“Our Pious Society has the great honor of being named after Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Virgin Mary. This title, suggested by the need to put our ministry under such great Patronage, was born with the Congregation itself, that, since the beginning, was consecrated to Saint Joseph. It inherited, with the name, some Confreres of the secular Congregation instituted before in our Artigianelli Boarding School of Turin, that became later a religious Congregation.
His devotion had its major manifestation, when Pope Pius IX, of venerable memory, solemnly proclaimed “on December 8, 1870 Saint Joseph Universal Patron of the Church. Only three years later our Pious Society was founded, and put under this powerful patronage.
Like ours, so other Institutions, male and female, took the name from Saint Joseph.
Saint Joseph, therefore, is for us that faithful and prudent servant that God appointed head of his Family and from whom we must take direction and example. He must characterize with His spirit our Congregation, that, in the name of this Saint, has already traced clearly the program of its being and ministry.
Therefore the virtues of Saint Joseph must be ours, and his ministries must be ours.
It is Saint Joseph the talking rule of the Congregation, in which everything must be Josephan, and everything that is not according to the spirit of Saint Joseph must be rejected.
Among the virtues that must be outstanding in us: humility; hidden life, poverty accompanied by a fervent devotion to the Immaculate Virgin and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. None in fact more than Saint Joseph knew and appreciated the privileges of Mary, and none more than him penetrated the secrets of the love that God had for men.
Regarding activities and ministries we ought to learn from Saint Joseph industrious life, zeal for souls, especially for youth, and generosity of sacrifice.
If we want that our Congregation to endure and spread in the Church
of God is absolutely necessary that we keep alive in it, not only the name but also the spirit of Saint Joseph.
If this spirit would lack or decrease, may God not allow this!, would also diminish the life of the Congregation and its ministries would weaken; because Institutions live and prosper according to the spirit that created them.
And thus, as other Congregations live and prosper, some especially for obedience, others for the most rigid poverty or for preaching or teaching.
Our Congregation will prosper and last only if, in attentive and diligent imitation of Saint Joseph, will strive to always practice humility and charity, his characteristic virtues, and will make progress in them.” (drawn from ‘the end of the Pious Society of Turin of Saint Joseph by Eugene Reffo – co-founder of the Congregation of Saint Joseph – Printing Press PP. Giuseppini – Pinerolo – pp. 33-35)
Saint Joseph said “yes”
Joseph was a person who always said “yes” to God and in the Gospels we find very little of him and what he himself says even less, not even a word.
The only two occasions in which he is mentioned are when Jesus becomes man, enters in the human world and in the history of salvation of Israel (his birth and its preparation, the presentation in the temple) and the occasion in which Jesus becomes adult and enters in the social world of the time (finding him in the temple).
Therefore whenever they speak of Joseph they do that in close reference to Jesus, because he is in function of Jesus.
The long list of men who transmit life ( of whom the Bible says “begot”) stops with Joseph and Joseph seems to be the father of Jesus only because… he is not the father, that is, because he accepts to welcome Someone of whom the subject of begot is Another than him. This mystery of the life of Joseph is a light for the mystery of our adventure as human beings, because it is an indication of the first step that allows us too to enter into the family of Jesus, of which He himself will speak later saying: “Who is my mother, who are my brothers?” On the other hand if it seems that Jesus becomes part of the family of David, or better of the family of Abraham and David, it is through Joseph, who becomes part of the small family of Mary, who is pregnant with Jesus born through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The first step to enter into his family, generated by the Holy Spirit is then, simply, not… to do anything!
Joseph is that Joseph we know because he is the spouse of Mary.
Mary herself is the mother of Jesus. One in the other, and the other in herself are attentive spectators of God, who passes.
From this interior stopping, from this renunciation to let themselves worry, that has its practical outlet in the time of prayer – time in which God is acting while we keep silence and stop all the storms that disturb our mind – this staying still is, therefore, the cultivated and prepared soil that makes possible for the seed sown in us to germinate because it blooms and makes us pronounce that word ‘Yes”, that is, in the eyes of God, the best fruit of our liberty.
Joseph approached Jesus through Mary and became his educator and father.
Saint Leonard Murialdo chose Joseph as model of the Congregation of his sons, founded by him, because, thanks to the intervention of Mary, mediatrix of every grace, they may welcome the Lord in the smallest of their brothers.
The “Congregation of Saint Joseph” was born in the heart , rich of faith in God and sensibility towards needy neighbor, of saint Leonard Murialdo (1828-1900), and was founded in Turin on March 19, 1873, in the Artigianelli Boarding School, of which saint Leonard Murialdo was rector. This institution had as goal to assist, to educate in Christian faith and train poor, orphan and abandoned youth for professional work.
