The story of Fr. Nasca was a difficult one to research. Many articles contained dates and places that were not accurate. This story was verified to the best of our abilities and we believe it to be accurate. I want to thank Bernard Stefanovich for finding the needed material that made this story possible.
Father Rosario Nasca was born on April 7, 1856 in Montemaggiore Belsito, in the Province of Palermo, Sicily. He was the son of Rosario and Crocifissa Selafami-Nasca and was one of ten siblings. Father Nasca studied in Rome and at the age of twenty-two was ordained to the priesthood in 1878. After six years, at the request of his bishop, he became one of the early Italian priests who left behind family and friends to come to America and minister to the growing numbers of Italian immigrants.
Fr. Nasca arrived in New York City in 1884 and most likely spent some years there learning the English language and ministering to the local Italians. In 1887 Fr. Nasca, at the request of Bishop O'Hara, began to minister to the Italian Mission in Hazleton (Most Precious Blood). In 1887 Fr. Nasca purchased property and built the first mission chapel on the corner of 4th and Seybert Street. The current parish church stands on the same property.
While Fr. Nasca labored in Hazleton, Fr. Francis Joseph Chiuso ministered to the Italian Colony of Scranton. The Italian Colony outgrew the chapel at St. Cecilia's Convent and moved into the newly built chapel in St. Thomas College; St. Aloysius Chapel (1888). Fr. Chiuso was an assistant pastor at St. Peter's Cathedral in Scranton until early 1891 and then returned to Jersey City, New Jersey. Prior to March of 1891 all sacramental records for the Italian Colony reside at St. Peter's Cathedral.
At the request of Bishop O’Hara Fr. Rosario Nasca came to Scranton in early 1891 and was appointed the first pastor of the Italian Colony. The first recorded baptism of Fr. Nasca was on March 20, 1891. From this date on, all sacramental records reside at St. Lucy's Church, the successor of the Italian Colony. Fr. Nasca lived at the Cathedral rectory and held services in St. Aloysius Chapel in St. Thomas College. St. Thomas College was located on what is now the Prayer Garden between the Cathedral and rectory. St. Thomas College became the University of Scranton and moved to its present location.
After only a short time in Scranton, Bishop O’Hara had to send Fr. Nasca back to Hazleton in November of 1891. He was to assist Fr. Dominic Peruzzi who had taken over the Italian Mission but found it to be a very difficult situation. Back in Scranton, Fr. Peter Bondi took charge of the Italian Colony of Scranton from November 1891 to December 1893 becoming its second pastor.
Fr. Nasca and Fr. Peruzzi's years in Hazleton were not easy and at time dangerous. Many of the southern Italians who now came to America were products of the decades of bloodshed and political bitterness that brought Italy into existence in 1870.* The Catholic Church, who governed the Papal States, was wrongly viewed as againist the unification of Italy. Thus, many would not step inside a Catholic Church and yet curiosuly wanted the sacraments of the Church. They were not be against the Faith but the institution of the Church. To understand this one would have to understand the Resorgimento and its political intrigues. During this time Italian politics were full of extreme emotions, violence, and bitter hatreds. These Italian immigrants who were now coming to America carried with them those extreme political emotions engendered by decades of blood shed. On one occasion, a father asked Fr. Nasca to have his child baptized. Fr. Nasca asked him to join the parish and support the parish. After a violent outburst the man threatened Fr. Nasca’s life and threatened to drive him out of Hazleton. This was one of the real threats encountered. One such threat had matured into a plot discovered by the police. Undaunted, Fr. Nasca purchased a gun, hired a bodyguard and boldly continued to minister to the Italian families of Hazleton and vicinity for the next two years. **
When Fr. Bondi left the Diocese in December 1893, Fr. Nasca returned to the Italian Colony of Scranton. He would become its third pastor. By now, the Italian Colony had grown significantly numbering between 2,000 and 3,000. It was becoming large enough both in numbers and financial wealth to begin the planning for their own parish. This would take place with the fourth pastor, Fr. Dominick Landro.
Unfortunately, Fr. Nasca had spent himself in his ministry and his health seriously deteriorated. Again, his time in Scranton would be short. By the end of 1894 doctors recommended that Fr. Nasca return to the warmer climate of Sicily and his family to recuperate. Fr. Nasca would return to Palermo. Being idle was not in character with Fr. Nasca. He began to work in the major seminary in Palermo teaching English. Fr. Dominick Landro took over the Italian Colony of Scranton in July of 1894 as its fourth pastor.
