Meeting Don Bosco as a boy
Louis Orione was born in Pontecurone, in the diocese of Tortona, 23 June 1872. As a youngster he helped his father mending roads until he turned thirteen. Louis wanted to study to become a priest and went to the Franciscan Monastery at Voghera, but he had to abandon his efforts because of serious illness.
He was then accepted at the College in Valdocco, where he came to know Don Bosco, by now quite elderly. He gained the privilege of going to confession to him, and after writing up three entire exercise books worth of sins, the Saint tore them up, saying to him amongst other things: "We will always be friends".
Imbibing Salesian spirit
In Turin he breathed in the Salesian spirit and came to know the nearby Cottolengo work. In 1889 he began his philosophy studies at the seminary in Tortona. In 1892, still a cleric, he opened an Oratory in Tortona, and the following year a College. In 1895 he was ordained priest. At the same celebration the bishop gave the clerical habit to six of his students at the college.
Founder of Religious Congregations
He began opening works throughout Italy, and in 1903 the male Religious Congregation of the Small Work of Divine Providence was recognised by the bishop of Tortona. It comprised priests, coadjutor brothers and hermits, with the apostolic charism of "collaborating in bringing the little ones, the poor and the people of the Church to the Pope, through works of charity". After the terrible earthquake in 1908 he helped Messina and Reggio Calabria, helping out those orphaned and people in general.
Pius X made him Vicar General of Messina Diocese. After leaving Sicily, he was busy with the growth of his Congregation, bringing help throughout Italy when the First World War broke out. In 1915 he founded the female branch: the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity, to whom, in 1927, were added the Sisters Adorers and, following that, the Contemplative Sisters of Jesus Crucified.
Later came a Secular Institute and Lay Movement based on his spirit. These foundations spread through much of the world, in Latin America, United States, England and Albania.
"We will always be friends"
In 1940 Fr Orione died in a house belonging to his work in Sanremo. Louis always kept Don Bosco’s words in mind: "We will always be friends". After having prayed at the Saint's tomb for a long time he was convinced that the Lord did not want him to join the Salesians. But he never discounted the Valdocco model, so much so that he said many times: "I would walk on burning coals to see Don Bosco again, and I would say thanks to him".
John Paul II beatified him in 1980 and canonised him in May 2004.