St Joseph B. Cottolengo and the Little House of Divine Providence
Giuseppe Cottolengo was born in Bra (CN) on 3rd May 1786. From his middle-class family he received a profoundly Christian education. He was ordained a priest in 1811 and carried out his ministry as canon at the Corpus Domini Church in Turin. Around the age of 40 he experienced a moment of crisis: he did not question his priesthood, but was looking for something more meaningful for his priestly life. The decisive turning point came in 1827. On the evening of 2nd September he was called to assist Giovanna Maria Gonnet, a pregnant woman with tuberculosis, who was passing through Turin and had been rejected by the city’s hospitals. Cottolengo could do no more than administer the sacraments to the dying woman and to the little baby, who lived only a few minutes. The desperation of the woman’s husband and children deeply moved Father Joseph. Kneeling in prayer in front of the painting of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Grace, he felt inspired by Divine Providence to set up a work of charity to take in the poor rejected by other institutions. On 17 January 1828, with the help of some lay people and benefactors, he started the “Deposit of the Red Vault”, located in via Palazzo di Città. In the summer of 1830, with the help of Mother Marianna Nasi, he started the community of the Sisters. In October 1831 a cholera epidemic forced the authorities to close the “Deposit”. On 27 April 1832 she restarted her foundation in Borgo Dora, still today the headquarters of the Piccola Casa della Dina Provvidenza, under the auspices of Saint Vincent de Paul and officially recognised by King Charles Albert on 27 August 1833. In this work of Divine Providence, Cottolengo involved many collaborators and volunteers. It also gave birth to several religious families: the Sisters of Apostolic Life and Contemplative Life, the Brothers and the Priests who still today continue to preserve, incarnate and develop over time the ideal of life of the Holy Founder in creative fidelity to his charism, united in fraternal communion and in harmony with the Church.