However, this was not the last of Fr. Nasca. In 1898 he returned to Scranton and a banquet for him was held at the Roma Hotel, on Lackawanna Ave, on Dec. 21, 1898. It was given by a number of prominent Italian residents of Scranton. Fr. Nasca was noted as a “man of many brilliant qualities, who labored among his countrymen in the Scranton diocese”.** It was also the 20th Anniversay of Fr. Nasca’s ordination.
Fr. Nasca did not stay in Scranton. His heart was with the Italians who needed his care the most. There was a great need for his abilities and so he went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where there were a great many Italians arriving and no Italian priests. Within two years he organized the Italians of the Third Ward into Our Lady of Pompeii, a noted church in the city until it was raised in October of 1967 with urban redevelopment. During this time many southern Italian immigrants were coming to Milwaukee. Many did not like the climate and so Fr. Nasca organized a group of Italian immigrants that went to Alabana and became successful there.
During his stay in Milwaukee his health began to suffer and his doctors advised that he go to a milder climate but he stayed in Milwaukee with his parish until he could no longer conduct church services. In late 1900, Fr. Nasca went to New Orleans but continued to address the needs of Italian immigrants. While in New Orleans, Fr. Nasca began organizing another Italian colony of 500 Italians to go to Hawaii. He also answered the call to go to Spanish Honduras to establish a mission for Italians there as well.
However, while planning to visit his newly formed colony in Alabama, on November 19, 1900, at the age of 44, Fr. Nasca, died at Hotel Dieu (Hospital of God) of accute parenchymatous nepritis (renal failure). He was in New Orleans only a short time. He became good friends with Fr. John La Rosa who celebrated Fr. Nasca’s funeral in St. Anthony’s Church in New Orleans. Fr. Nasca rests in Old St. Louis Cemetery, New Orleans.
This account speaks of the great love and dedication Fr. Nasca had for the Italian immigrants. Throughout his ministry, Fr. Nasca was a noted speaker and a gentile man of great and happy disposition. “He was a man of a strong and lovable disposition with a sunny temperament which could not be ruffled by anything. Wherever he went he carried a small portable school organ and all the necessaries for celebrating the services of the church, and it was his greatest happiness to don his vestments and erect an altar in some spot where the church had never before planted its standard.” *** Father Nasca was a prominent figure in the Italian missionary work of the Catholic Church in America. He became by his capacity for organization and his kindness and lovable disposition a noted person among the early Italian immigrants. He was universally respected and very highly esteemed by all classes, receiving many marks of esteem both public and private.
* Until 1870, the Papal States occupied what is now Central Italy. The pope was both a temporal (state) and spiritual (church) leader. Beginning in the 1820’s the il Risorgimento began. It was a political movement to unite all the parts that today make up Italy, including the Papal States. It was a series of wars and battles against the major powers of Europe that either controlled directly or indirectly parts of present day Italy. Under the foreign powers the peasants were often in dire straights. The Church supported the movement until it became plain that it was very anti-Catholic. Thus for many peasants, the pope became identified with the "enemy." Because of the protracted conflicts and resulting bloodshed over many decades, anyone not with the Risorgimento was its enemy. Politics in Italy were then very emotional and very violent. In 1870 the troops of Victor Emmanuel of Savoy marched unopposed into Rome proclaiming it the capital of Italy and ending the Papal States. Italy, as we know it today, was born. The “Quirinale” or Papal Palace became the residence of the King of Italy. The monarchy proved the pope to be correct. However, the Church lost the propaganda campaign aganist it. The newly formed Italian government, under the Savoy monarchy, outlawed all the religious orders and confiscated their property and goods; thus putting a great deal of land and wealth into the monarch's coffers. They also imprisoned or banished any bishops or priests who spoke out against the Savoy monarchy. For the following sixty years relations between the Papacy and the Savoy House were hostile. The pope remained a self-imposed prisoner of the Vatican until 1929 when the Vatican City State was recognized by the Italian Government now under the control of Benito Mussolini. Those poor of the lower class that fiercely and violently backed the policies of the Savoy monarchy also came to this country and continued their anti-clerical and anti-church hatred here in this country. With characteristic Italian logic they rejected the institution of the Church but not the Faith, they still wanted the Sacraments.
