In some ways Joseph exemplified St. Francis’ advice, "Let us begin to serve the Lord God, for up to now we have made little or no progress" (1 Celano, #103).
Joseph was the eldest of 12 children. Born in Piedmont, he was ordained for the Diocese of Turin in 1811. Frail health and difficulty in school were obstacles he overcame to reach ordination.
During Joseph’s lifetime Italy was torn by civil war while the poor and the sick suffered from neglect. Inspired by reading the life of St. Vincent de Paul and moved by the human suffering all around him, Joseph rented some rooms to nurse the sick of his parish and recruited local young women to serve as staff.
In 1832 at Voldocco, Joseph founded the House of Providence which served many different groups (the sick, the elderly, students, the mentally ill, the blind). All of this was financed by contributions. Popularly called "the University of Charity," this testimonial to God’s goodness was serving 8,000 people by the time of Joseph’s beatification in 1917.
To carry on his work, Joseph organized two religious communities, the Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul and the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul. Joseph, who had joined the Secular Franciscans as a young man, was canonized in 1934.