Luigi Guiseppe Bellisini was born in Trent, Italy, on 25th November 1774 during a period of great turmoil for the Church and society. At the age of twenty he entered the Augustinian Order, taking the name Stephen, and spent his years of religious and intellectual formation in Bologna and Rome, after which he became a priest in Trent in 1797.
In his first years of ministry he was occupied principally as a preacher and rector of the small church (cappella) attached to the house of the Order of Saint Augustine in his native city. He is not to be confused with an older man of the same name, Stephen Bellisini, who appears on the list of Priors General of the Order from 1786 to 1797, i.e., when Blessed Stephen Bellisini had been only twelve years of age.
In 1810, however, he and his fellow Augustinians were thrown into the street during the religious suppression in the era of Napoleon Bonaparte. Stephen moved to the house of his brother, and lived as secular priest. He was determined not to allow the negative atmosphere of society to thwart his apostolic zeal. He established a school to care for the many poor children of the city who were without means to receive an education. He dedicated many years to the education of young boys from disadvantaged families.
His school in Trentino became known as La Scola Per Gnent, or "The School for Nothing" because it charged no fees. His interest in them was comprehensive: to the poor ones he gave clothing and food, to the neglected encouragement and friendship, to all religious and moral as well as intellectual formation. Often, the food came from the table of his brother.
His school eventually expanded to accept almost 500 students and had several lay teachers. His work impressed the governors of Trent. The success of his efforts and the popularity of his educational "system" led to his appointment within a short time as director, and then as inspector, of elementary schools for the entire district of Trent. Despite all the good he was doing as an educator and the great popularity he enjoyed among students, teachers, and government officials, in September 1817 Stephen secretly left Trent for Rome, never to return.
He had heard that in the territories of the Pope in central Italy it was again possible to live the religious life, and so he left home, family, and position in order to take up again what had been surrendered so reluctantly years earlier when forced from his religious community. In Rome he was appointed the Director of candidates to the Order. In 1826, he was transferred to the Church of Our Mother of Good Counsel in Genazzano, which is about 70 kilometres from Rome.
Five years later, at the age of 57, he was named Augustinion Prior there. In later years he served as parish priest at Genazzano. In 1839 the plague reached Genazzano. In the way that Stephen devoted himself to the spiritual as well the physical care of its victims, he gave great example to others. On 23 January 1840, while at prayer with his community, he was called to care for a sick person. On descending the steps in the choir, he stumbled and fell, causing a cut on his leg. That night he came down with a very high fever. Nevertheless, when the fever subsided on the following day, he went to the public hospital for a pastoral visit.
He remained on his feet for two more days, until his brethren forced him to go to bed. He died at four in the afternoon of 2nd February 1840. He was declared Blessed (beatified) by Pope Pius X on 1st November 1904, and hence is on the way to being declared a saint. His feast day is celebrated by the Augustinians on 3rd February each year.(Compiled from the work of the late John Rotelle O.S.A., Book of Augustinian Saints, Augustinian Press, Pennsylvania, United States of America, 2000).Photo galleryStephen Bellisini is included on the Augnet photo gaeerry of Genazzano. Click here.
Stephen Bellisini O.S.A. From the Midwest Province, USA. http://midwestaugustinians.org/bl-stephen-bellesini
Stephen Bellisini O.S.A. From the California Augustinians. http://osa-west.org/blessed-stephen-bellesini.html