Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 6, 2008
Local Italians call Santa Maria Goretti Parish 'their church'
At their 50th anniversary, the congregation yearns for an Italian priest
By RAMON GONZALEZ
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Parishioners Rudy Cavaliere and Maria Mauro love Santa Maria Goretti Parish.
Mauro was a young girl then. She remembers the first soil removal in March 1958. “We had a beautiful celebration. The mayor at that time came and removed the first shovel of dirt and then (the priest) blessed the ground.”
Construction of the church started in March 1958 on land offered by the Christopher Columbus Society at 110th Avenue and 90th Street. When the church opened Dec. 23, 1958, Mauro was a happy woman.
“I was home; I was in the church we could call our own,” she recalls. “It was our own church. We had worked very hard up to that point to have that beautiful church. The parish was ours to keep and ours to maintain.”
In less than 15 years the church and hall were paid off. And when the parishioners realized the priests’ residence was little more than a shack, they went to work again and in the winter of 1966, Fathers Bonelli and Joseph Vincenti moved into a new rectory.
Santa Maria Goretti celebrated its 50th anniversary Oct. 5 with an 11 a.m. Mass followed by a seven-course meal (pranzo) and entertainment at St. Maria Goretti Hall.
In 1960, Maria and Giuseppe Mauro married at Santa Maria Goretti. The young couple was trying to save to buy a fridge and had $60 put away in a jar.
But the priests were so eager to pay off the debt with the archdiocese they did a second collection after the church had been built.
“I was home; I was in the church we could call our own.”
- Maria Mauro
“One day, Father John came to our house. We said, ‘Father John, we don’t have money.’”
But the Mauros looked at each other and decided to give their savings away.
“The parish belongs to us,” says Mauro. “It is home. It’s like a family. We were married there, our children were born there, they were baptized there, they receive d all the sacraments there and they got married there. Our parents, our brothers, our family that passed away had their funerals over there. To us, it is the home that we could never do without.”
That’s the spirit that makes Santa Maria Goretti strong, noted Archibald, the parish administrator. “This is a very dynamic parish. Without a fulltime pastor, the parish has carried on with a great deal of confidence and trust and hope and enthusiasm.”
Archibald said parishioners welcomed him and have been exceptionally supportive.
A great number of parishioners volunteer in a variety of ministries — from sacramental and music ministries to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
“We have an amazing set of volunteers here,” noted Luciana Floreancig, the chair of the parish advisory council. “Whenever we need something, people are always stepping forward to help out. We have pretty much all the ministries. And we have a wonderful catechism program that runs from October right up into April.”
The church seats about 600 people and 300 to 350 people attend each Sunday Mass. On special occasions such as Easter, Christmas and the big parish feast day in July, the church is filled. The parish has three choirs, one for each weekend Mass. People come from all over the city and surrounding towns for Mass.
Rudy Cavaliere, a native of Calabria who serves on the parish advisory council, describes Santa Maria as “a wonderful parish” filled with hard-working, generous people.
Its drawing feature is that it offers Mass in Italian, although lately this feature has become a source of concern for Cavaliere because there is no Italian-speaking priest. And as he points out, one of the goals of the parish is to preserve the Italian culture and language.
“We would like the message to get to the archdiocese that we are hopeful for a priest that’s going to help us continue the parish,” he says. “We would not like to see it fall apart.”
If an Italian-speaking priest is not found, some parishioners may stop coming, Cavaliere said. Presently there is no active youth group in the parish as many of the young people have left. “But we hope we can get them back.”
Archibald is conscious of the parish’s desire. “This is a parish in waiting for an Italian priest,” he said. “We are worried about families going to other parishes. But the main group is hanging in.”
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