Tovini, Giuseppe Antonio, Bl.

views updated


Married lawyer, journalist, politician, lay Franciscan tertiary; b. March 14, 1841, Cividate Camuno (near Brescia), Italy; d. Jan. 16, 1897, Brescia.

Giuseppe, the eldest of the seven children of Mosè Tovini and Rosa Malaguzzi, attended schools at Breno and Lovere (185258). His priest-uncle, Giambattista Malaguzzi, obtained a scholarship for him at a school in Verona, and then at the diocesan seminary. Following the death of his father (June 1859), Giuseppe enrolled in the law faculty at the University of Padua (186064). He continued his legal studies at the University of Pavia (186465) while working as an assistant director and teacher in a secondary school. Returning to Brescia in 1867, he worked in the law firm of Giordano Corbolani, whose daughter Emilia he married in January 1875. They had ten children, one of whom became a Jesuit and two who because religious sisters.

As mayor of Cividate (187174) he initiated several important public works, including the Bank of Valleca-monica (Breno) and a railroad connection to Brescia. From 1877, Giuseppe was especially involved in the Catholic Movement of Brescia. He collaborated in the creation of a Catholic daily paper, Il Cittadino di Brescia, where he later became manager. The paper's editor was Giorgio Montini, father of future Pope Paul VI. As president of the diocesan committee of Opera dei Congressi, a program designed to counter repression of the Church and anticlerical sentiment, he travelled throughout the region forming parochial committees. He later had regional (Lombardy) and national leadership roles in the organization. Beginning in 1879, he encouraged Catholic involvement in Brescian politics, invoking the ire of the liberal intelligentsia. He was elected provincial councilman for the district of Pisogne (1879) and city councilman in Brescia (1882). It was from these political positions that he able to defended the weak and poor people of his district.

In 1881, Tovini became a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis, which he found a providential way of living and serving in the worldliving a life of voluntary poverty. Tovini became prior of the congregation in 1884, a post he held until his death. Of seemingly boundless energy and wanting to imbue every aspect of labor and industry with Catholic values, Tovini organized local and national Catholic congresses, founded charitable institutions, initiated the Banco Ambrosiano (1896), Banco S. Paulo (Brescia, 1888), and an agricultural union. In 1881 he disseminated constitutions for the establishment of societies of Catholic workers, small farm loan banks, and mutual aid societies.

Tovini's other important contributions were in the educational arena. He defended religious education in the schools and advocated free education in order to form youth to fulfill their civic and social responsibilities. For this purpose he founded (1882) a kindergarten (l'Asilo San Giuseppe ), an association of fathers of families, the Società Cesare Arici, and an academy (l'Istituto venerabile Alessandro Luzzago ); invited the Canossian Sisters to open a girls school in Cividate Camuno (1894); and promoted and raised funds for the establishment of the Saint Antony of Padua University (1884), Artigianelli Institute (1891), and an international Catholic university in Rome (1891). He collaborated in the formation of the Unione Leone XIII, which was the foundation of the Federation of Italian Catholic Students (FUCI). Tovini used the media to spread Catholic faith by establishing pedagogical and religious periodicals, such as Fede e Scuola (from 1891), Scuola Italiana Moderna (from 1893), and La Voce del Popolo (from 1893).

Tovini, who had suffered from poor health throughout his life, died at age 56. His mortal remains were solemnly translated to the church of San Luca at Brescia, Sept. 10, 1922. He was declared venerable April 6, 1995. Pope John Paul II beatified Tovini at Brescia, Sept. 20, 1998, at the end of the centenary celebration of the birth of Pope Paul VI, who spoke often of Tovini.

Feast: Jan. 16 (Franciscans).

Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 20 (1998): 956958. L'Osservatore Romano, Eng. ed. 28 (1998): 12.

[k. i. rabenstein]