St. Jerome Emiliani
Died: February 8, 1537
Canonized: 1767, by Pope Benedict XIV
Feast Day: February 8
Patron Saint of: orphans
Jerome was born in 1481, the son of a noble family of Venice, Italy. He was a good soldier and was put in command of Castelnuovo, a fortress high in the Italian mountains. While defending this post from an invasion by the Venetian troops of Maximilian I, he was taken prisoner and thrown into a dungeon. Chained in prison, he began to regret the choices he had made in his life. He was sorry that he had thought so little about God and for wasting several years in immoral living. Jerome promised the Blessed Mother that he would change his life if she would help him escape this imprisonment. His prayers were answered and he escaped to safety. It is said that Jerome, with grateful heart, went straight to a church in Trevisio where he hung his prison chains in front of Mary's altar.
Jerome was true to his promise to the Blessed Mother and was eventually ordained a priest in Venice. He was devoted to works of charity. His special concern was for the many homeless orphan children he found in the streets. Jerome rented a house for these orphans, and gave them clothes and food, and instructed them in the faith. St. Jerome intensified the care for the orphans, establishing orphanages in several Italian towns and started a religious congregation of men called the Company of the Servants of the Poor with the mission to care for the poor, especially orphans.
St. Jerome died while caring for plague victims in 1537. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XIV in 1767. He is known as the patron saint of orphans.
Also known Gerolamo Emiliani, Jerome Aemilian, and Hiëronymus Emiliani.