Blessed Lodovico Pavoni was born in Brescia on 11 September 1784 and, after 30 years of service to young people, died in Saiano, outside Brescia, on 1 April 1849. For 30 years he followed his inspiration to serve the needs of the young boys on the streets with positive methods of education. He began by opening his own oratory (catechetical and recreation centre) that in 1821 he expanded it into a hostel for their shelter and a school to teach them a trade. In 1825 he founded a religious congregation of priests and brothers to run the educational and industrial activities that grew out of his intuition.
Lodovico was a lively and bright child, interested in the world around him and quick to grasp the social problems of his day. He prepared for the priesthood by receiving his theological formation at the home of the Domenican, Fr Carlo Domenico Ferrari, future Bishop of Brescia. During the Napoleonic era in Italy (1799-1814), the French Emperor closed seminaries. In Brescia, in 1807, he was ordained a priest and first launched the oratory. A book by Pietro Schedoni Moral Influences listed the reasons for the "rebellion" of young boys: leaving inadequate schools for a job, bad influences of adult workers, and peer pressure. The author confirmed Lodovico in his personalist approach: to concentrate on the personal and social formation of the young with a positive and preventative approach.
In 1812 when appointed secretary to Bishop Gabrio Nava, he received permission to continue with his "oratory". In 1818 he was named rector of the Church of St Barnabas with permission to found an orphanage and a vocational school that in 1821 became the "Institute of St Barnabas". Lodovico decided that the first trade would be book publishing; in 1823 he set up "The Publishing House of the Institute of St Barnabas", the precursor of today's Ancora press. The boys could also choose to be carpenters, silversmiths, blacksmiths, shoemakers, experts in tool and dye making. In 1823, Fr Pavoni welcomed the first deafmutes to the school. He purchased a farm to set up an Agricultural School.
In 1825 he established a religious institute to continue his work. In 1843 Pope Gregory XVI authorized it for Brescia. On 11 August 1847, the Brescia Vicar Capitular, Mons. Luchi, established the Congregation of the Sons of Mary Immaculate or "Pavoniani". On 8 December 1847, Lodovico and the first members made their religious profession.
On 24 March 1849, during the "Ten-Days" when Brescia rebelled against the Austrians, and both sides were ready to pillage the city, Bl. Lodovico, who had taken care of citizens during a cholera epidemic, performed his last heroic act of charity when he led his boys to safety to the novitiate on the hill of Saiano, 12 kilometres away. A week later he died at the dawn of Palm Sunday, 1 April 1849 as Brescia was in flames. Lodovico's ideal of education was a broad one, to dispose a person in his wholeness to be good. Fifty years before "Rerum novarum", he grasped the religious significance of social justice and set an example by his own dealings with his employees.
Like St John Bosco after him, Pavoni's used encouraging and preventative methods; he preferred gentleness to severity. He used to say, "Rigorism keeps Heaven empty".
His Congregation numbers 210 members in six nations: Brazil, Colombia, Eritrea, Germany, Italy and Spain. They still publish books. In Rome they run the Ancora bookstore outside St Peter's Square.