Beatified in 1998, Giuseppe Tovini may not be a name that is familiar to readers. Giuseppe Antonio Tovini was born in 1841 into a devout family in far northern Italy, the eldest of seven children. Giuseppe’s childhood was uneventful. He progressed through school to university, where he chose to study the law. But before he finished his studies, his life took a more difficult turn, as first his father and then his mother died, leaving him to support his younger brothers and sisters.
Giuseppe’s first job was as a teacher and assistant principal at a technical school, where he gained a special interest in education. At around the same time, he began what would be a life-long parallel career of public service, as head of the city government in his hometown, Cividate Camuno. From the beginning, Giuseppe treated his political duties as a form of stewardship, paying off the town’s debts and improving roads and bridges.
When his term in the city government was over, Giuseppe moved to nearby Brescia in order to increase his law practice. There he met Emilia Corbolani, the daughter of one of the partners in his firm, with whom he fell in love. Three years later the couple got engaged and they married after a four-year engagement in 1875.
Even though Giuseppe was busy with work and public activities, he and Emilia had a happy domestic life. He made a point of writing letters to her whenever he had to be away from home. Their family steadily grew and they welcomed ten children over the 22 years they were married.
Emilia and Giuseppe ran a strict but loving household. They particularly believed that it was important to teach their children the faith and to pass on a strong work ethic. Although Giuseppe had high expectations of his children, he was known as patient and gentle father.
As his family increased, so did Giuseppe’s public work. He continued to hold public office and became very active in Catholic Action, serving for many years as an organizer for and participant in the Catholic Congresses. Among his many, many other endeavors, he founded two banks in order to provide low-interest funding to charitable organizations.
Giuseppe’s open involvement in both civic life and Catholic organizations at that time in Italy’s history took courage. Anti-Catholic sentiment was strong during the period of Italy’s unification. Giuseppe fought to preserve the Church’s role in public life in Italy, despite accusations that he was anti-patriotic for doing so.
Giuseppe Tovini died suddenly and peacefully at home in 1897 at the age of 56. He was beatified almost 100 years later by Pope John Paul II. His memorial is September 20.
Describing Tovini at his beatification, Pope John Paul II said, “He was able to combine his vocation as husband and father of a family with his commitment to many Catholic initiatives.” Sometimes saints (rightfully) stand out to us because the circumstances of their lives have been extraordinary. We might be surprised to find that Giuseppe Tovini’s life, while very full, resulted in his beatification. Blessed Giuseppe Tovini shows us that the virtues of integrity and courage can thrive even in the ordinary busy-ness of work and family life.