Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Short Cuts

Author and Publisher - Catholic Online

Image of Bl. Luigi Variara


Feastday: February 1

Birth: 1875

Death: 1923

Beatified By: 14 April 2002 by Pope John Paul II

Blessed Luigi Variara was born in Viarigi (Asti), Italy, on 15 January 1875 and died on 1 February 1923 in Cucuta, Colombia. He was an apostle to the lepers in Colombia and founder of the congregation of the Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who ran the homes he set up for lepers. He was born to Pietro Variara and Livia Bussa. When he was 12 years old he entered the Salesian Oratory in Turin, while the founder Don Bosco of the Salesian Congregation, was still alive. Luigi had the privilege of meeting this living saint on one occasion, and it was an encounter that changed his life. John Bosco looked into the eyes of the young boy, and this gaze was for Luigi a confirmation of his future Salesian vocation. John Bosco died a month later on 31 January 1888.

In 1891 he entered the novitiate and shortly afterward he made his profession in the hands of Bl. Michael Rua, Don Bosco's first successor. After his novitiate, Luigi did his study of philosophy at Valsalice and there he met Fr Michele Unia, the Salesian apostle of lepers of Colombia, who had come to speak to the community about his mission. His talk won Luigi over, and in 1894 he left for Colombia with Fr Unia when he returned. Here he dedicated himself to the lepers of Agua de Dios, sharing with them his passion for music and drama. Fr Unia died shortly thereafter, leaving Luigi and three other priests in charge of the leper colony. The three years before his priestly ordination in 1898 proved to be a time of spiritual growth and maturation for the young Luigi, who came to understand better the reality of sacrifice and self-giving in serving others, and in running the risk of contagion through continual contact with lepers. After his ordination, he exercised his duties as priest in the leper colony, and with responsibility for the parish, often spending four or five hours a day in the confessional. He also continued to teach music and drama, especially concerned for the moral health of the young people of Agua de Dios. From the first year of his priesthood, Luigi felt the need to open a leprosarium for young patients, a project that mirrored that of his predecessor, Fr Unia. The scope of such a foundation was to educate these children in the faith, to teach them how to read and write and skill in manual labour, so that they would be saved from a life of desolation and vice. In 1905 the "Michele Unia Youth Hostel" was opened. On 7 May 1905 he founded the Congregation of the "Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary", in order to provide care for the residents of the hostel. "Our goal", he stated, "along with that of our own personal sanctification, is to care for the leperosy patients in the hostel and in serving God by offering ourselves as victims of expiation". He also said of the year 1905: "Never as in this year did I feel so happy to be a Salesian and I bless the Lord for having sent me to this leper colony where I learned how to gain heaven". As the Congregation was also founded with the intention of offering to women lepers the possibility to consacrate their lives to God, Fr Variara's initiative was much criticized and misjudged by other religious institutes and even by some of his own brothers, who questioned whether this new Salesian "branch" was in accordance with the charism of their founder. He had founded a community of "outcasts" it seemed, in the eyes of the world. Luigi, however, held firmly to God's will, and began to climb the Calvary of not being understood or accepted by those who should have been closest to him. He received, however, the consolation and relief of knowing that he was acting out of obedience, since Fr Michael Rua, Don Bosco's first successor stood behind him and encouraged him to continue with the foundation. His greatest trial proved to be his transferral from Agua de Dios to Venezuela, a separation from his Congregation which cast a shadow of mystery on the foundation itself and began 18 years of misunderstandings for Luigi. He was trasferred from city to city after leaving Agua de Dios, and in 1921 he was definitvely moved to Táriba. He continued, however, to keep in contact with Mother Lozano, cofoundress of the Institute. He assured her that there was "nothing to fear: if it is a work of God, it will last". Luigi Variara died on 1 February 1923 in Cucuta.

The Congregation is currently present in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Dominican Republic and Equatorial Guinea and is dedicated in the service of the poor and the sick.

Biography Provided By: The Vatican

Bl. Luigi Variara Comments

More Saints

Browse Saints by Category

Popular Saints




Image of St. Angela Merici

St. Angela Merici

When she was 56, Angela Merici said "No" to the Pope. She was aware that Clement VII was offering her a great honor and a great opportunity to serve when he asked her to take charge of a ... continue reading


Image of St. Ignatius Loyola

St. Ignatius Loyola

Born Inigo Lopez de Loyola in 1491, the man known as Ignatius of Loyola entered the world in Loiola, Spain. At the time, the name of the village was spelled "Loyola," hence the discrepancy. ... continue reading


Image of St. Katharine Drexel

St. Katharine Drexel

Saint Katharine Drexel, Religious (Feast Day-March 3) Born in 1858, into a prominent Philadelphia family, Katharine became imbued with love for God and neighbor. She took an avid interest ... continue reading | shop

All Popular Saints

Saint of the Day

Image of St. Paul of the Cross

St. Paul of the Cross

St. Paul of the Cross was born at Ovada in the Republic of Genoa, January 3, 1694. His infancy and youth were spent in great innocence and piety. He was inspired from on high to found a congregation; ... continue reading

More Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day by E-Mail

Saint of the Day newsletter icon

Learn about the lives of the saints and other saint resources, including a calendar, over 5,000 saint biographies, our most popular saints, and a list of patron saints. 7 days / week. See Sample


Female Saints

Image of St. Cecilia

St. Cecilia

In the fourth century a Greek religious romance on the Loves of Cecilia and Valerian was written in glorification of virginal life with the purpose of taking the place of then-popular sensual romances. Consequently, until better evidence is produced, we must conclude ... continue reading

More Female Saints

Saint Calendar
Saint Feast Days
Saint Fun Facts


Image of St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel isn't a saint, but rather he is an angel, and the leader of all angels and of the army of God. This is what the title "Archangel" means, that he is above all the others in rank. St. Michael has four main responsibilities or offices, as we ... continue reading

Saints Fun Facts

Saints Fun Facts for St. Christopher

St. Christopher

Saint Christopher is one of the most popular, yet most enigmatic Catholic figures. He is considered a saint, although he is not in the official canon of the saints. He is listed as a martyr, possibly named Reprobus, who died under the Roman Emperor Decius, in 251 AD. ... continue reading

Saints Fun Facts for St. Jude Thaddaeus

St. Jude Thaddaeus

St. Jude, known as Thaddaeus, was a brother of St. James the Less, and a relative of Our Saviour. He was one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus and his attribute is a club. Images of St. Jude often include a flame around his head, which represent his presence at Pentecost, ... continue reading

Christian Saints & Heroes

Image of One of many icons of St. Ignatius of Antioch

St. Ignatius of Antioch: Model of Bravery, Man for our Times

By Billy Atwell

In the face of the current "witch-hunts" endured by some of our Bishops, let us remember a hero on October 17, the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch.  St. Ignatius of Antioch is a bishop and martyr of the Church who died in the year 107.  He was torn ... continue reading

More Christian Saints & Heroes


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 3:14-21
14 This, then, is what I pray, kneeling before the Father,15 ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 33:1-2, 4-5, 11-12, 18-19
1 Shout for joy, you upright; praise comes well from the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:49-53
49 'I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 20th, 2016 Image

St. Paul of the Cross
October 20: St. Paul of the Cross was born at Ovada in the ... Read More