in Turin on December 26, 1844, and was baptized the same day in the church of Corpus Domini. His father was from San Martino Alfieri and his mother from Venaria Reale, and they had a flourshing cheese shop which allowed the family to a comfortable lifestyle. In 1847, a second son, Victor, was born.
At the age four he lost his mother and was entrusted, along with his little brother Victor, to the care of his parternal grandparents in San Martino Alfieri, in the Province of Asti. He went to elementary school where his teacher was Fr. Silvestro Ponzo and his pastor Fr. Giovanni Battista Torchio had a very important role in his formation.
At the age of 12, as a prize for his good grades in school, he was taken by his father to Savona and together they visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy. Here Joseph felt the call to the priestly life and that very fall decided to enter the seminary, even though his father, who loved him very much, was somewhat resistent to the idea.
In the minory seminary
Of a frank and ready temperament, he tended to be noticed both in his studies and his behavior. During his third year of studies in the seminary in Asti, Joseph distinguished himself by his willing character and his quite brillant intelligence. One of his classmates, James Gay, recalled “perfectly his youthful goodness together with his lively and profound genius”.
In 1859, the second war of independence of the Kingdom of Sardinia against Austria began: the seminary in Asti was requistioned and made into a military barracks. Joseph found lodging with a family in the city. Seeing the situation of his country, the seminary and the not very edifying conduct of some priests, he began to think ti better to be a good layman instead of a bad priest. He finished his philosophy studies in the Bishops Curia but in October of 1862, he decided to leave the seminary.
He moved to Turin and began a course of business studies.
Return to the seminary
In December of 1863, he became gravely ill of typhus, with such a high temperature that feeling delerious he felt like he was in hell and he was in the thores of death.
His father spared no expense with doctors and medicine but, seeing that at this point human means were accomplishing nothing, he turned to Our Lady of Consolation so dear to the people of Turin. On his part, the patient vowed that if he was able to escape death and be cured, he would return to the seminary and take up his studies once again.
In a short period of time, all danger passed, and he began to have a full recovery. A great change at taken place in Joseph: that morning his eyes were opened to see the vanity of the world and how everything here below can come to a quick end.
At the beginning of 1864, having fully recovered his health, he took up his studies in the seminary and on September 19, 1868, he was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Asti. For his intelligence and for his great practical abilities, the bishops Carlo Savio chose him as his secretary. With him he will be able to see first hand the ministry of government, accompanying him on all of his visits to the parishes of the diocese and in all his other trips as well.
Confessor in the seminary
Returning to Asti, his time is spent most especially in the seminary where he gave classes on the catechism to the elementary school students. for two years, between 1881 and 1883, he was given the office of spiritual director and confessor for the seminarians. From 1881 to 1889 he was also spiritual director for the Milliavacca Institute. He was appointed canon in 1881 and was diligent in going to the Cathedral for the recitation of the office in the choir and for confessions.
Vatican Council I
At the end of November in 1869, Bishop Carlo Savio went to Rome for the First Vatican Council and he brought his secretary, Fr. Joseph Marello, with him. They were lodged in the Quirinale Palace, the papal summer residence at that time, and they met Cardinal Joachim Pecci, the future Leo XIII. Bishop Savio and Fr. Joseph met with Pius IX in a private audience Christmas night in the same year.
Company of St. Joseph di San Giuseppe
In 1872, he asked Canon John Baptist Cerruti to host in the church called the Jesus the Company of St. Joseph. “Each member draws his own inspiration from his exemplar St Joseph who was the first on earth to look after the interests of Jesus”. From this beginning was born the new Company of St. Joseph with the name the Oblates of St. Joseph.
The Congregation was born in the rooms of the Michelerio Institute where Fr. Joseph previously had tried to begin the first Company of St. Joseph; this was on March 14, 1878. The first four young men began their life in common. The spirituality of the new institute was inspired by St. Joseph, his love for Jesus in a hidden and hardworking life. “Carthusians indoors and apostle outdoors”.
