Jerome was born in 1486, the son of a Venetian noble family. He was a good soldier and was put in command of a fortress high in the mountains. While defending this post from an invasion by some troops of Maximilian I, he was taken prisoner. Chained and imprisoned, he began to regret the waste, carelessness and immorality of his past life in which he had devoted so little time to God. Jerome promised the Blessed Virgin that he would change his life if she would help him. His prayers were answered and he escaped. It is said that Jerome, with a grateful heart, went straight to a church. He hung his prison chains in front of Mary's altar.
The young man eventually became a priest. He was devoted to works of charity. His special concern was for the many homeless orphan children he found in the streets. He rented a house for them, and gave them clothes and food. He instructed them in the truths of the faith. Jerome started a religious congregation of men called the Company of the Servants of the Poor. They would care for the poor, especially orphans, and would teach youth.
He did all he could for the peasants too, working with them in the fields and talking to them of God's goodness.
He died while caring for plague victims on this day in 1537. Canonised in 1767 by Pope Benedict XIV, in 1928 Pope Pius XI named St Jerome Emiliani the patron saint of orphans and homeless children.