Luigi Orione was born in Pontecurone, diocese of Tortona, on June 23, 1872. At 13 he entered the Franciscan Friary of Voghera, but he left after one year due to poor health. From 1886 to 1889 he was a pupil of Saint John Bosco at the Valdocco Oratory in Turin.
He gained the attention of St. John Bosco, who numbered him among his favorite pupils. Since the age of thirteen, Luigi suffered from health problems. However, three years later, at age the age of sixteen, he was present at Don Bosco's death in Turin in 1888. Immediately upon his death, Luigi's ailments were miraculously cured.
In 1892, the 20-year-old seminarian opened his own oratory, and the following year he started a vocational school for the poor. He was ordained a priest on April 13, 1895.
Starting in 1899, Don Orione started to gather a group of priests and clerics that were to become "Piccola Opera della Divina Provvidenza," or the "Little Work of the Divine Providence." In 1903 the group received the full imprimatur of the bishop, and it became what is still called to this day the "Sons of Divine Providence."
One of the priests who was in his inner circle was Lorenzo Perosi, who later became Perpetual Director of the Sistine Choir and one of the most famous composers of sacred music. Perosi was born in the same year and the same province (Tortona) as Orione; they remained lifelong friends.
In 1908, Don Orione went to Messina, Sicily and Reggio Calabria, Calabria, both of which were devastated by respective earthquakes. He dedicated three years to help those in need, most especially the caring of orphans. In 1915 he went to Marsica when that region had a similarly devastating earthquake. That same year he founded the Congregation of the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity.
At the end of World War I, Don Orione began to expand his work. He founded schools, farming colonies, and charity organizations—always with a special emphasis on helping orphans and the poor. Over the next two decades, he started foundations throughout Italy and the Americas.
He was a preacher, a confessor and a tireless organiser of pilgrimages, missions, processions, live cribs and other popular manifestations and celebrations of the faith. He loved Our Lady deeply and fostered devotion to her by every means possible and, through the manual labour of his seminarians, built the shrines of Our Lady of Safe Keeping in Tortona and Our Lady of Caravaggio at Fumo. In the winter of 1940, with the intention of easing the heart and lung complaints that were troubling him, he went to the Sanremo house, even though, as he said, “it is not among the palm trees that I would like to die, but among the poor who are Jesus Christ”. Only three days later, on 12 March 1940, surrounded by the love of his confreres, Don Orione died, while sighing “Jesus, Jesus! I am going”.
His body was found to be intact at its first exhumation in 1965. It has been exposed to the veneration of the faithful in the shrine of Our Lady of Safe Keeping in Tortona.