Saint Louis Guanella was born on December 19, 1842 in the small village of Fraciscio, Italy in the Southern Alps. Louis grew up experiencing both poverty and illiteracy, which had a profound impact on his life. Louis lived during a time of intense political persecution against the Catholic Church, and its priests and religious were constantly harassed and threatened by civil authorities.
Fr. Guanella was ordained a priest on May 26, 1866 in Como, and was assigned to a small parish in Savogno. After seven years, he moved to Turin, and joined the Order of Salesian priests, led by St. John Bosco, from 1875-78. In 1878 he returned to the Diocese of Como, and spent two years at the parish of Traona before being transferred to a parish in the remote village of Olmo. From there, he was transferred to Pianello Lario, a small village on Lake Como in 1881. The first House was opened in 1886. To continue spreading his apostolate for serving the poor and disabled, Fr. Guanella founded the Servants of Charity Congregation of priests and brothers, who on March 24, 1908 professed perpetual public vows.
In 1904, under the protection of Pope St. Pius X, Fr. Guanella opened a facility for the children who were living in the streets of Rome. Then in 1908, with the continued support of the Pope, Fr. Guanella began building the Church of St. Joseph in Rome. The church was completed and dedicated with its first Mass on March 19, 1912 on the Feast Day of St. Joseph.
St. Joseph is the patron saint of the Dying and of a Happy Death and Fr. Guanella began the Pious Union of St. Joseph, a worldwide confraternity that prays daily for the sick and dying of the world. Pope St. Pius X was the first member.
In December 1912, Fr. Guanella traveled to the major cities of America, and saw for himself what deplorable conditions emigrants from Italy and the rest of the world were living in. In May 1913, six Daughters of St. Mary of Providence traveled to Chicago, Ill., and so began the presence of the Guanellians in America.
In May 1915, World War I was now fully underway, and Fr. Guanella opened his last institute in Berbenno while celebrating his fiftieth year in the priesthood. At the same time, his health was beginning to wane, and he was stricken with a paralysis. Fr. Guanella died on October 24, 1915, now celebrated as his Feast Day throughout the world. His final resting place is in the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Como.
Saint Guanella was beatified by Pope Paul VI on October 25, 1964. Fr. Guanella was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 23, 2011 in Rome.