A New People

Nomadelfia is a community of Catholic volunteers who has put evangelical fraternity at the foundation of his life.

Our desire is to show that it is possible to live the Gospel in a social form by giving ourselves completely to others, thus realizing the principles of justice and fraternity that we have chosen to follow. Currently, Nomadelfia is made up of about 300 people.

Nomadelfia is a population of families and individuals, including some priests. Joining Nomadelfia means responding to a vocation.

The Nomadelfia Components

The population of Nomadelfia is made up of families, unmarried people and priests. You become a Nomadelfi after a three-year trial period. 

Children are children born or accepted in the Community. The permanent guests they are people in need who are accepted by the Community, they share their life, respecting the environment and the rules. THE priests and deacons they share the life of the family group and of the community on a par with other brothers. The relationship between them and their bishop is governed by a specific Convention. 

There vocation mother she is an unmarried woman who gives herself entirely to children from a situation of discomfort, the "children of abandonment".

It is one of the historically and spiritually most important figures of Nomadelfia, because it is thanks to the mothers of vocation that Nomadelfia has been able to take its first steps. 

The vocation mother is not a welfare figure, she is not a nun or a professional educator: it's a mom, and remains so throughout the course of life.

Our history


Nomadelfia is the fruit of a long individual and community journey.

Individual because our values, our principles, our way of life come from the charisma that was embodied in our founder, Don Zeno Saltini (1900-1981). Community because this charism gathers around itself a group of families and individuals who have chosen to follow it, in a journey of sharing life.

In 1931, during his first mass, Don Zeno took as a son a young man who had just been released from prison. In 1941 Irene Bertoni, a young high school student, offered to be a mother to the children received in the rectory. After the Second World War, married couples will be added.

"Change civilization, beginning with myself": with this affirmation, Don Zeno invited us to build, now, the world in which our brothers will live, tomorrow.


1900 - 1920 - THE YOUNG ZENO

Zeno Saltini was born in Fossoli di Carpi (MO) on 30 August 1900, in a patriarchal family. From his grandfather, Zeno learns respect for workers and a sense of responsibility towards the weakest. At 14 and a half, he refused to continue his studies, stating that at school they teach things that do not affect life, and he goes to work on the family farms: he lives among the laborers, knows their miseries and shares their just aspirations.


A conscript soldier in the barracks of the III Telegraphers in Florence, Zeno has a verbal confrontation with an anarchist friend in the presence of the other soldiers. The anarchist claims that Christ and the Church are an obstacle to human progress. Zeno maintains the contrary, while acknowledging that Christians are largely inconsistent. But the anarchist is educated and he is not: among the whistles of the other soldiers, Zeno retires alone and decides: "I will answer him with my life. Change civilization starting with myself. All my life I no longer want to be neither servant nor master. "

He decides to study law and theology, while continuing to devote himself to apostolic activities and to the recovery of disbanded children. He graduated in law from the Catholic University of Milan: he intended to defend those who could not pay a lawyer as a lawyer. Later, however, he realizes that his mission is to prevent the poor from falling into disgrace, and for this he decides to become a priest.


After training as a priest, Don Zeno celebrates his first Mass in the Cathedral of Carpi. At the altar he takes as a son a 17-year-old boy who has just been released from prison: Danilo.


In S. Giacomo Roncole, near Mirandola (MO), don Zeno welcomes other abandoned children as sons and establishes the Opera Piccoli Apostoli. He has sworn on the altar that he would never have a college, but he realizes that, for this to be possible, his children must also have the love of a mother. In 1941 a young student, Irene, escaped from home and introduced herself to Don Zeno declaring herself willing to be a mother to the Little Apostles. Don Zeno, with the approval of the bishop, entrusts the little ones to her and is born with her a new motherhood, virgin. Other young women follow her, they are the "mothers of vocation". Some priests join Don Zeno and start a community clergy.

1943-1945 - THE RESISTANCE

With the armistice of 8 September 1943 the Germans occupy Italy. Don Zeno, who had repeatedly taken a stand against fascism, war and racial laws, left for the South. Some children followed him to escape deportations to Germany. Meanwhile, in St. James, the Work is severely persecuted, and an attempt is made to disperse it.

Several young Little Apostles enter partisan formations, while some PA priests contribute to the organization of the resistance, helping hundreds of Jews and persecuted politicians to reach Switzerland with false documents. Seven Little Apostles lose their lives for the reconquest of freedom.


After the end of the war, in 1947, the Little Apostles occupy the former concentration camp of Fossoli, near Carpi, to build their new city. They demolish walls and fences, while alongside the families of vocational mothers the first spouses families are formed, asking don Zeno to be able to welcome the abandoned children, determined to love them as well as those who will be born from their marriage.