**THE PRIEST GOES ABOUT WITH A PISTOL
Hazleton, PENN., March 29. -- The Rev. Rosario Nasca, an Italian priest, has been threatened with assassination by some of his parishioners, who are ex-bandits, and he goes armed night and day. Father Nasca was sent here six months ago by Bishop O’Hara, and has met many difficulties. Some of his people here are of the most degraded class of Italians. A week ago one of them asked the priest to baptize a child, and the priest said he would if the father would help support the ItalianChurch. The father flew into a passion and threatened to drive the priest out of the country. Two days later a plot for assassinating the priest was discovered. The priest at once armed himself with a revolver and now goes about accompanied by a trusted assistant. Father Nasca says he will stay here as long as he chooses, and fight, if necessary.
New York Times Herald, March 30, 1892, Wednesday, Pg 9
*** Taken from his obituary in the Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA., Nov. 20, 1900, Tuesday, pg 3
The Milwaukee Journal, Wednesday, November 24, 1900, page 8
[This article from the Milwaukee Journal is posted here because it shows what a wonderful priest Fr. Nasca was and sheds light on why he was so loved in Scranton as well.]
About the black-covered bier which Father Rosario Nasca built with his own hands, the members of his little mission on Huron street gathered this morning to hear mass said for the repose of his soul.
The rude pine boards Father Rosario had himself nailed together: the white crosses he had sewed to the black pall: the black candles he had himself set in their brass sticks. He made the bier for All Soul’s day: it was used a second time in the mass for King Humbert of Italy, and the third time it was set in the cold little chapel for Father Rosario himself.
There was something about the story of the quiet priest from Sicily, who, a voluntary exile from a wealthy family, came away to the north and labored so faithfully down in the Third ward, which appealed to everybody and crowded the chapel today. About a hundred took their places before the appointed hour in the bare room, whose every appointment he had selected, and placed there, often at personal sacrifice.
There was the altar with its red curtains, its white cloth, its gay little vases and candlesticks and ornaments, all of them chosen by him and placed quite as he had left them, excepting the black strip with its white cross in the center. There was the shelf with its white cover, starched and spotless which he had nailed to the wall to hold the figure of the Christ. And there before the altar was placed the black-covered, coffin-shaped emblem, with the inscription “Pro Anima Benemeriti Rev. Rosarii Nasca. Pacem, Precanim Camini.” Which is, “For the benefit of the soul of Father Rosario. Peace, Pray for him.” While they waited, one after another of the women who had worked for the mission broke down and sobbed, and the mass was begun to an accompaniment of tears.
Archbishop Katzer was the celebrant. He was assisted by Father Keogh, Father Schinner and Father Bartolomeo Imburgio, recently of Sicily. The priests were in black vestments. A low mass was said, lasting three-quarters of an hour and it was very impressive.
Following the saying of the mass by the archbishop, however, came the part of the service which was most significant and this was the panegyric said by Father Imburgio. Father Imburgio is the young priest, speaking as little English as did Father Nasca when he came from his home, who has come here from Sicily to try to take the father’s place. He was his friend and had known him and worked with him near Palermo. And if people did not know all that he has done in his Milwaukee work, the words which his friend said of him would have proved what his life long effort had been.
Father Imburgio told of his friend’s life and work, and what he said was a revelation even to those who had known of his sacrifice and hardship here. He told of his early work in his home, of the work among the poor , of the love and esteem in which he was held, of the kindnesses and charities which he did secretly, and which were never known about until after he came to America. And when he came to the story of his leaving his home to come to a strange country sobs broke out all over the room, and the people among whom this still, unassuming man had labored, knew for the first time what a life of service his work here had culminated.
They left their seats silently when it was through, and the three priests and the archbishop went together to the small chapel above, in the room which was Father Nasca’s and together said another mass for him. A few of his friends followed them and this service lasted until 10:30 o’clock. The room was filled with little personal possessions of Father Nasca which he had not taken with him when he started for the home in Sicily which he was never to reach.
Below one of the women of the mission was standing with a little knot of friends and saying this: “I came in last night,” she told them, “with the little white table for the mass, and the chapel was all dark. One candle was burning on the altar, and when I came to the front I saw the bier that he had made. I was sure for a minute that I would see him standing by the altar and I looked to see. But if I had, I shouldn’t have been afraid. I almost hoped I would,” she ended with a sob.
