Blessed Alberto Marvelli
1918 – 1946
Alberto Marvelli was born on 21 March 1918 in Ferrara, Italy, the second of six children to Luigi Marvelli and Maria Mayr. He was a lively child but also very thoughtful and reserved, most sensitive to the needs of others.
Growing up, Alberto was especially influenced by his mother, who was the “Good Samaritan” of the Marvelli family and always kept open house for the poor. It was not uncommon for Alberto to see half his meal disappear right before his eyes so it could be given to the hungry. “Jesus has come, and he is hungry”, his mother used to say.
Together with the highly Christian education he received from his parents, Alberto learned to be a hard worker and to defend justice and truth according to the Gospel.
In June 1930 the Marvelli family moved to Rimini and Alberto began to attend the Salesian Oratory and Catholic Action group in the parish, where his faith was nurtured and sustained, increasing his awareness of his call to holiness. He would often say, “My programme of life is summed up in one word: holy”.
Alberto was very athletic and loved all kinds of sports, especially bicycling; this was providential, because it enabled him to carry out his future apostolate and works of charity and assistance.
In October 1933, following the unexpected death of his father on 7 March of that same year, Alberto began to keep a spiritual diary at age 15 in which he detailed his daily schedule: “I rise as early as possible each morning, as soon as the alarm rings; a half-hour of meditation every day, not to be neglected except for circumstances out of my control; half an hour at least dedicated to spiritual reading; Mass every morning and Holy Communion as regularly as possible; confession once a week normally and frequent spiritual direction; daily recitation of the Rosary and Angelus at noon”.
When he was only 18, Alberto was elected president of Catholic Action. At Bologna University where he continued his studies, he was active in the Catholic organization, in addition to directing his Catholic Action group in Rimini. Every Saturday, upon returning home, he would give lectures, visit the poor and prepare programmes for the upcoming days. His primary concern was the plight of the poor.
Alberto graduated in 1941 with a degree in engineering and left immediately for military service, only to be exempted from it after a few months because two of his brothers were already in service.
Upon his return to Rimini, he was elected diocesan vice-president of Catholic Action. He began teaching in a high school, devoting his time to designing projects, to prayer (he was especially devoted to the Eucharist) and to helping the sick and poor.
During the Second World War, the Marvelli family was forced to move to Vergiano, seven kilometres from Rimini, because of the devastating air raids. After each bombing, however, at the risk of his own life, Alberto returned to the city to help the wounded, dying and homeless.
He gave to the poor what he had collected or bought with his own money: food, clothing, mattresses and blankets. Then, on his bicycle, he would carry what he could and distribute it to the needy. Sometimes he returned home without his shoes or even without a bicycle, all because he had given them to the neediest he met that day.
During the German occupation, Alberto was able to save many people from deportation to the concentration camps, courageously freeing them from the sealed carriages of the trains that were ready to leave the station of Santarcangelo.
After the liberation of Rimini on 23 September 1945, the Marvelli family returned to the city, now in ruins and without running water, electricity or sanitation.
The interim Authorities immediately entrusted Alberto with the allocation of housing. He proved to be an able administrator and a few months later became town councillor and a member of the Italian Society of Civil Engineers.
He also opened a soup kitchen and invited the poor to go to Mass and prayed with them, listening patiently to their troubles and worries, entrusting them all to God the Father. Alberto did not belong to any party at first, but joined the Christian Democrats after the war and became an active member of the Executive Committee. He understood politics as an important service of faith and justice to society.
He was one of the most popular candidates of the Christian Democratic Party and was respected by all, even by his political adversaries, the Communists, whose ideology he openly criticized; they acknowledged his honesty and profound dedication to the well-being of the community.
On the evening of 5 October 1946, as Alberto was cycling to attend a meeting for the local elections, for which he was a candidate, he was run over by an army truck and died a few hours later without regaining consciousness. He was 28 years old.
The scheduled elections were held as news of his death spread throughout the city, and many citizens decided to vote for him just the same. His mother, however, was elected in his place.