Saint of the Day – St. Joseph Marello – May 30
St. Joseph Marello was born in Turin on December 26, 1844. While he was still a young child, his mother died and his father moved the family back to San Martino Alfieri where they would be closer to their grandparents and other family members as they grew up.
Joseph was known to be a devout child and was well respected in his community. He entered the seminary for the first time in 1856 and remained until 1862, when he experienced a need to step out and experience life in the broader world. He went to Turin to study and remained there until early 1864, when he decided that his vocation was indeed to the priesthood. So at the age of 18, he returned to the seminary, expecting to spend his life as a parish priest.
In 1868 he was ordained and much to his surprise was assigned to serve as secretary to his bishop. In this role, he attended the First Vatican Council. As the bishop’s secretary, he was in a better position than many to be aware of the great need for outreach to young people and to serve the poor. He also gained much experience as a counselor and advisor to other priests.
Joseph Marello was very drawn to a life of quiet prayer and contemplation, considering entering the Trappists at one point. However, his bishop convinced him to remain in more active work within the church, so he continued his secretarial work.
One interesting characteristic of Joseph Marello was his appreciation of the power of personal communication through written letters. Predictable, reliable, timely mail service was a new thing in his day and he began at an early age to write to his friends. He encouraged them to do the same, so that they would not be isolated or grow apart. I suspect that today he would have his own blog and be an avid user of the Internet, Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking sites!
The Oblates of St. Joseph began in 1978, with a small group of 4 men who joined Joseph Marello to live together and serve the poor and orphaned at the Michelerio Orphanage in Asti, Italy.
Oblates, according to Webster’s Dictionary, are lay people who attach themselves to a monastery and give all they have over to the monastery. The original group of Oblates were all laymen. Eventually some priests began to join the group and the order expanded to welcome them. Today Oblates include priests, brothers and lay men and women who continue to live in their own homes and communities.
Joseph Marello and his companions chose St. Joseph as their patron and mentor, wishing to follow his example of quiet service to Jesus and his followers. His vision, as conveyed to his fellows, was that they should, “Be Carthusians indoors and Apostles outdoors.” In other words, they were to live intense spiritual lives which would spill over into active lives of service in the community outside their homes.
Eventually, Joseph Marello was called to serve as a bishop in the Church. He was sorry to leave the home he had shared with his companions, but entered fully into his new role as Bishop of Acqui. He served as bishop for 6 years, visiting parishes in his large diocese, writing letters and caring for his people. On May 30, 1895, while on a visit to Savona to celebrate the life and work of St. Philip Neri, he died.
The Oblates of St. Joseph have continued and now serve in 10 countries around the world. They continue to work with the poor, with young people and with the elderly and immigrants. Devotion to St. Joseph and loyalty to the Pope and Church teachings are hallmarks of the order.