REVEREND DOMINICK LANDRO: Fourth Pastor 1894 - 1901 and Sixth Pastor 1906 - 1908
Fr. Domenic Landro was born in Parghelia, Province of Vibo Valentia in the Italian region Calabria, Italy in1861. In 1882, at the age of 21 he was ordained to the priesthood. Around 1890 Father Landro left his native Italy, family and friends to minister to the Italian immigrants in America.
Fr. Landro came to Diocese of Scranton in 1894 succeeding Fr. Peter Bondi, (1891-1893) as pastor of the Italian Colony of Scranton.
Father Landro performed his first baptism on July 17, 1894. Under his leadership, the Italian Colony in Scranton quickly grew in numbers. Father Landro's care for the Italian community could be found in all aspects of life. He even started the Italian Catholic Society, a benevolent society to assist families in need due to illnesses or death.
Under his leadership the Italian Colony in Scranton outgrew St. Aloysius Chapel at St. Thomas College (now the University of Scranton) and moved to its new home on Chestnut St. (today St. Frances Cabrini Ave.) in West Scranton. Under Father Landro's untiring leadership the Italian Colony of Scranton became St. Lucy's Church in 1901. St. Lucy's Church, as the successor of the Italian Colony, is the Mother Italian Church of the Diocese of Scranton.
With the help of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who made six visits to Scranton, not only did the Italian Colony become St. Lucy's Parish but its school was opened and staffed by Mother Cabrini's sisters, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1900.
Father Landro proved to be an energetic missionary to the Italian communities of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Father Landro traveled to Wellsboro, Elkland, Williamsport, Hazleton and other areas where Italians had settled. In 1901 he was transferred to Hazleton from which he continued to minister throughout the diocese when called upon.
While in Scranton, Father Landro organized the Italians immigrants into communities that became: Saint Mary in Old Forge; Saint Anthony in Freeland; Mother of Sorrows in Williamsport; St. Mary Assumption in Jessup; St Mary in Lattimer Mines; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Carbondale; St. Anthony in Dunmore; and Our Lady of Heaven, Most Precious Blood, Holy Rosary and Mother of Sorrows in Hazleton, PA. Father Landro also helped smaller Italian communities integrate into existing territorial parishes.
In 1906 Father Landro was transferred back to St. Lucy’s as its sixth pastor and stayed until 1908 when he returned to Hazleton as pastor of Most Precious Blood Church. Father Dominick Landro died on March 27, 1929 as pastor of Most Precious Blood in Hazelton. He was 68 years old. Funeral arrangements were made by the Turnback Funeral Home. The Solemn High Funeral Mass was celebrated by Bishop Thomas C. O'Rielly, D.D., Bishop of Scranton. Many priests and laity attended his funeral. FatherLandro was laid to rest in St. Gabriel's Cemetery, Hazelton, Pa.
(Compiled from parish histories and the internet)
POLICE GUARD HOUSE OF ITALIAN PRIEST
Scranton Times, April 25, 1907
“We give you and the priest three days to leave, but if you refuse, after that the house and the church will be blown up with dynamite,” was the substance of an unsigned letter received Monday morning by the Sisters of St. Lucie’s Italian Catholic Church, on Chestnut Street, West Scranton.
The Sisters informed Father Dominic Landro, the priest of the parish and he sent word to the police. Superintendent Day detailed a cordon of his men last night and the night before to guard Father Landro’s home, which adjoins the church, to make sure that the threat would not be executed. The Sisters live up over the church. The police are pursuing an investigation into the identity of the writer of the letter, who will not write any more such for term, if he is landed.
In the neighborhood of the church members stand guard themselves with arms, and it will not go well with the conspirators if they do any loitering or attempt any of their diabolical work.
On Sunday there was a meeting of the men of St. Lucie’s congregation [The Trustees*], to raise money to cancel some of the debt of $7000 that has hung over it for five or six years. The meeting broke up in a row. Some wanted a change of priests, and that caused the trouble. The letter of the following morning is regarded as a sequel.
In the interest of peace and law abiding citizenship, the suggestion is here made to Mayor Dimmick that he institute an early and effective police raid upon Italians who go about loaded down with knives, stilettos and revolvers. In New York city only a week or two ago the police rounded up four hundred in one day, every man of them armed, and the magistrates metered out swift justice, sending some to Sing Sing for three or four years.
There are many thoroughly good Italian people in Scranton, but there are also a large number who know not what the meaning of liberty is, and the minute they set foot in this country and get enough money to visit a hardware store, one of their first purchases is a deadly weapon, and it is prized as one of their closest possessions.
