Blessed Stephen Bellesini
Blessed Stephen Bellesini (1774-1840) was an Augustinian friar, teacher, minister and mentor to youth, and parish priest.
Luigi Giuseppe Bellesini was born November 25, 1774, in Trent, Italy. He entered the Augustinian Order, taking the religious name Stephen. He professed vows as an Augustinian in 1794.
During the difficult times in which Stephen lived, the government disbanded many religious houses, forcing the friars out of their communities. The Augustinians were not immune to these governmental actions, and Stephen found himself expelled from his monastery.
He went to live with his brother and became a teacher, hoping to be a Christian influence on the youth of his day. Stephen founded in his own home a free school for the poor children of the city, who otherwise would not have access to education. He gave food and clothing to the poorest of his students, and offered encouragement and friendship to all of them.
Even the materialistic local authorities came to respect his work. Eventually he was named Inspector of Schools in Trent.
When he had the chance to return to community life, though, Stephen resigned his important post in Trent and went to join the Augustinian community in Bologna.
Political leaders in Trent begged Stephen to return to his work in the schools there, offering to increase his pay. But Stephen refused, writing to them, "You would surely not ask me (to return to Trent) if you realized the unbreakable bond between a friar and his God, who is the King of Kings. Before his altar, I have solemnly promised to be faithful to those vows."
Stephen spent several years as Director of Novices, mentoring and teaching young Augustinians the principles of community life in the Order.
In his later years, Stephen served as parish priest in Genazzano. There his ministry included a special emphasis on the needs of the poor and of children. In January, 1840, while answering a call to care for a sick parishioner, he tripped and fell. A cut on his leg became infected, and he developed a high fever.
He tried to remain active for the next two days, but the fever never went away. He died February 2, 1840 in Genazzano. His remains are at the Shrine of Our Mother of Good Counsel in Genazzano.