Saint Leonard Murialdo in this educational climate and animated by his previous apostolic experience with boys of the periphery of Turin after a long discernment, gives origin to the Congregation with the specific goal of dedicating itself “to the Christian education of youth poor, orphan or abandoned or even only rascals,” that is, in need to be redeemed from a morally disordered life.
Even though this is its primary goal, the Congregation may “come to the rescue of adults belonging to the working classes with instruction and preaching.”
In order to reach this goal some institutions were born, like boarding schools, orphanages, reformatories (prisons for minors), agricultural schools, oratories, and moreover “any type of activities” without any limit of type.
Patron and model of the Congregation, whose members are clerics and lay brothers, was chosen Saint Joseph, the humble artisan of Nazareth and above all exemplar educator of Jesus. From him the Congregation must learn that pedagogy that finds its synthesis in evangelical charity and that style of life, made up of behaviors and personal and communitarian attitudes, that are summarized in the characteristic virtues of humility and charity.
The Congregation received the diocesan approval on February 24, 1875 and began its journey not without some difficulties for the organization within itself, above all regarding the formation of its members, clarification of its spiritual and apostolic identity, opening up also to youth of “civil condition” (rich youth). In its growth it spread in Piedmont as the first field, then to Veneto and later on other regions of Italy.
In view to obtain pontifical approval from the Holy See, a definite version of the Constitutions were prepared. The Congregation obtained the Apostolic See’s approval on June 17, 1897 and the Constitutions on August 1, 1904.
After the death of the Founder on March 30, 1900, the Congregation opens itself to the missions in foreign countries (Libia, 1904), a perspective already present in the rule of the Congregation, and to countries of South America (Brazil, 1915).
In the meantime the Congregation deepened some aspects of its life in particular its spirituality and pedagogy having as reference point the writings of the Founder and in a special way his Spiritual Testament.
In this document explicitly left to his spiritual sons, saint Leonard Murialdo exhorts them to make the spring of their spiritual and apostolic life and the object of their preaching the infinite, tender, merciful love of God.
According to the indications of the Second Vatican II the Congregation with a special chapter in 1969 revised its legislation and the “new” Constitutions, enriched by spirit and tradition of the Congregation were approved by the Holy See on December 8, 1983.
Today the Congregation is called in the Church to live and bear witness to the merciful love of God dedicating itself to human and Christian promotion of youth, poor and abandoned and in need of social and moral formation.
The educational activity is exercised through many ministries according to the nations in which it works and to the social and ecclesial situations in which it finds itself, like schools, vocational centers, family houses, oratories, boarding schools, missions.
Even parishes, not included in the original project, became part of the apostolic ministry by expressed will of pope Pius X (1909).
They, however, as Josephan parishes, must have a specific characterization for the importance given to youth ministry.
In the present times the Congregation is working in four continents:
In Europe (Italy, Spain, Albania, Romania), in Africa (Sierra Leone,
Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Nigeria), in America (Brazil, Ecuador, where there is also an apostolic vicariate in the mission of Napo, Argentina, Chile, United States, Colombia, Mexico), in Asia (India).
With all these ecclesial realities inspired by the charism of the Congregation and with lay people sharing in the work: Murialdine Sisters of Saint Joseph, Secular Institute Murialdo, Lay People of Murialdo, the “Family of Murialdo” was organized whose members, according to their specific vocation, live some spiritual and apostolic aspects of the charism of the Congregation in a spirit of ecclesiology of communion.
The coat-of-arms of the Congregation is made up of the initial letters of Iesus, Maria, Ioseph – IMI –
within an oval line surrounded by rays.
It recalls the intimate union of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
The initials with which the Congregation is identified is “CSJ” (Congregation of Saint Joseph), to which we add also “Josephites of Murialdo.”
The Congregation of Saint Joseph, a community of brothers in faith inserted in history, is articulated in organizational structures, as instruments to promote personal and communitarian religious life and, through the responsible commitment of each confrere, the apostolic ministry of the Congregation.
The soul of the organization is the service of the authority, lived in imitation of Christ and in the spirit of saint Leonard Murialdo: all confreres exercised it participating responsibly to the life and to the work of the Congregation, according to one’s task and one’s talents.
Local communities, called to form a well united family, are headed by a director, first responsible and animator of the life and ministry of the community. He is helped in his service by the family council, expression of co-responsibility of all
The province joins in a wider community different local communities. It is governed by a provincial superior with his provincial council.
The Congregation recognizes in the general superior the successor of saint Leonard Murialdo and the sign of its unity.
He is helped in the exercise of his authority over the all Congregation by the general council.
The communion of life and apostolic activity of the Congregation is manifested particularly in the assemblies of confreres, at different levels, called chapters: local, provincial, general; within them the community, province and the whole Congregation, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and attentive to the signs of the times, verify and search its fidelity to the Gospel and the Charism.