There is a deep-rooted provincial hatred among the uneducated classes. A man from Sicily will pick a fight with one from Calabria for no other reason than that he is from Calabria. In their own country the Carabinieri, corresponding to the secret service in this country, keep strict watch on suspects, and at the first sign of violation of the law there is but a short step to the prison cell.
Fr. Landro is spoken of by all as a man of profound character, learning, deep piety and amiable charm who know him. His greatest aim is to cultivate a reverence for religion and law among his people. When St. Lucie’s congregation was established, thirteen years ago, he was appointed the first pastor by the late Bishop O’Hara. He was there sever years. He organized a sisters’ school for the children, where they would be taught, first of all, adoration of God and respect for the American government. The sisters, there being six of them now at St. Lucie’s can speak English. They are members of the Sacred Heart Order. No charge is made for tuition and books are supplied free. The membership of the school at present consists of more than three hundred.
Six years ago Father Landro was transferred by Bishop Hoban to Hazleton. Fr. Sbrocca, who was pastor at St. Lucie’s most of the time since, got discouraged at the turmoil among the people, and when he got an opportunity last June to go to a quieter place he received the permission of Bishop Hoban and Father Landro was transferred back to West Scranton.
So as not to give offense by appeals for money, Father Landro has put up with many hardships. His salary is hardly ever paid in full, and frequently not at all, or in such small amounts as to be little more than nothing.
But the debt could not go on unpaid forever, so he sought the men [the Trustees] to hold a meeting to see what could be done. The meeting, last Sunday, was in a fair way to arrive at something practical, when a disturbance committee got busy and threw out broad hints that a different priest would be most desirable.
Fr. Landro is not scared by the anonymous threatening letter. Neither are the sisters. They said they place their trust in God, and feel confident He will protect them. But at the same time, in this glorious country, it is regarded as an outrage that the “Black Hand,” or “Mafia,” should be so bold as to require the hand of Providence for protection of innocent people, when the doors of the penitentiary should yawn for those who even presume to take vengeance on their brethren.
The police will not relax their espionage around the church. It is to be hoped that the conspirators shall soon be caught and dealt with to the full limit of the law.
There is no room in Scranton for a bomb thrower.
* Under the Trustee system, a group of lay people would petition the bishop for a pastor to work with them establish and build a Catholic parish. However, the Trustees, elected by the congregation, controlled the building of the parish church and rectory, held the deeds for the parish buildings, signed all contracts, paid all employees including the priest, and controlled all the finances of the parish and its societies or sodalities. The system often led to tensions with the pastor who was in effect an employee of the Trustees even though appointed by the bishop. Often the personality and parish vision of the pastor clashed with the Trustees, especially if the Trustees objected to the content of the pastor’s preaching. The system was also inherently flawed with various forms of corruption such as granting contracts to Trustee family members, kick backs, and other unethical schemes. Then there was the pressure of organized crime that tried to infiltrate the Trustee System and profit from church monies. Also, the Trustee System sometimes split parishes in factions as each member vied for support and power. Large parish families could dominate the Trustee System and often did. Although many Trustees were devout and honest, the system itself had too many problems to continue. From the late 1800’s to the 1920’s the bishops in the United States ended the Trustee system. Today, the bishop holds all parish deeds and the pastors administer the parishes.
REV ANTHONY SAMUEL CERRUTI *
A large group of Italians settled in Carbondale, PA., in the late 1800’s attracted by the rapid growth of the coal industry and other opportunities brought about by a new life in America. However, as Hayden’s Genealogy of the Wyoming and Lackawanna Valleys states, “for many years they have been deprived of that spiritual care and instruction which the mother church bestowed on them in their own country.”
The Italians in the Diocese of Scranton were ministered to by the pastors and assistants of the Italian Mission of Scranton from 1873 to 1900. The Italian Mission met at St. Thomas College chapel. Today it is the University of Scranton. In 1901 the Italian Mission moved to the West Side of Scranton and became St. Lucy’s Parish.
By 1900 the Italians in many areas of the diocese had become prosperous enough to build their own churches. Fr. Dominick Landro, the pastor of the Italian Mission and then St. Lucy’s Parish, working with the Trustees* had begun the construction of the first church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Carbondale with the excavation for the foundation in 1899. However, Fr. Landro was also in the process of founding seven other Italian parishes throughout the diocese, especially in Hazleton and vicinity. Until Fr. Landro could receive help there would be a delay in building Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.
