Luigi Variara was born in Viarigi in the province of Asti on 15 January 1875 of a deeply Christian family. His father Pietro had heard Don Bosco speak in 1856, when he had arrived in the village to preach a mission.
He decided to take Luigi to Valdocco to continue his studies. The saint would die four months later. But the fact that young Luigi had got to know himwas enough to mark him for life.
When he finished his high school, he asked to become a Salesian. He entered the novitiate on 17 August 1891. Luigi studiedpPhilosophy at Valsalice, where he met Fr Andrew Beltrami, who impressed him with the joy with which he faced his illness. In 1894 Fr Unia, the famous missionary of the lepers at Agua de Dios, was in Valsalice to choose a cleric to look after the young lepers. Among the 188 companions who had the same aspiration, fixing his gaze on Variara, he said: "This one is mine."
Luigi arrived in Agua de Dios on 6 August 1894. The mission had 2000 inhabitants, of whom 800 were lepers. As soon as he arrived, he became the soul of all the patients, particularly children. He organised a band, animating the sick with an unexpected festive atmosphere. In 1895 Fr Unia died and Luigi was left alone with Fr Crippa.
In 1898 he was ordained a priest. He soon turned out to be an excellent spiritual director. In 1905 the construction of the "Asilo don Unia" concluded, an place capable of hosting up to 150 orphans and lepers, and guaranteeing them education in a trade and future insertion into society. In Agua de Dios, the Sisters of Providence had started the Association of the Daughters of Mary, a group of 200 girls. He was their confessor. He identified some calls to religious life in the group The bold project was born - a unique thing in the Church - of an Institute that would allow the acceptance of leprosy patients. Inspired by the spirituality of Fr Beltrami, he developed Salesian 'victimal' charism and founded the Congregation of the "Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary", which today numbers 600 religious.
Due to this foundation he had much to suffer from the misunderstanding of the people and some superiors, who thought it best to remove him from Agua de Dios several times. Like Don Bosco, he was exemplary in obedience. Faced with slander he did not say a word. He was credible because he was obedient.
Fr Rua from Turin encouraged him. He died away from his sick loved ones, as obedience had wanted. Now he rests in Agua de Dios, in the chapel of his Daughters.
Declared Venerable 2 April 1993; beatified April 14, 2002 by John Paul II