John Baptist Rossi was born in a village near Genoa, Italy to Charles de Rossi and Frances Anfossi. He was one of four children and his family loved him. They were proud when a wealthy couple visiting their town offered to educate him. His parents knew the couple and trusted them.
John was happy to be able to go to their house in Genoa because he could attend school. He then met some Capuchin friars who became fond of him and helped him continue his education in Rome. He became a student for the priesthood at the Roman College run by Jesuit priests. He realized that studies were easy for him and took on more and more of a load.
John became very sick and had to stop his studies for a while. Sometime later he completed his preparation and became a priest. Even though his health was always poor, Father John did so much good for the people of Rome. He knew what it was like not to feel well, so Father Rossi took a special interest in sick people. He was a frequent visitor in Rome's hospitals.
He especially loved to spend time with the poor people at the Hospice of St. Galla. This was a shelter for the poor and homeless. But Father Rossi became aware of poor people who had no one to look after their spiritual needs.
He noticed those who brought cattle and sheep to sell in the Roman markets. What hard lives they had. They came in the morning with their herds. Father Rossi would walk among them and stop and talk with them. When possible, he would teach them about the faith and offer them the sacrament of Reconciliation. Father Rossi's priestly ministry made a big difference in their lives.
The priest also felt deep compassion for the homeless women and girls. They wandered through the streets day and night begging. This was dangerous and very sad. The pope gave Father Rossi money to open a shelter for homeless women.
It was right near the Hospice of St. Galla. Father Rossi placed the house under the protection of one of his favorite saints, Aloysius Gonzaga. Father Rossi became best known for his kindness and gentleness in confession. People formed lines near his confessional and waited patiently for their turn. He once said to a friend that the best way for a priest to reach heaven was to help people through the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Another favorite job he was given by Pope Benedict XIV was to teach Catechism to prison and government officials, including the public hangman. Father Rossi suffered a stroke in 1763 and did not get better again. He was able to celebrate Mass but he suffered greatly. This wonderful priest died at the age of sixty-six. It was May 23, 1764.
How can we help our priests? May we may always pray for them and ask Jesus to console them.