The prayers of Fr. Landro and the Italians in the Carbondale were answered when Fr. Anthony Samuel Cerruti came to St. Lucy’s Parish in 1900. After only four months at St. Lucy’s Parish, Fr. Cerruti was sent by Fr. Landro to complete the erection of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church and became its first pastor.
Fr. Cerruti was a native of Campagna, Italy, born on July 31, 1852 (according to his naturalization record of 1 Oct 1909). He was educated in the prominent seminary located in his home town and ordained to the priesthood in 1875. After fifteen years of accomplished ministry in his home diocese, Fr. Cerruti immigrated to the United States leaving from Naples on the SS Fenicia on Nov. 26, 1889 and arriving in New York City on Dec. 18, 1889. For a few years we believe he ministered in the local Italian parishes of New York City and Newark, N.J. while mastering the English language.
In 1892 Fr. Cerruti went to Roseto, Pennsylvania (south of Stroudsburg) to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Italian Church which was founded in 1897. After one year Fr. Cerruti then went to St. Anthony of Padua in Hammonton, New Jersey and ministered there until March of 1900 when he came to St. Lucy’s Parish. Being an accomplished and experienced administrator, Fr. Cerruti was entrusted by Fr. Landro with erecting the new Carbondale parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Bishop Hoban appointed Fr. Cerruti as the parishes first pastor.
Fr. Cerruti was at St. Lucy’s Parish only four months. As he had done in other places, Fr. Cerruti immersed himself into his ministry and into the lives of the Italians of Carbondale quickly endearing himself to them. Within a short time the foundation for a new edifice was built and the beautiful church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel took shape. As Hayden’s Genealogy of the Wyoming and Lackawanna Valleys states; “His work has required patience and persistence, and through the exercise of these qualities he has attained commendable success. As a preacher, his sermons show painstaking thought and his illustrations are always to the point.”
Fr. Cerruti had to confront the problems of organized crime and the Trustee system** which was then in affect. The Trustees were lay people who held the deed of the parish and controlled all the finances of the parish and its sodalities. Fr. Cerruti was so loved he had little problem with the Trustees of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
Fr. Cerruti and the other Italian priests of the diocese had to constantly be on guard against the infiltration of organized crime into the Trustee system. As the Italian parishes became affluent, their monies fueled the desire of organized crime to infiltrate the Trustee system. Fr. Cerruti became a crusader against the infiltration of the Black Hand and Mafia into the coal mines and parishes of Carbondale and the diocese. The following was noted in The Informer: History of American Crime and Law Enforcement, April 2011: “The Reverend Antonio Cerruti of Carbondale led an anti-Mafia crusade in northeastern Pennsylvania’s mining communities in the early 1900s.” On page 41 it states; “Carbondale’s Law and Order organization grew into the St. Joseph Protective Association. Reverend Antonino Cerruti, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Carbondale, took a leading role in the association and worked to spread its influence through the Catholic churches in nearby communities.” By 1905, Fr. Cerruti's crusade against orgainzed crime led to the local Mafia leader, Sam Rita, ordering his "branding." This meant that the facial cheeks of Fr. Cerruti would be slashed, branding him an ememy of the Mafia forever. Thanks to the diligent efforts of local law enforcement this scheme never went beyond the planning stages as the gang was arrested during a planning and training session. Fr. Cerruti continued his campaign against the Mafia and Black Hand so well that on March 18, 1910 they struck back by destoying Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church by arson. This did not deter Fr. Cerruti efforts to thawrt the efforts of orgainized crime.
Nor did it thawrt his efforts to rebuild Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. Within 18 months the basement church was in place. By October of 1911 Mass was once again celebrated at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Due to World War I, the upper structure would not be completed until May 10, 1925. Bishop Michael J. Hoban, on that date, consecreted the new church.
According to the history contained in the pamphlet for the dedication of the new rectory in 1928; "Never murmuring, but taking a firmer grip on his cross, he [Fr. Cerruti] again took up the burden and redoubled his effort - if such were possible - probable feeling that his time for accomplishment was growing short. He labored untiringly, sparing neither time nor energy nor even health itself and just when for the second time he might reap the reward his efforts deserved, the Lord whispered: "Well done thou good and faithful servant," and took him to Himself where disappointments and crosses are not more. His passing was a shock to his people and to those who held him dear - and their number was legion - and added grief to think he did not live to see the dedication of the church. As he was loved in life so was he mourned in death."
