O God, the father of mercies, we pray thee, that like as thou didst raise up thy blessed Saint Jerome Emiliani to be the defender and father of the fatherless: so we, which by thy Spirit of adoption are called and are indeed thy children, may, by his merits and intercession, evermore continue steadfastly therein; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
St. Jerome Emiliani was born in the 15th century, and as a young man he became a soldier for the city-state of Venice. During that time he wasn’t terribly religious; in fact, he was fairly selfish, and didn’t think much about other people. He loved the life of a soldier, and was never happier than when he was heading off to do battle against someone else. One day, when he was engaged in a minor battle, Jerome was captured and chained in a dungeon. While he was in prison, Jerome had a lot of time to think. He began to think about his life, and he began to think about God, and gradually he learned how to pray. One day he managed to escape from prison. He returned to Venice to his family, and with nothing else to do, he took charge of the education of his nephews. At the same time, he began his own studies for the priesthood.
St. Jerome was eventually ordained, and settled into the life of a parish priest. But soon after his ordination, God began to call St. Jerome into a new ministry – not in a parish, but a ministry which would reach far beyond a single parish. A terrible plague was sweeping across Europe, and there was widespread famine throughout northern Italy where St. Jerome was. He began caring for the sick and feeding the hungry at his own expense. While serving the sick and the poor, he made the decision to devote himself and all his resources to assist others, particularly for the care of abandoned children. He founded three orphanages and a hospital.
In about the year 1532, Jerome and two other priests established a religious congregation dedicated to the care of orphans and the education of youth. Jerome died in 1537 from a disease he caught while tending the sick. He was eventually canonized, and was named the universal patron of orphans and abandoned children.