The Holy Spirit moved mysteriously over the "waters" of the Piedmont region in Northern Italy over several decades in the 19th Century. This was a tumultuous time for the church. The pope had been imprisoned, the Papal States were confiscated by the new king of Italy, and the rise of nationalism led to the outright persecution of the clergy, parishes, and Catholic schools. This was particularly the case in Germany with Otto von Bismarck. The heresy of Jansenism had a negative impact on people, and there were still lingering anti-Catholic sentiments from the French Revolution. The general population was skeptical of Catholicism. God thus responded, producing a number of saints. Never has there been so many saints from one area (around Turin) during one period of time. Pope Francis has referred to them as the 'social saints.' We have Saints John Bosco, Joseph Cafasso, Leonardo Murialdo, Luigi Orione, and Joseph Cottolengo. There are others on their way to sainthood, such as Bruno Lanteri, Francis Faa di Bruno, and the 24-year-old Pier Giorgio Frassati..
Saint John Bosco, the "apostle to the youth" and founder of the Salesian Order was known for his great smile and exceptional love for all people. Saint Joseph Cafasso was Bosco's close friend and the one who inspired Bosco with his pastoral visits to the suffering. Saint Murialdo founded the Society of Saint Joseph, which looked after delinquent children, and Saint Orione, who was an apprentice to Bosco, founded the Hermits of Divine Providence, which tended to the poor and sick. Saint Cottolengo likewise opened a home for the sick and orphans. These holy priests won back the people's hearts to Catholicism and proved true Christ's claim that "the gates of the netherworld shall never prevail against the Church."