Father and founder of Nomadelfia is Fr. Zeno Saltini.


AUGUST 30, 1900. Zeno Saltini was born on August 30, 1900 in Fossoli di Carpi (Modena) in a patriarchal family.

1914. REFUSAL TO ATTEND SCHOOL. At 14 and a half years of age, Fr. Zeno refused to continue his studies, stating that school taught things which did not affect life, and went to work on his family's land. He lived with the workers and became familiar with their miseries and their aspirations.

1920. A CHANGE IN CIVILIZATION.During the period in which Fr. Zeno was a soldier in the National Service in Florence, he had a brutal encounter with an anarchist in the presence of other soldiers. The anarchist sustained that Christ and the Church were obstacles to human progress.

Zeno, being Catholic, sustained the opposite, while recognizing that many Christians are incoherent. But the anarchist was a studious man and he was not. In the midst of the other soldiers' whistles, mostly in favor of the anarchist, Zeno retreated and decided: "I will answer him with my life. I will change civilization by first changing myself. For the rest of my life, I want to be neither a servant nor a master".

He decided to study law and theology and meanwhile continued to participate in apostolic activities as well as helped needy youngsters.

The story

danilo il primo ragazzo preso come figlio da don zenoHe received his college degree at the Catholic University of Milan. As an attorney, his intentions were to help those that could not afford to pay for a counselor. Soon after he realized his mission was to prevent people from falling into misfortune and decided to become a priest.


1931 - PRIEST - THE FIRST SON. He celebrated his first Mass in the Carpi Dome and at the altar took Danilo, a 17 years old boy who had just been released from prison, as his son.


Irene la prima mamma di vocazione di Nomadelfia1941 - THE FIRST MOTHER.

In S. Giacomo Roncole, near Mirandola (MO), Fr. Zeno welcomed abandoned children as his own and founded the "Little apostles". At the altar he swore never to form a college.

World War II broke out.

In 1941, a young student named Irene ran away from home and asked Fr. Zeno if she could become "mother" of the "Little Apostles".

With the approval of his bishop, Fr. Zeno entrusted the youngest children in her care and hence the beginning of a new and virgin motherhood. Other young women soon followed in Irene's footsteps and became known as "mothers of vocation".

Other clergymen joined Fr. Zeno and together lived as communitarian priests.



1943-1945 - THE RESISTANCE. Following the armistice on September 8, 1943, the Germans occupied Italy.

Fr. Zeno had always been against fascism, the war and racial laws. He went South and some of his children followed him in order to escape a possible deportation to Germany.

Don Zeno, che aveva preso più volte posizione contro il fascismo, la guerra e le leggi razziali, parte per il Sud. Alcuni figli lo seguono per sfuggire alle deportazioni in Germania.

In San Giacomo, Fr. Zeno's mission was persecuted and many tried to dissolve it.

Many children of the "Little Apostles" entered the partisan organizations while some priests collaborated with the resistance and helped hundreds of Jews and persecuted politicians to reach Switzerland by providing them with false identification.

Seven "Littles Apostles" lost their lives in the battle for freedom.


Nomadelfi al lavoro per bonificare l'ex campo di concentramento di Fossoli1948 - NOMADELFIA IS BORN. After the end of the war in 1947, the "Little Apostles" occupied the ex-concentration camp in Fossoli, near Carpi, to build their new town. As they tore down walls and fences, in addition to the "mothers of vocation", new families were formed by newlyweds who asked Fr. Zeno's permission to take in abandoned children and raise them as their own.

On February 14, 1948, the constitution was signed at the altar and hence the "Little Apostles" became Nomadelfia, which in Greek means "the law of brotherhood".



 Don Zeno tiene un comizio al popolo1950 - THE MOVEMENT FOR BROTHERHOOD.In 1950 Nomadelfia proposed a political movement called "Movement for brotherhood" in order to abolish any form of abuse while promoting a democracy. But the initiative was blocked by political forces and by some ecclesiastical milieus.

