“One by one, as we were born, Mother consecrated each of us to Mary, Queen of the Flowers.” Father Alberione wrote these words in 1959, more than seventy years after his birth on April 4, 1884, at San Lorenzo di Fossano (Cuneo, North Italy). He was the fifth son of a peasant family and had a more delicate physical constitution than his brothers.
James Alberione was baptized the day after his birth. He received his first education in honest and laborious living. There he acquired a well-defined and certain faith. His parents taught not by word alone, but with their daily example: by attendance at church and by their work. His mother of strong character asked God to give one of her sons the grace of a priestly vocation. Therefore, she rejoiced at James’ vocation and gave this son to the Lord with all her heart, without any trace of selfishness.
Later, Father Alberione would speak of his mother in this way, “She was a farm woman of simple habits, who only knew how to do three things: to pray, to have patience and to take care of her children
Out of eighty students in his class, when asked what they wanted to do in life, James was the only student who said that he wanted to be a priest. This was recorded by his teacher Rosa Cardona. This was the first clear light that dawned on the young James. Being called to pay attention to his duties by fellow students, who sometimes would call him “priest” only served to deepen this desire and to plan things for the future. Because James was attuned to the things of God, the pastor of his parish permitted him to make his first Holy communion earlier that his companions. He was eight years old. His missionary zeal was also fired by the work of the Holy Childhood Association; he collected money for it and was an avid reader of the adventures of the missionaries.
Later on when he was sixteen, he was already in the seminary. Some books had been passed to him by fellow students which caused a crisis in his vocation. Yet, later in life he mentioned this incident saying that it had a positive effect on his future as an apostle of the good press, for he would begin an apostolate using the means of social communication.
James Alberione went to Benevello several times to improve his health, the first time while he was a seminarian at Bra. Everyone was concerned about him because his health was so poor. But God kept his promises. The Divine Master appeared to him in a dream and reassured him, "Do not be afraid. I am with you. From here I want to enlighten. Be sorry for sin". In Benevello, our Founder got to know a number of boys and girls who later entered his first two foundations. One of these first vocations was Maggiorino Vigolungo.
After transferring from the minor seminary to that of Alba, James found a truly ideal spiritual director in Father Francis Chiesa (now a servant of God). This priest was a model for him to imitate. He applied himself with constancy to his studies, revealing an intelligent openness to the problems of contemporary society.
He was esteemed by his fellow-seminarians and superiors. On June 29,1907, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Francesco Re of Alba.