James was born on April 4, 1884, in San Lorenzo di Fossano (Cuneo), to Michele Alberione and Teresa Rosa Allocco, in a peasant family. At 16 years of age he entered the Seminary of Alba, where on the night between December 31, 1900, and January 1, 1901, he had a powerful experience of prayer in which he felt obliged to serve the Church and to do something for the Lord and for the people of the new century. He was ordained a priest on June 29, 1907. The Lord guided him toward a new undertaking, multifaceted in its means and structures: to preach the Gospel to all people, with the fastest and most efficacious means, in the spirit of the Apostle Paul.
Obedient to God and to the Church, on August 20, 1914, he began the Pauline Family in Alba with the foundation of the Society of Saint Paul. This was followed over time by the foundations of four Congregations for women, which were different and independent from one another, each with its specific purpose, but convergent: the Daughters of Saint Paul, Sister Disciples of the Divine Master, Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and the Sisters of Mary Queen of the Apostles. Then there were the Institutes of consecrated secular life: Jesus Priest, Mary Most Holy of the Annunciation, Saint Gabriel Archangel, and Holy Family. Cooperators. They are all united by the same ideal of holiness and of apostolate: to live and give Jesus Christ the Master, way, truth and life to all of humanity in the culture of communication, with the fastest and most efficacious means, in the spirit of the Apostle Paul, under the gaze of Mary, Mother, Teacher and Queen of the Apostles.
This total and unifying experience was lived by Father Alberione “at the school of Saint Paul”; or more precisely, “through Saint Paul”; that is, receiving directly from the Apostle the gift of his experiential knowledge of Jesus and participation in his divine life, which was then projected in the zeal of the apostolic proclamation. From this derives the insistent declaration of the Founder that it is only through Saint Paul that the Pauline Family realizes its vital contact with Christ, interprets the Gospel exactly, and lives its specific vocation and mission in the world today, with the means of today.
With great humility, Father Alberione declared in 1960: “The hand of the Lord is upon me; the will of God is fulfilled despite the misery of this unworthy and incapable instrument. From the Tabernacle: light, grace, admonitions, strength, vocations: at the beginning and on the journey”. And, in spite of the greatest difficulties that needed to be overcome in his itinerary as founder, he affirmed with conviction: “I have only two worries: that I am not good enough and that you are not yet sufficiently holy”.
Having completed the work the heavenly Father had entrusted to him, after a life of untiring and incredible activity sustained by abundant and profound prayer, on November 26, 1971, at the age of 87, comforted by the visit and the blessing of Pope Paul VI, he left the earth to take his place in the Father’s House.