When Pope Francis met with the Sons of Divine Providence — also known as the Orionine Fathers — on Friday, he urged them to be faithful to the charism of their founder, St. Luigi Orione. So what is this charism?
“Don Orione recommended that you 'seek out and treat the wounds of the people, cure their infirmities, and reach out to them morally and materially: in this way your action would be not only effective, but profoundly Christian and saving,'” Pope Francis reminded the Orionines May 27 at the Vatican's Clementine Hall.
The Orionines are gathered in Rome for their 14th General Chapter, at which they elected a new superior general, Father Tarcisio Vieira.
The Sons of Divine Providence were founded by St. Luigi Orione in 1893, while he was still a seminarian. St. Orione was born in Italy in 1872, and he was a student at the Valdocco Oratory in Turin, which was operated by St. John Bosco. His motto was “do good to all; harm no one.”
When he entered the seminary, St. Orione was inspired by the work of the Salesians, and decided to found his own oratory to educated the poor boys of Tortona. The next year, 1893, he began a boarding school for orphans, from which his religious congregation grew.
He was ordained a priest in 1895, and seminarians and priests were gathering around him to form what would become the Sons of Divine Providence. The order was given canonical approval by Bishop Igino Bandi of Tortona in 1903. Their work expanded to operating schools, boarding houses, agricultural schools, and charitable and welfare works across Italy, with several associated congregations being founded, as well.
The order expanded to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Palestine, Poland, Rhodes, the United States, England, and Albania, before St. Orione's death in 1940. He was canonized in 2004.
There are now approximately 1,000 Orionine priests and brothers serving the poor in 32 countries around the world.
“We are all on our way in following Jesus,” Pope Francis told the members of the congregation who were present at the general chapter. “The whole Church is called to follow with Jesus the paths of the world to encounter today's humanity which is in need, as Don Orione wrote, of 'the bread of the body and the divine balsam of faith'.
He recalled that St. Orione called them to be “servants of Christ and of the poor,” and that their path in doing this must “always unite the two dimension of your life: the personal and the apostolic.”
“You have been called and consecrated by God to remain with Jesus and to serve him in the poor and the excluded of society. In them, you touch and serve the body of Christ and grow in union with him, always keeping watch to ensure faith does not become ideology, charity is not reduced to philanthropy, and the Church does not end up as an NGO.”
The Pope told the Sons of Divine Providence that their being servants of Christ “qualifies all you are and all you do, guaranteeing your apostolic effectiveness and rendering fruitful your service.”
He brought up St. Orione's commendation that his community treat the wounds of the people, saying that “I encourage you to follow these directions, which are very true!”
“In this way, you will not only imitate Jesus the Good Samaritan, but you will also offer to the people the joy of encountering Jesus and the salvation he brings to all.”
Pope Francis reminded the Orionines that “the proclamation of the Gospel, especially in our times, requires great love for the Lord, together with particular initiative. I have heard that while the Founder was still alive, in some places they called you 'the running priests', because they always saw you on the move, amid the people, with the rapid pace of those who care.”
“With Don Orione, I too exhort you not to remain enclosed within your particular environment, but to 'go out'. There is a great need for priests and religious who do not stay only in their institutions of charity — necessary though they may be — but who also know how to take to all places, even the most distant, the perfume of Christ's charity.”
He urged them, “Never lose sight of the Church, or of your religious community; rather, your heart must be there in your ‘cenacle’, but then you must go out to bring God's mercy to all, without distinction.”
The Pope told the Orionines that “your service to the Church will be more effective the more you apply yourselves to care for your personal closeness to Christ and to your spiritual formation. Bearing witness to the beauty of consecration, the good life of religious 'servants of Christ and of the poor', you will set an example to the young. Life generates life, and the holy and content religious inspires new vocations.”