Artemides Zatti was born in Boretto (Reggio Emilia) on 12 October 1880. Early in life he experienced the harshness of sacrifice, so much so that at the age of nine he was already earning his living as a labourer. Forced by poverty, the Zatti family, in early 1897 (Artemide was then 17 years old), emigrated to Argentina and settled in Bahía Blanca.
Young Artemides immediately started working, first in a hotel and then in a brick factory. He started attending the parish run by the Salesians. The parish priest at that time was a Salesian, Fr. Carlo Cavalli, a pious man of extraordinary goodness. Artemide found in him his spiritual director and the parish priest found in Artemide an excellent collaborator. It did not take long for him to turn towards Salesian life. When he was 20 years old he left for the aspirantate in Bernal. Those were very hard years for Artemide, who was ahead of his companions in age but behind them in terms of the few studies he had done. He overcame all the difficulties, however, thanks to his tenacious will, keen intelligence and solid piety.
While taking care of a young priest hit by tuberclosis, he unfortunately contracted the disease. The paternal concern of Fr. Cavalli - who followed him from afar - meant that the Salesian House of Viedma was chosen for him, where there was a more suitable climate and above all a missionary hospital with a good Salesian nurse who in practice acted as a 'doctor': Fr. Evasio Garrone. The latter immediately realised the serious state of the young man's health and at the same time sensed his uncommon virtues. He invited Artemide to pray to Mary Help of Christians to obtain healing, but also suggested making a promise: "If She heals you, you will dedicate your whole life to these sick people". Artemide willingly made this promise and was mysteriously healed. He accepted with humility and docility, the great suffering of renouncing his desire for priesthood (because of the illness he had contracted). Neither then, nor later did he lament for this unattained goal of his life.
He made his first profession as a coadjutor brother on 11 January 1908 and his Perpetual Profession on 18 February 1911. In keeping with the promise he made to Our Lady, he immediately and totally consecrated himself to the hospital, initially taking charge of the adjoining pharmacy after obtaining the title of 'qualified in pharmacy'. When Fr. Garrone died in 1913, all responsibility for the hospital fell on his shoulders. In fact, he became it’s vice-director, administrator, an expert nurse esteemed by all the sick and by the doctors themselves, who gradually gave him more and more freedom of action. Throughout his life, the hospital was the place where he exercised his virtue, day after day, to a heroic degree.
His service was not limited to the hospital, but extended to the whole city, or rather to the two towns on the banks of the river Negro: Viedma and Patagones. He usually went out with his white coat and with his bag containing the most common medicines; with one hand on the handlebar and the other with the rosary. He preferred poor families, but was also called upon by the rich. In case of need, he moved at all hours of the day and night, whatever the weather be. He did not stay in the city centre, but also went to the hovels of the suburbs. He did everything for free, and if he received anything, he gave it to the hospital.
Artemides Zatti loved his sick in a truly moving way, as he saw Jesus himself in them. He was always obsequious towards the doctors and hospital owners. But the situation was not always easy, both because of the character of some of them and because of the disagreements that could arise between the legal managers and him. However, he was able to win over them and with his harmonious balance he managed to resolve even the most delicate situations. Only a profound self-mastery could make it possible for him to triumph over the hassle and the easy irregularities of the timetable.
He was an edifying witness of fidelity to the community life. It amazed everyone how this holy religious, so busy with his many commitments at the hospital, could at the same time be the exemplary representative of regularity. It was he who rang the bell, it was he who preceded all the other brothers in community appointments. Faithful to the Salesian spirit and to the motto - 'work and temperance' - bequeathed by Don Bosco to his sons, he carried out his prodigious activity with habitual readiness of spirit, with a spirit of sacrifice especially during night duty, with absolute detachment from any personal satisfaction, never taking holidays or rest. As a good Salesian, he knew how to make cheerfulness a component of his holiness. He always appeared cheerfully smiling: this is how all the photos that have reached us portray him. He was a man of easy human relations, with a visible charge of sympathy, always happy to entertain humble people. But he was above all a man of God. He radiated it. One of the hospital doctors said: 'When I saw Br. Zatti my disbelief wavered'. And another: 'I have believed in God ever since I met Br. Zatti'.
In 1950, he fell from a ladder and it was at this accident that the symptoms of cancer manifested themselves, which he lucidly diagnosed. However, he continued with his mission for another year, until after heroically accepting his sufferings, he passed away on 15 March 1951 in full consciousness, surrounded by the affection and gratitude of a population that from then on began to invoke him as an intercessor with God. All the inhabitants of Viedma and Patagones flocked to his funeral in an unprecedented procession.
The fame of his holiness spread quickly and his tomb began to be much venerated. Even today, when people go to the cemetery for funerals, they always visit the tomb of Artemides Zatti. Beatified by St John Paul II on 14 April 2002, Blessed Artemides Zatti was the first non-martyr Salesian coadjutor brother to be raised to the honours of the altars.
Fr. Pierluigi Cameroni SDB - Postulator General