On World Mission Sunday, Oct. 23, Pope Benedict XVI elevated Blessed Don Louis (Luigi) Guanella and two others to sainthood during a Mass of Canonization in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, renewing the Church’s commitment to missionary work around the globe.
“Love of one’s neighbor is the visible sign that the Christian can show the world God’s love, and these saints loved the Lord with all their hearts and their neighbor as themselves so as to become a model for all believers,” Pope Benedict said.
Also canonized were Spanish Sister Bonifacia Rodriguez de Castro, foundress of the Congregation of the Servants of St. Joseph, and Italian Archbishop Guido Maria Conforti, founder of the Xavierian Missionaries. For St. Louis Guanella, the miracle that made sainthood possible happened right here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Springfield, Delaware County native William Glisson was 21 years old when he struck his head while rollerblading. He was in a coma for nine days and underwent two skull surgeries, but his condition was still listed as grave.
Family friend Dr. Noreen Yoder gave Glisson’s mother two relics of Blessed Louis Guanella to ask for his intercession. Glisson left the hospital less than a month later, and returned to work seven months later, miraculously without any negative or neuro-psychological deficiencies. His doctor testified, “I’m a good doctor and good at what I do, but I’m not that good!”
In November 2009, A Vatican medical commission declared there were no scientific, natural or medical reasons for the cure. In January 2010, the Pontifical Theological Commission confirmed the healing was obtained through the intercession of Blessed Guanella, providing the necessary miracle for his canonization.
William Glisson made the pilgrimage to Rome for the canonization, and Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre traveled there as well, representing Archbishop Charles Chaput and the Archdiocese.
Don (Father) Louis Guanella was born Dec. 19, 1842 in a small town in the Italian Alps near Switzerland and ordained in 1886.
He founded the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in 1890, and the Servants of Charity (men) in 1908. Both communities became known for their compassion for the incurable, abandoned, aged, physically and mentally impaired, as well as orphaned and needy children in Italy and abroad.
Don Guanella journeyed to the United States in 1912 to work with Italian immigrants in Chicago, but returned to Italy in poor health in 1915. He died Oct. 24, 1915 and was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1964. Oct. 24 is his feast day.
On Monday, Oct. 24, the day after the canonization, retired Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Maginnis celebrated Mass at the Cardinal Krol Center in Don Guanella Village in Springfield, Delaware County. The facility run by Catholic Social Services includes Don Guanella School and the Cardinal Krol Center, and provides residential services for men and boys with developmental disabilities.
In attendance was James Rice, a member of St. Kevin Parish in Springfield, whose son Michael, now 57, has been a resident of Don Guanella Village since he was 8 years old.
“Words can’t describe my dedication to the Servants of Charity, and what an honor it is to celebrate the canonization,” Rice said. “Their community lovingly supports the needs of their residents, even when the residents may not be aware of what is going on.”
In his homily, Bishop Maginnis reminded all gathered that St. Louis Guanella saw those in need as a treasure.
“Persons deprived of riches and often lacking health, esteem, beauty, intelligence and culture are nonetheless dear and precious before God,” Bishop Maginnis said. “St. Louis reminds us all of a fundamental truth that persons are of value for what they are, and not what they produce.”
Servants of Charity Fathers Dennis Weber and Paolo Oggioni serve the needs of the challenged residents of Don Guanella Village, as well as immigrants throughout the Archdiocese.
“We take great pride in our order’s founder being recognized as a saint, because his work still continues through us today,” Father Oggioni said
Archbishop Charles Chaput will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for the canonization of St. Louis Guanella at St. Pius X Church in Broomall on Sunday, Nov. 27.