The new religious family grows, humble and hidden, first in an orphanage and then in a rest home. Its apostolic commitment is to pastoral activities in the parishes, schools, student residences and orphanages, in the teaching of religion, in service to pastors, in assistance to youth and in dedication to the least.
His appointment as bishop of Acqui arrives unexpectedly, on November 23, 1888. He is just 44 years old. He enters his diocese on June 16, 1889. The episcopate of Marello in Acqui lasts six year: his death come amost unexpectedly on May 30, 1895 in Savona. During his episcopate, he visited all of the parishes of the diocese. Direct contact with the people is the first duty for him. Wherever he goes there is enthusiasm and an increase in the faith. Everybody everywhere says: he is a saint!
The Diocese of Acqui
At the end of the 1800’s, the Diocese of Acqui had 121 parishes, with 28 vicar foranes and a population of at least 180.000. The mountainous region, near Luguria, even though it was the most extensive, is the least populated because the area is hard and poor. Bishop Joseph Marello goes through the diocese by the modes of transportation and the roads of that time, traveling in train, carriage and even by horse.
“Bishop Marello is seen as a zealous pastor, a model of virtues exercised in a heroic manner, in simplicity and in the humility of the ordinary. He loved the hidden life, but was unable to escape the admiration expressed for his gentle nature. A man of great interior virtue and love of God, he was open to all the works of charity. For goals for which he instituted his Congregation, he is considered today a pioneer in the face of modern circumstances” (opinion of the V Consultor of the Congregation of Saints).
The process for the beatification of Bishop Joseph Marello began 29 years after his death. The first ordinary informative process began in Asti on November 23, 1924, and in Acqui on the following December 22. Both processes were closed in April of 1928. On May 12, 1937, the decress of the approval of his writings was issued. On December 7, 1940 a supplementary diocesan process began in order to include previous testimonies. By a decree dated May 28, 1948, the process of beatification in the Congregation for Rites is begun and five months later, on October 10, the apostolic process begins in Acqui, which finishes on April 21, 1951. On June 12, 1978, in the centennial year of the Congregation, a decree of heroic virtue is promulgated. Joseph Marello is venerable. On Septmber 26, 1993, in Asti, in the large Piazza of the Palio, John Paul II declares him blessed in the presence of Cardinals Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State in of the Holy See; John Saldarini, Archbishop of Turin; Simon Ignatius Pimenta, Archbishop of Bombay; of many bishops from the dioceses of Piedmont and from the dioceses where the Oblates of St. Joseph work. The crowd is made up of faithful from the dioceses of Asti and Acqui along with pilgrims from many nations.
Eight years after the beatification, Bishop Joseph Marello was declared a saint by John Paul II on November 25, 2001, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The miracle approved for the canonization happened in a village in the prelature (now diocese) of Huari, in the area of Pomabamba called Ranquish in the Peruvian Andes. Two little children, brother and sister Alfredo and Isila Chavez, 11 and 10 years old respectively, on May 15, 1998, were cured instantaneously and simultaneously of acute pneumonia, after having called upon Blessed Joseph Marello, patron of the village. Seventy-five years after the beginning of the process of the glorification of Bishop Marello, we venerate him as protector and guide on the pathway of life. St. Joseph Marello, pray for us.
For more information:
San Giuseppe Marello, Epistolario, Opera omnia, vol 1, critical texts and notes by Fr. Severino Dalmaso, Rome 2010.
Pasetti Mario (editor), Scritti e insegnamenti del beato Giuseppe Marello, Asti 1980.
Dalmaso Severino, Biografia del beato Giuseppe Marello. Fondatore degli Oblati di San Giuseppe e vescovo di Acqui, (in three volumes), Città del Vaticano 1997.
Rainero Angelo (editor), Briciole d’oro. Itinerario ascetico-spirituale. Un anno con gli insegnamenti di san Giuseppe Marello fondatore degli Oblati di San Giuseppe, Milano 2001.
Bronzini Giocondo (editor), Verso la meta. Un anno con san Giuseppe Marello, Rome 2016.