Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 13, 2003
Arrivederci Scalabrinian Fathers
Italian priests’ heart strings tug as they leave city
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
After 45 years of ministry in Edmonton Archdiocese, the Italian Scalabrinian Fathers ended their service, Jan 3.
This order of religious priests looked after the parishes of Santa Maria Goretti, Our Lady of Fatima and for some years Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Salesian Father Luciano Cortopassi replaced them in Santa Maria Goretti. In October 2001, Father Anibal Nunes replaced them in Our Lady of Fatima Parish.
“It’s very sad. It’s kind of like a death. But the way the Scalabrini Fathers presented it, was their era is ending,” Lynne Rizzi, parish secretary of Santa Maria Goretti, told the WCR.
The Scalabrinians, an international community of religious brothers and priests, founded in Piacenza (Italy) in 1887 by blessed John Baptist Scalabrini, was formed to minister to migrants and refugees, especially those who require specific pastoral care.
They came to Edmonton in 1957 to minister to new Italian immigrants.
Language was the most difficult barrier for new immigrants.
Father John Bonelli, the first one to come in 1957 spoke English very well. He used to take new immigrants around helping them get jobs, find apartments and even shop for their food.
In the beginning this form of ministry was very essential for the immigrants’ survival. When these immigrants were settled, the Scalabrinians’ ministry turned into preserving the Italian cultures and traditions within the Catholic faith.
“They are very family oriented,” Rizzi stressed.
Bonelli, in particular ministered to four generations of Italian. He married many couples and baptized their children.
“They helped the Italian community grow together. For Father John, who built the parish in 1958, this was his home,” Rizzi said.
Father Adriano Barbiero, the last Scalabrinian pastor of the parish told the WCR, they are not the first Italian religious congregation in the archdiocese.
“The Salesians were already here, but because of our charism, that is looking after the immigrants and refugees, they called us in.”
For him, ministering in Edmonton was totally different from his experiences in Windsor, Ont. or in Vancouver, where he was previously posted. “They kept many traditions.
“The people here are more religious than the Italians in Italy,” said Barbiero as he chuckled.
He is sad to leave the Italian community in Edmonton.
“This community has become our family. It has gone beyond doing pastoral work because we live with these families.”
On the other hand there is also some excitement because of new ministry awaiting him, after he learns Spanish in Mexico.
“We are being called in other places in the U.S. and Central American countries. This community in Edmonton is quite established.”
“Our charism is to work with the poorest ones so we are open to move to other places all the time,” said Barbiero.
Bonelli will retire in one of the community facilities in the U.S.
With the Salesians coming in, the parish is hoping to revitalize its youth inasmuch as their charism is youth ministry.