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St. Jerome

A former soldier turned priest

St. Jerome Emiliani

born: 1481 in Venice

died: Feb. 8, 1537 at Somascha, Italy

Feast Day:  Feb. 8

Claim to fame:  St. Jerome Emiliani is best known for his work caring for orphaned and abandoned children. A former soldier turned priest, St. Jerome ministered in 16th-century Venice during a time when war, famine, and plague had left hundreds of children with no one to take care of them. Jerome had run away from home when he was a teenager, so he knew what it was like to be alone.

Little-known fact:  As part of his work teaching orphans about the faith, St. Jerome Emiliani developed the first catechism that used a question-and-answer technique to teach religious doctrine (a technique familiar to many Catholics who grew up with the Baltimore Catechism).

What made him a saint: St. Jerome gave his whole life, including his own material resources, to help others. At first, he housed orphans in his own home, then went on to build six orphanages, a hospital, and even a home for former prostitutes. During the plague, he went through the streets at night, finding and burying those who had died unattended. He founded a religious order to continue his work—the Clerks Regular of Somascha, also known as the Company of Servants of the Poor. Like their founder, their main ministry has always been caring for orphans and teaching young people.

Scariest Moment: While serving as a soldier and military commander, Jerome was captured and chained in a dungeon. There, he had plenty of time to think—and to pray. He turned his life over to God and to Mary. After he was freed, he hung his chains on a church wall as a reminder of how God had freed him from the physical and spiritual chains that had bound him.

Best quote: “If you remain constant in faith in the face of trial, the Lord will give you peace and rest for a time in this world, and forever in the next.”

How Did He Die: St. Jerome Emiliani died at age 56 of a disease he caught while tending to the sick.

Prayer:  St. Jerome Emiliani, watch over all children who are abandoned or unloved. Help us to show them God’s love through our care. Help us to loose the chains that keep us from living the life God intended for us. Amen.