Another moment expressing the co-responsibility in the service of authority at general level is the interprovincial conference; it is made up of the superiors of the provinces together with the general superior and his council.
The Constitutions, fundamental code of the Congregation, describe the specific Josephan vocation that the Holy Spirit gave rise
in the Church through saint Leonard Murialdo. They have as primary and inspiring source the Gospel, emphasizing some spiritual and apostolic dimensions – charism – that determine the proper identity of the Congregation and of every single member.
Therefore the Constitutions are the “identity card” of each Josephan
confrere because in them are contained the fundamental project and the essential elements that make concrete his vocation and, at the same time, are “guarantee of identity”
because they are the objective reference point in his journey of fidelity to his vocation.
Under this light they assumed the function of “guide”
in order to live through a personal and communitarian itinerary the following of Christ, the “word of grace” of the Spirit that saint Leonard Murialdo welcomed and that the Josephites are called to make it their own and render present in the Church in order to build it as Body of Christ according its proper charism.
Consequently the Constitutions cannot be seen as simply as a “juridical code” with laws to be observed, but as a project of life that involves all the dimensions of a person and requires a demanding commitment of conversion.
In the historical journey of the Congregation various and with different names have been the texts of fundamental code, beginning with the first rule of 1873 till the last one in 2007, but all, even though in different way have transmitted the richness and beauty of Josephan vocation.
Since its origin, the Congregation of Saint Joseph had in the Church the specific mission to dedicate itself to the poor, abandoned and in a special way youth in need of help and Christian education.
Faithful to this charism, the Congregation continues to make present in the Church the mystery of Christ who loves the poor and blesses the children. Attentive to the signs of the times and with a commitment to adapt itself to the changing conditions of persons and places, the Congregation offers in its institutions and with its activities a house and a family to the youth who are lacking them, a possibility to study and of preparation for work, a place for free time, an educational environment and especially a center of evangelization and Christian life. The Congregation exerts its specific apostolate through various institutions, such as oratories, family houses, agricultural schools, institutions of re-education, boarding schools, schools, orphanages, social youth centers, vocational schools, missions and parishes.
These parishes are characterized by the choice of a territory with working classes people and by a commitment to offer an adequate service especially to most needy youth.
Criteria that qualify the validity of a Josephan institution are: constant dedication to poor youth, usefulness to the environment and local Church, the witness of a Christian service, up to date and efficient educational methods, collaboration with lay people and, also economical sufficiency.
In all provinces the Congregation has Centers of Professional Formation: such activity is a characteristic of our ministry.
In the educational service of evangelization to the most poor and needy youth, the preparation for work has become, for our Congregation an adequate answer to the request of readiness to life demanded by youth in the various parts of the world.
The Congregation works for the promotion of the working class above all preparing youth to become good and
Through intellectual, professional, social and Christian formation the Congregation aims to help youth, living force for transforming society, to face with responsibility and security their future. In this way it cooperates for justice and peace and collaborates with all men and women of good will for building up of a society better worthy of humanity.
The service to the youth most poor and abandoned is expressed in the service of welcome-reception as the most developed reality and growing in our Congregation.
The great variety of structures involved in this service – family houses, entrusting families, daily centers, lodging communities…
by an educational personalized relationship with every boy, by a proposal of formation centered on “pedagogy of love,” proper of Josephan charism, by a strong desire to be always more faithful to the words of saint Leonard Murialdo:
“Poor and abandoned: behold the two requirements that characterized a youth as one of ours; the more is poor and abandoned, the more is one of ours.”
Our typical way of serving the evangelization of youth, in the charism of saint Leonard Murialdo, always goes through the educational dimension. This principle applies specifically to the school.
Every Josephan school has as foundation: to educate by evangelizing and to evangelize by educating.
The educational style of saint Leonard Murialdo, summarized nowadays in the proposal of “pedagogy of love,” “centered in the heart,” reaches many boys and youths who attend our schools in the nations where the Josephites are present.
Saint Leonard aimed to form “good Christians and honest citizens;”
“ne perdantur” – so that they may not get lost, as he used to say;
his formative project, that involved the whole person of the boy in his integrality, was always focused on his salvation and happiness.
It was an “education for heaven.”
The missionaries, artisans of peace, animate schools and cafeterias, work in the ambulatories, revive hope in favelas and bidonvilles.
In more than 100 years, the Josephites of saint Leonard Murialdo are working in sixteen countries of the world urged by the passion for the Gospel and for humanity, committing all their life and energies of mind, and heart and … health, till paying not rarely with supreme sacrifice their fidelity.
The commitment of the Congregation to missions is very old, because already in the First Rule is present the will to go to foreign countries, even though this desire became a reality only in 1904 with the departure of the first missionaries to Bengasi, in Libya.