On February 14, 1948, the population approves the text of a Constitution that will be signed on the altar. Thus the Opera Piccoli Apostoli becomes Nomadelfia, which means from the Greek: "Where fraternity is law".


In the midst of reconstruction and political conflicts, Nomadelfia offers the people a political movement called the "Movement of the Human Fraternity", to abolish all forms of exploitation and to promote direct democracy. But the hostility of the political forces in government and of some ecclesiastical circles blocks the initiative.

Meanwhile, the economic situation of Nomadelfia becomes increasingly heavy: the population touches the 1150 people, of which 800 children are welcomed, many of whom need special care, and 150 guests without a home and without a job.


Given the economic situation of Nomadelfia, on 5 February 1952 the Holy Office ordered Don Zeno to leave the community. Don Zeno obeys. Forced to abandon Fossoli, the Nomadelfi take refuge in Grosseto, on an estate of several hundred hectares to be reclaimed, donated by Maria Giovanna Albertoni Pirelli, where they mostly live under tents.

Although far from his children, Don Zeno tries to provide for their needs, and more and more often he has to defend some of them in court who, torn from the families of Nomadelfia, have fallen into the underworld.


Don Zeno therefore asks the Pope to temporarily renounce the exercise of the priesthood to return to the leadership of his children. In 1953 Pio XII granted him the secularization "pro gratia". He lays the robe, returns to his children. The Nomadelfi after the diaspora are about 400. In 1954, Don Zeno creates "family groups".


In 1961 the nomadelfi give themselves a new Constitution as a civil association, and don Zeno asks the Holy See to resume the exercise of the priesthood. Nomadelfia is erected in the parish and don Zeno appointed parish priest. On 22 January 1962 he celebrated his "second first mass".


In 1965, Don Zeno proposed to the nomadelfi a new form of apostolate: the "Nomadelfia Evenings", a dance show.
In 1968 begins the publication of the monthly "Nomadelfia is a proposal". In the same year the nomadelfi obtained from the Ministry of Education to educate their children under their responsibility, in their own internal school.


On 12 August 1980, when Don Zeno was eighty years old, the nomadelfi presented a "Evening" to Giovanni Paolo II, in the villa of Castelgandolfo. The entire population of Nomadelfia is present. The Pope says among other things: "If we are vocated to be children of God and among us brothers, then the rule called Nomadelfia is a warning and a foretaste of this future world where we are all called".


A few months after the meeting with the Pope, Don Zeno suffered a heart attack. Before losing consciousness, he addresses a few words to the Nomadelfi, which can be considered his spiritual testament. He died in Nomadelfia on 15 January 1981, while the Pope received a delegation of Nomadelfi, with whom he prayed for him and sent his blessing.


Eight years after the death of Don Zeno, the Pope personally goes to Nomadelfia "to see how and where the community lives and works". Visit a family group and baptize the youngest child in our church. In the tent theater he is presented with two dances taken from the "Evenings". In the end the Pope speaks to about 4000 people including nomadelfi, ex-nomadelfi and friends from all over Italy.

"You know well, because Don Zeno taught you with his life, that to a world sometimes hostile and far from faith it is necessary to respond with the witness of one's life, with visible works and signs of fraternal love. Nomadelfia can do this and knows how to do it, because it is a people that is inspired, as its name says, by the law of fraternity. Hooray Nomadelfia! "


27 years after Pope John Paul II's visit, the entire population of Nomadelfia is received by Pope Francis in the Vatican, in the Clementine Hall. This event is a further confirmation of the fact that Nomadelfia is in harmony with the Church.

Link to Speech>

10 MAY 2018 - POPE FRANCIS in Nomadelfia

On 10 May 2018, Pope Francis goes on an apostolic visit to Nomadelfia and Loppiano. A family group visits Nomadelfia and meets the whole population gathered for the occasion. "Nomadelfia is a prophetic reality," he says, "which aims to achieve a new civilization, implementing the Gospel as a good and beautiful form of life.". 

Link to the Speech of Pope Francis>

Nomadelfia in the Church

In the Church, Nomadelfia is a private association of the faithful. The constitution was approved by the Holy See, definitively, by decree Prot. N. 94001494 of June 18, 2000.

Nomadelfia is also a parish of the Diocese of Grosseto, a "community parish".

Nomadelfia in the State

Towards the State, Nomadelfia is aCivil Association without legal personality (Constitutive Act was approved on March 22, 2013).

Nomadelfia also operates through an agricultural cooperative, a cultural cooperative and a foundation.

Our "Constitution"

Both as a civil association and as a private association of the faithful, Nomadelfia has a constitution of its own, plus a series of regulations, which together guarantee the democracy and transparency of decisions taken within the community. Nomadelfia is in fact a direct democracy, which is expressed through elections and voting. All votes and elections are also confirmed with a vote of unanimity, to guarantee the unity of the population. 


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