Joseph Marchetti was born on October 3, 1869, in Lombrici de Camaiore, Italy. Son of Angelo Marchetti and Carolina Ghilarducci Marchetti. He started working as a child, helping his father at the Mansi mill. The hard work of a miller increased his sensitivity to the poor and strengthened his character and will.
He was ordained a priest on April 3, 1892 and celebrated the first Mass in Capezzano Pianore, Province of Lucca, Italy. He was appointed Professor of French and Mathematics at the Seminary, but his thoughts often ran to the world needing missionaries, because he wanted to be one of them.
On April 25, 1892, the Bishop of Piacenza, Don John Baptist Scalabrini, gave a conference at the Church of the Servants of Mary, in Lucca, in which he presented the dramatic situation of Italian migrants. Within him grew the desire to be a missionary, to give his life for the good of souls. Father Joseph Marchetti, already parish priest of Compignano, accompanied the parishioners to the port of Genoa and protected them against attacks by migration agents, real ‘merchants of human flesh’, vultures that haunted the poor families who were about to leave.
Faced with this scene, Father Marchetti did not know how to hide his pain. Captain Gavotti understood the priest’s drama and, taking him by the hand, said: ” I bet you would gladly accompany them to the Americas “. The answer did not come from Father Joseph Marchetti’s voice, but from his eyes, which agreed. “Well then”, replied Gaviotti, “not only this time, but also in the future, I want my steamships, for migrants, to have their Chaplain on board”.
Ready! A new direction for life was sealed in Father Marchetti’s heart: he would be a missionary in a foreign land, starting as Chaplain on board ships. Returning to Lucca, he went to Piacenza to introduce himself to Bishop Scalabrini and speak about his desire to accompany the emigrants as chaplain on board and was very well received by the bishop.
And in October 1894, Father Marchetti made his first trip as a Missionary, chaplain aboard the ship Giulio Cesare. As a chaplain on board, he lived his priesthood intensely: he catechized, celebrated, attended confessions, regularized marriages, performed funeral functions, and was the justice of the peace in the midst of that crowd of approximately 1,500 people. In December of the same year, he made his second trip to Brazil on the ship Maranhão. During the trip, after the funeral ceremony of a mother who leaves a small child in the arms of a father who threatened to throw himself into the sea. Father Joseph takes over the orphaned child and takes care of him. Thus, “God planted in his ardent heart” the desire to build an orphanage to shelter the little ones who were helpless. In February 1895, on São Paulo soil, he laid the cornerstone for the Cristóvão Colombo Orphanage,
While the orphanage was being built, Father Joseph Marchetti returned to Italy with the plan to bring missionary sisters to his work. Thus, in October 1895, the first four Missionary Sisters of San Carlos Borromeo, Scalabrinians, together with the missionary Father Joseph Marchetti, took their religious vows in the hands of the founder bishop, Don John Baptist Scalabrini. And the next day, at the port of Genoa, all leave “migrants with migrants”.
In December 1895, the Cristóvão Colombo Orphanage, in Ipiranga, was officially inaugurated. During this period, while taking care of the continuity of the construction and provision of the orphanage, he already laid the foundations for a new orphanage, the one in Vila Prudente, and at the same time took care of the formation of the Sisters. Not to mention the various pastoral trips through the cities and farms in the interior of the State of São Paulo, where thousands of Italian immigrants worked.
Father Josephph looked after the thousands of Italian immigrants scattered on coffee farms in the State of São Paulo, Paraná and had plans to go to Minas Gerais and Santa Catarina. As for the orphans, he was calmer, as they had the loving attention of Mother Assunta, her sister, and the other sisters.
Father Joseph’s life was intense and restless, as Professor Augustin Wernet wrote, “In assisting immigrants, who were scattered in various regions of the State of São Paulo, Father Joseph Marchetti made no restrictions. Knowing that a serious illness had struck them in Jaú, he faced countless sacrifices to assist and comfort them. Devoting himself entirely to his mission, in Jaú, after a month, he contracted yellow fever and typhus. The disease claimed the precious life of the young priest”. It was December 14, 1896. Someone exclaimed: “A saint has died! He was ripe for heaven.”
Father Joseph Marchetti is the founder of the “Cristóvão Colombo” Orphanages and Co-founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Saint Charles Borromeo, Scalabrinians.
On July 8, 2016, after a long Canonical Process, Pope Francis recognized the Heroic Virtues of our martyr of apostolic fatigue. Venerable Joseph Marchetti, pray for us!
Sr. Leocádia Mezzomo