John Baptist Scalabrini was born at Fino Mornasco near Como in northern Italy on July 8, 1839. He was ordained May 30, 1863, and consecrated Bishop of Piacenza, also in northern Italy, on January 30, 1876, when he was thirty-six years old. During his 29 years as Bishop, he worked unceasingly to meet his flock’s spiritual and charitable needs.
Blessed Scalabrini became interested in the care of migrants when he noticed the extent of migration from his own diocese, and was inspired to act when he witnessed how the Italian Emigrants were treated–robbed of their dignity and money on their way to a new land. He researched, lectured and wrote pamphlets about emigration, forcing issues into the arena of national debate. In 1887, he founded the Missionaries of Saint Charles, a community of priests who ministered to migrants in transit as well as when they arrived in their new homes. In 1895, Bishop Scalabrini accepted the vows of the first Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles. Blessed Scalabrini founded the Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles because he realized that the Italian emigrant needed to be accompanied by Italian missionaries who knew the Italian language, understood their culture and would lead them to fit into and become part of the society in the United States without sacrificing their religion or their culture. Scalabrini Missionaries opened the St. Raphael Society at ports of departure and in downtown Manhattan to assist immigrants and to protect them from unscrupulous merchants of human flesh.
Blessed Scalabrini foresaw the future. He innately understood that immigration would remain an important part of the way the world works, and called for the Church to develop ministries appropriate to the migrants.
Blessed Scalabrini died on June 1, 1905. Pope John Paul II beatified him on November 9, 1997.