On the footsteps of the first missionaries sent to North Africa, Fr. Girolamo Apolloni, Fr. Maurizio Costa and brother Carlo Alunno many hundred of Josephites crossed during the years boundaries, seas and oceans to bring the Gospel to all corners of the world:
on the first December of 1914 Fr. Oreste Tromben and deacon Giuseppe Longo leave from Genoa towards Brazilian lands
in 1922 Fr. Emilio Cecco and Fr. Giorgio Rossi set sail from the same harbor for the Apostolic Vicariate of Napo (Ecuador),
while in 1933 another group of missionaries reaches Tripoli
in order to start an agricultural school.
At that time the difficulties were mainly of logistic type:
to travel through deserts or forests, to cross seas or rivers, were always occasions of great dangers, also tropical diseases, without forgetting the necessity to provide food or
to learn the local language.
But the difficulties do not stifle the missionary ardor of the Congregation, and new frontiers of apostolate
are opened in other Countries
of the world:
Argentina in 1936,
Chile in 1947,
The United States of America 1949,
Spain in 1961,
Sierra Leone in 1979,
Colombia in 1983,
Guinea Bissau in 1984,
Mexico in 1990
Albania (where Fr. Ettore Cunial will meet his death, assassinated)
Romania and India in 1998
Ghana in 1999
Nigeria in 2014.
The true challenge of missionaries is always that of bringing the Gospel to people of different culture, incarnating the message of salvation in daily living, avoiding to impose it and to present it as something coming from afar. They are always attentive to show concern and respect for the local culture, valuing the traditions of the territory in the liturgy and education of youth.
Many problems, however, arose recently making the ministry of the missionaries harder. The globalization has widened the horizons of information, and, with this, has spread the confrontation with western civilization and consumerism, that in the Countries of the third world is a cause of robberies, but also of frustration and depression. In Africa and Latin America the problem of the sects is very much felt, exploiting the ignorance of people and their desire of happiness with deep influence on the populations, promising illusive and easy to attain pleasures.
In each Country, where the Congregation is working, local problems
are added to global ones: in Sierra Leone the missionaries find themselves with the task of “re-building” people, terrorized by the cruelty of long civil war; in Argentina they face the poverty and unemployment of the great urban centers; in Colombia the drug traffic and warfare.
Another common element is the corruption of governments, that causes enormous difficulty to get the containers with aids through customs in order to receive the authorizations and to distribute the resources to the people who have the right to have.
To new problems, however, new solutions, as saint Leonard Murialdo used to say. The programming guidelines of the last General Chapter of the Congregation stress the same concept:
“We see with joy and encourage the commitment and dedication of confreres and lay people in the territories of mission, the growth of missionary conscience in the Congregation, the opening of new frontiers of evangelization and human promotion in poor Countries of the world and peripheries of great urban centers.”
The Josephites are ready to accept the new challenges that the modern world will present for the passion of the Gospel and men.
Parish and oratory
The pastoral service of evangelization of the people of God that the Congregation does regarding the mission of the Church occurs also through parishes and oratories.
The Josephan parishes besides to offer pastoral care to the whole people of God, are characterized by a special attention to boys and youths, specially the most poor and needy. This love of predilection is a choice involving the whole community.
The motto, that is an objective and a challenge: “in a Josephan parish no youth without a family.”
In the oratories, places of welcome and encounter for boys and youths, the Josephites, together with many other educators and volunteers, offer an educational service, that is open, joyful, and rich of warm cordiality. “To pray, to learn and to play, this is the oratory,” saint Leonard Murialdo used to repeat.
Recreation and sport, intellectual and cultural search, growth in spirituality, are the foundations of the educational project, “Pedagogy of Love,” centered on the education of the heart of youth.
The formation and pastoral activity of the Congregation finds significant moments in the experience and confrontation for the evaluation and programming in some international encounters, besides those at provincial level.
To be mentioned: the general chapter that manifests in a supreme way the communion of life and apostolic activity of the Congregation;
the international conferences, in which the provincial superiors together with the general superior and his council take part;
the Murialdine month, typical experience of formation that is celebrated every three years in a different province, open to all confreres;
the meeting of formators, that gathers the persons in charge of the international and provincial equipes of formation of the Congregation;
the meetings of provincial bursars, coordinated by the general bursar.
Some international meetings are lived as Family of Murialdo (FdM)
and involve the participation of protagonists, together with Josephites, also the young collaborators and educators, Murialdine Sisters, Secular Institute Murialdo and Lay people of Murialdo.
The meeting of the people in charge of Josephan youth Ministry
Seminars of Murialdine Pedagogy
Forum of Josephan Youth Ministry, moment of arrival and new beginning through a journey kept alive through a constant contact through virtual forum
International meeting of FdM
Meeting of youth of FdM