From friendship to action, from action to friendship. Giuseppe Tovini
2008 marks the tenth year of the beatification of Giuseppe Tovini (1841-1897), a lawyer of Brescia, the father of ten children and one of the greatest leaders of the Catholic movement in the second half of the nineteenth century. This was the time which, following Pius IX’s Non expedit, saw the flowering of an extraordinary social presence by Catholics, engaged in the construction of cultural, social, economic and financial works. Tovini was one of the protagonists of this achievement, which took the form of the Opera dei Congressi. As Vice President, he promoted the opening of Section III (Education and Training), of which he became President.
In his short lifetime he founded numerous organizations: newspapers and periodicals (such as “La Voce del popolo”, “Il Cittadino di Brescia”), the first association for female workers and various banks (Banca di Vallecamonica, Banco San Paolo di Brescia, Banco Ambrosiano); he promoted the railroad of the Valle Camonica to foster the development of the valley. But the center of Tovini’s concern was the educational emergency, clearly expressed in one of his statements: “Our Indies are our schools.” He founded schools (the Istituto Luzzago and the Istituto Arici), kindergartens, teacher training colleges, a journal for teachers (Scuola Italiana Moderna, still published today), a League for giving teachers in-service training and an insurance company. In addition Fr. Gemelli always acknowledged that he was the originator of the idea of the Catholic University. The statutes of the banks which he founded always included among their aims support for charitable works, particularly those with an educational purpose.
Tovini lived this commitment, which was also public and political (he was mayor of Cividate Camuno and a city and provincial councilor in Brescia) with full awareness of the civic value of works born in the Catholic tradition (“Being a Catholic never prevented me from loving my country”): a commitment opposed but respected by men like Zanardelli.
The exhibition will not explore Tovini’s achievement in biographical terms. It will start with the works themselves and their significance. The second section will recount the historical context (Italy after unification, Brescia and the Valle Camonica) as well as the friendly context in which Tovini worked, from the protagonists of the Opera dei Congressi to the teachers and friends in Brescia who collaborated with him. Highly significant, in this respect is the judgment passed on Tovini and this Catholic flowering by the then Monsignor G. B. Montini (the future Paul VI and the son of Giorgio Montini, the editor of Il Cittadino which Tovini had founded). In his introduction to the biography written by Cistellini (1953) he recalled: “From friendship to action, from action to friendship; … wherever this circulation of charity had its course works flowered, and whether large or small, successful or unsuccessful, they had an apologetic value, a representative virtue; and wherever this slowed, some of their brightness was dimmed and some of their effectiveness was lost.”
The third section will illustrate Tovini’s relationship with his wife and children, his profession life as a lawyer, his attitude to the illness which led to his death at an early age and his relationship with Christ, the source of his work and being. These are the dimensions of Tovini’s life which testify to its profound unity, well described by one of the most effective direct testimonies: “His life was both continuous warfare and continuous prayer.” In this section Tovini will speak for himself in full through his letters, his speeches to the Catholic Congresses, and to direct witnesses.
Finally the exhibition will present the great relevance today of Tovini’s message to Christians and laymen engaged in everyday reality: journalists and teachers, husbands and parents, bankers and politicians. It is a life which is a judgment and has much to say to all those who are engaged today in the creation of works.