St. Camillus de Lellis was born at Bocchianico, Italy. He fought for the Venetians against the Turks, was addicted to gambling, and by 1574 was penniless in Naples. He became a Capuchin novice, but was unable to be professed because of a diseased leg he contracted while fighting the Turks. He devoted himself to caring for the sick, and became director of St. Giacomo Hospital in Rome. He received permission from his confessor (St. Philip Neri) to be ordained and decided, with two companions, to found his own congregation, the Ministers of the Sick (the Camellians), dedicated to the care of the sick. They ministered to the sick of Holy Ghost Hospital in Rome, enlarged their facilities in 1585, founded a new house in Naples in 1588, and attended the plague-stricken aboard ships in Rome's harbor and in Rome. In 1591, the Congregation was made into an order to serve the sick by Pope Gregory XIV, and in 1591 and 1605, Camillus sent members of his order to minister to wounded troops in Hungary and Croatia, the first field medical unit. Gravely ill for many years, he resigned as superior of the Order in 1607 and died in Rome on July 14, the year after he attended a General Chapter there. He was canonized in 1746, was declared patron of the sick, with St. John of God, by Pope Leo XIII, and patron of nurses and nursing groups by Pope Pius XI. His feast day is July 18th.
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By Justin Soutar
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