John Scalabrini was born in Fino Mornasco (Como) Italy on July 8, 1839. After his ordination to the priesthood in1863, he was a professor at the seminary of Como, followed by the rector from 1867 to 1870. Appointed then pastor of one of the largest parishes in Como, he was distinguished for his forward thinking on political, social, and economic matters, and for the solicitude he had towards the working class. His published conferences on Vatican Council brought him to the attention of Pius IX, who named him bishop of Piacenza in 1875.
As bishop he distinguished himself by frequent parish visitations and diocesan synods. In his eagerness to reorganize catechetical teaching throughout Italy, he instituted the first National Catechetical Congress in Piacenza. Pius IX referred to him at the “Apostle of the Catechism.” At Leo XIII’s request he outlined possible approaches and solutions to the unification of Italy with respect to the presence of the pope in Rome.
To assist the huge number of Italians emigrating to various parts of the world he founded the Missionaries of St. Charles (later referred also as Scalabrinians) on November 28, 1887, and promoted their work by journeying in 1901 and 1904 to North and South America. He founded also, with the same purpose, the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles and cofounded together with the Mother Clelia Merloni, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He was also instrumental in encouraging St. Francis Xavier Cabrini and her sisters to work among the Italian immigrants in the Americas. He established the Society of St. Raphael among the laity to provide material and social aid to the arriving immigrants.
Bishop Scalabrini died on June 1, 1905. The ordinary diocesan process for his beatification and canonization began in 1936. He was declared venerable in 1987 and beatified by Pope John Paul II on November 9, 1997 in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.