Saint Jerome Emiliani was born in Venice in 1486, the son of Angelo and Dionora Morosini. His father died when he was very young and he was well educated in the Christian faith by his mother, a most noble woman. As a young man he enlisted in the army of the Republic and became the commander of the League of Cambrai forces at the fortress of Castelnuovo in the Italian mountains near Treviso. The Venetians took the fortress and chained Jerome in a dungeon. Until that time, Jerome had led a careless, irreligious life. Now he sanctified his sufferings by prayer and conversion to God. He invoked the great Mother of God, recognizing that his chastisement was just, but promising, nonetheless, if she would set him free, to lead a new and better life, more worthy of his Christian heritage and to make her know in every way possible. Our Lady appeared to him at once, gave him the keys he needed to escape, and commanded him to fulfill faithfully what he had promised. She led him out through the ranks of his enemies to the gate of the city. He went to her church at Treviso and dedicated himself to the service of the one who had delivered him, proclaiming her mercies to all listeners. He consigned to writing and had notarized an account of his deliverance.

Returning to Venice, he gave his patrimony to the poor and joined the Companions of Divine Love who dedicated themselves chiefly to assisting incurables. Thereafter, he went to hospitals, bringing the comfort of his charity and of his faith. In this service, he contracted a serious illness, but he overcame it, thanks to his strong constitution, and with renewed fervor he resumed his charitable work.

Moved by human miseries, he was deeply affected by the sad conditions in which so many children lived, left to themselves, deprived of parents. He started to gather some in his own home. Then, as the number of these unhappy children increased, he opened a house for them near St. Basitio church and another near St. Rocco church. Meanwhile, report of his charitable work spread. His friends, some of whom were Bishops, asked him to extend his work to orphans outside of Venice. Jerome accepted the invitation and, in 1532, began a long, charitable trail that took him to various cities in Venetia and Lombardy where other orphanages were started.

The Saint gave the children the elements of education and fundamental notions of the Christian faith. He also had them learn a trade so that they might be able to earn a living and practice their Christian faith. In this worthy, charitable work, he found generous collaborators who joined him in assisting orphans. These formed the nucleus of what became the Religious congregation of the Somascan Fathers.

When the Saint felt that his physical strength was diminishing and that he would be obliged to abandon his peregrinations through the countryside, he chose the little village of Somasca as his favorite abode. Here, his intense spiritual fervor could be expressed in pious meditation and in prayer.

A last example of his charity was shown when the plague broke out in Somasca, when he was at the end of his strength. Obliged, at last, to remain in bed on account of his serious illness, he wanted to have near him a group of orphans whose feet he humbly washed, following the example of the Divine Master.

He died peacefully at daybreak, February 8, 1537, aged 51 years, victim of his own charity. His Beatification was September 22, 1747, by Pope Benedict XIV, and he was proclaimed Saint on July 16, 1767, by Pope Clement XIII. In 1928 Pope Pius XI proclaimed Jerome "Universal Patron of Orphans and Abandoned Youth."

Adapted from various lives of Saint Jerome Emiliani