800 of the 1,150 Nomadelfians which made up the community at this time were abandoned children (many of which were in need of medical treatment). There were also 150 homeless and unemployed adults. The economic situation became more and more difficult and many used this as an excuse to dissolve Nomadelfia.



1952 - THE DISSOLUTION. On February 5, 1952, the Holy Office ordered Fr. Zeno to leave Nomadelfia and he obeyed. Since the Nomadelfians had been forced to leave Fossoli, they seeked shelter in Grosseto on 400 hectares of land that had been donated by Maria Giovanna Albertoni Pirelli, where most lived in tents.

Although Fr. Zeno was far from his children, he continued to provide for them. On various occasions, he went to court in defense of the children who had been taken out of their families and had gone back to living bad lives.


1953 - THE SECULARIZATION PRO GRATIA. Fr. Zeno asked the Pope's permission to temporarily leave priesthood in order to return to his children. In 1953, Pope Pius XII granted him the secularization "pro gratia". At this time there were about 400 Nomadelfians.


1962 - THE "SECOND" FIRST MASS. Fr. Zeno created the "family groups" in 1954. In 1961, Nomadelfia became a civil association and drew up a new constitution. At this point, Fr. Zeno asked the Holy Father's permission to re-enter priesthood. Nomadelfia was made a parish and Fr. Zeno was nominated the parish priest.

On January 22, 1962, he celebrated his "second" first mass.

In 1965, Fr. Zeno proposed Nomadelfians a new form of apostolate: "Nomadelfian Entertainment Evenings", which consisted in a dance performance.

The monthly magazine "Nomadelfia is a Proposal" was first published in 1968.

And in that same year Nomadelfians were given authorization to educate their children in their own schools.



AUGUST 12, 1980. Nomadelfians performed for Pope John Paul II at the villa in Castelgandolfo. All of Nomadelfia was present and the Holy Father stated: "If we are called to be the sons of God and brothers, then Nomadelfia is a presage of the world to come".


JANUARY 15, 1981 - FATHER ZENO'S DEATH. A few months later, Fr. Zeno suffered a heart attack and spoke his last words, which are considered his testament, to the Nomadelfians.

Fr. Zeno died in Nomadelfia on January 15, 1981 while the Holy Father was receiving a Nomadelfian delegation to pray for Fr. Zeno.


Nomadelfia today

A group of catholic volunteers that wishes to construct a new civilization based on the Gospel



A life on the style of the first christian communities



270 people - 50 families



4 square kms. near Grosseto in Tuscany - Italy



Founded by Fr. Zeno Saltini (1900-1981). After his ordination into priesthood in 1931, he adopted a young man who had been released from prison. Since then, more than 5,000 young people have been taken in by the families of Nomadelfia



All goods are shared. There is no private property and no money



One works only within Nomadelfia and there is no compensation



The families are willing to adopt children



4 or 5 families make up a "family group"



Schooling is mandatory until the age of 18 and schools are located within the community



The Pope in Nomadelfia

On Sunday, May 21, 1989, Pope John Paul II visited Nomadelfia.


He entered a family group and baptized the youngest child in our church. Two dances, which were taken from the "Entertainment Evenings", were performed for the Holy Father in the tent theatre. At the end the Pope spoke to the 4,000 people present, among which were Nomadelfians, ex-Nomadelfians and friends from all over Italy.


"I came to see where and how the community operates"

"You are a parish which is inspired by the Acts of the Apostles"

"A society which prepares its laws by taking them from the ideals preached by Christ"

"Vi chiedo di amare la Chiesa, poiché anch'essa vi ama ed apprezza la vostra esperienza"

"Voi sapete bene, perché don Zeno ve l'ha insegnato con la sua vita, che ad un mondo talora ostile e lontano dalla fede occorre rispondere con la testimonianza della propria vita, con opere e segni visibili di amore fraterno. Nomadelfia può fare questo e lo sa fare, poichè essa è un popolo che si ispira, come dice il suo nome, alla legge della fraternità. Evviva Nomadelfia!"



The community of believers lived in unison, and those who had possessions did not consider them as their own but rather put them all together.



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