Ludovico of Casoria
The Blessed Ludovico (or Louis) of Casoria, O.F.M., (Casoria, near Naples, 11 March 1814 – Posillipo, 30 March 1885) was an Italian Friar Minor, who was a renowned social reformer and the founder of two religious congregations: the Gray Friars of Charity and the Gray Sisters of St. Elizabeth. He has been beatified by the Catholic Church.
Born Arcangelo Palmentieri, he apprenticed as a cabinet maker in his youth. On 1 July 1832, he entered the novitiate of the Order of Friars Minor at which time he took the name Ludovico. Shortly after his ordination, he was appointed to teach philosophy and mathematics to the young members of the Order at the Franciscan friary of St. Peter (San Pietro) in Naples.
Ludovico soon embarked on a lifetime of establishing works to care for the poor and needy of the time, founding dispensaries and orphanages. About the year 1852 he opened a school for the education of African boys and girls redeemed from slavery. In addition to his other institutions, he went on to found institutions for the deaf and the mute. He also worked to provide care for the elderly members of his own Order.
Following the advice of his superiors to find others to whom he could entrust this work, in 1859 he instituted a community of men as a religious congregation of the Franciscan Third Order Regular at San Pietro. They became known as the Gray Friars of Charity (Italian: Frati Bigi della Carità) on account of the traditional grayish or ashen color of the Franciscan religious habit. Three years later, he instituted likewise a congregation of religious women, known as the Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth (Suore Elisabettiane Bigie), whom he placed under the protection of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, one of the first members of the Third Order of St. Francis and its patroness.
The friars received formal approval by the Vatican in 1877, by which time their work had spread to the United States, where they served the Italian-American community in New Jersey. The friars were disbanded in 1971 by the Holy See due to the few members of the congregation. A new group of men and women, dedicated to his vision, however, is currently in the process of forming.
The Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth currently serve in Italy, the United States, Ethiopia, India, Panama and the Philippines.
Death and veneration
Nine years before Ludovico's death, he was attacked with a serious and painful illness, from which he never completely recovered.
Ludovico’s spiritual testament begins: "The Lord called me to himself with a most tender love, and with an infinite charity he led and directed me along the path of my life." ((Saint of the Day ))
- Acta Ordinis Minorum (May, 1907), 156-158;
- The Catholic World (November, 1895), 155-166;
- Voce di Sant' Antonio (July, 1907), 23-26.
- Saint of the Day
- An account in Italian of his founding of the first school in Umbria for the care of deaf-mutes.