Born in Turin on October 26, 1828 into a loving, welcoming family, Leonard's health was delicate. After the death of his father when he was 8 years old, his mother, Teresa Rho, sent him to the boarding school of the Scolopian Fathers of Savona (Italy). While at the boarding school, Leonard suffered a serious and painful spiritual crisis and in order to live as he felt best, he returned home at 15. From then on he continued his schooling in Turin.[top]
In 1850, Leonard received a doctorate in Theology and was ordained a priest on September 20, 1851. His first years of priesthood were distinguished by his dedication to the catechesis of children and his work in the first "oratories" of Turin which welcomed the poor youth on the fringes of the society. In 1865, Leonard completes, at the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris, his theological and pastoral formation. He then makes contact with French and English educational activities (summer of 1866).[top]
In 1866, Leonard accepted the rectorship of the Little Artisans. Little Artisans was a boarding school that accepted - orphaned and abandoned - poor youth, and offered them a religious education and technical/professional training. An openness of mind and heart, a climate of morality and harmony, religious formation, family-style discipline, competent coworkers, preparation for the work place; all distinguished Leonard's educational work.
Leonard's work at the Little Artisans School was a complex and complete undertaking. It assured the boys received a complete and thorough Christian and vocational education. They were often assisted until they entered into the world of work, many of them cared for from age 8 until age 24.[top]
The individual youth was at the heart of all Leonard's educational efforts. The youths collaborated with their teachers in the process of their personal and Christian formation. A positive rapport between educator and student turned Leonard's institutes into a "home" where the boys were helped to discern their personal vocation, spirital and professional. The students were educated one-on-one; adjusting for personality, character, social and family origins.[top]
St. Leonard Murialdo found himself in charge of a technical/vocational boarding school riddled with debt. Between 1881 & 1882 he had to feed, dress, educate, instruct and prepare for work more than 750 boys gratis! Trust in Divine Providence enabled him to organize and run an endless list of activities. However, it was not until 1899, a year before his death, through a generous donation from Count Roero of Guarene, Leonard was able to pay off all his debts.[top]
On March 19, 1873, Leonard Murialdo founds the Congregation of St. Joseph. He dedicates it to St. Joseph, who was a model for educators and patron of workers. Leonard's purpose was, "to educate poor youth, abandoned and in need of correction, in piety and in humanistic and technical studies". His characteristic virtues: humility & charity. His pedagogy: to be "a well-united family".
The Congregation has ministers in Italy, Spain, Romania, Albania, India, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Columbia, the United States of America, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Guinea Bissau.[top]
Requested major labor law reforms from the government (1869):
- Mandatory school attendance be extended up to 14 years of age
- That unnecessary night shifts be eliminated
- That 16 become the minimum age to work in a factory and only for an 8 hour day
- That vacation time be granted and a law governing salaries be made
Promoted the role of Catholic Action in Piedmont; Created "Catholic electoral committees"; Collaborated with the First Catholic Congress of Piedmont (1871); Introduced "legislation to protect young workers"; Participated in numerous National Congresses in Florence, Naples, and outside of Italy; Founded the first Catholic lending library in Turin (1883); Founded the Association for the Spread of the "Good Press"
In 1884 gives life to Women's Committee of the Good Press, an organization based on the new presence of women.[top]
St. Leonard had a rich spirituality springing from the fact that he believed with his whole mind and his whole heart in the love of God. He sensed himself at the center of a love story: the personal, tender, infinite, merciful love that God has for everybody.
St. Leonard, motivated by the love of God, became friend and teacher of workers and of poor and abandoned youth.
St. Leonard was a person with a sensitive and noble soul.
St. Leonard maintained a loving relationship with his family. He faithfully and sincerely cultivated friendships and established collaborative relationships with his friends.
St. Leonard traveled quite a bit to learn from others. On his trips and outings, through contemplating on the universe and its creatures, he was inspired to renew his love of God, his boys and workers.[top]
In his youth, Leonard enjoyed good health, a bright face with rosy cheeks. After many years of hard work, his health began to fail. In 1885 he contracted the first of many respiratory infections which continued to worsen over the years. At the beginning of March 1900, he began to have a fever which would not leave him. He celebrated his last Eucharist on the 20th. On March 30, 1900, the Friday before Passion Sunday, he died. On May 3, 1970 he is proclaimed a SAINT by Pope Paul VI.[top]