After a long and fruitful ministry of twenty-five years in Carbondale, Fr. Cerrutti died on Jan. 24, 1925, five months before the new church was consecrated. His funeral was one of the largest, if not the largest, in the history of Carbondale. Bishop Michael John Hoban and many priests celebrated the funeral Mass. Fr. Cerutti is buried in St. Rose of Lima Cemetery in Carbondale, PA.
* Fr. Cerruti name is spelled many different ways in various accounts. However, accroding to his Petition for Naturalization the correct spelling is "Cerruti."
** Under the Trustee system, a group of lay people would petition the bishop for a pastor to work with them establish and build a Catholic parish. However, the Trustees controlled the building of the parish church and rectory, held the deeds for the parish buildings, signed all contracts, paid all employees and the priest, and controlled all the finances of the parish and its societies or sodalities. The system often led to tensions with the pastor who was in effect an employee of the Trustees even though appointed by the bishop. Often the personality and parish vision of the pastor clashed with the Trustees, especially if the Trustees objected to the content of the pastor’s preaching. The system was also inherently flawed with various forms of corruption such as granting contracts to Trustee family members, kick backs, and other unethical schemes. Then there was the pressure of organized crime that tried to infiltrate the Trustee System and profit from church monies. Also, the Trustee System sometimes split parishes in factions as each member vied for support and power. Large parish families could dominate the Trustee System and often did. Although many Trustees were devout and honest, the system itself had too many problems to continue. From the late 1800’s to the 1920’s the bishops in the United States ended the Trustee system. Today, the bishop holds all parish deeds and the pastors administer the parishes.
REVEREND CAVALIERE (KNIGHT) FEDERICO SBROCCA: Fifth Pastor 1901-1906
Fr. Federico Luigi Maria Sbrocca was born March 5, 1852, the son of Achille and Vittoria (Ratino), in Matrice, Italy (in the Province of Campobasso, in the Molise Region, just south of the Abruzzo Region). He received his early education in Pia Casa Dei Deaf of Naples where his brother Aurelio was Master and Deputy Director. Here Fr. Sbrocca learned to love the deaf mute children and would dedicate his life as a priest to them. He was one of the first pioneers to establish an institute solely to educate deaf mute children. In the mid-1800's these children were often abandoned and considered "useless." It is this great cruelty that would touch the heart of Fr. Sbrocca and make him a world known expert in schooling deaf mute children.
He was ordained a priest on April 1, 1876. Always a studious child, Fr. Sbrocca attended the Universita di Napoli and the Regia Scuola Normale de Milano graduating on July 24, 1886. Here he received his diploma to teach and work with deaf mute children. He and his brother Fr. Giovanni founded a renowned institute for the deaf and mute children in Oneglia in 1892. Because of its growth and the resulting rising costs, they were forced to turn it over to the Province of Alessandria. In 1893, Fr. Federico became the first rector of the Provincial Institute for the Deaf of Alessandria; sometimes referred to as the Deaf Institute of Oneglia. Oneglia is just south of Alessandria, the capitol of the Province of Alessandria, in the Piedmont Region of northern Italy. Here, Fr. Sbrocca became well known as an author of books and journal articles as well as a noted speaker on the education of deaf mute children in Europe. His books and publications became well known for advancing the cause of educating deaf mute children throughout Europe and North America. Fr. Sbrocca was also a professor of literature and philosophy.
For his work, Fr. Sbrocca was appointed a Knight [Cavaliere] of the Crown of Italy by King Umberto I in January of 1896.
At the age of 49, Fr. Sbrocca immigrated to the United States in 1901 and came to the newly established St. Lucy’s Church, performing his first baptism on June 30, 1901. Fr. Sbrocca would probably have stayed in Oneglia, except for the changing political landscape in Alessandria. When an anti-Catholic political party took over in Alessandria, it outlawed all religious instruction at the Provincial School for the Deaf. Fr. Federico and Fr. Giovanni were dismissed. They immediately began a protracted legal battle in the courts of Italy to reinstate religious instruction in the Provincial Institute.
On September 30, 1903 Fr. Sbrocca applied for United States citizenship. In December of 1906, after a bitter fight with the Trustees* of St. Lucy’s Parish, Fr. Sbrocca left the Diocese of Scranton and went to the Diocese of Buffalo, NY to work among the Italian immigrants.
Fr. Sbrocca first went to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Brant for two years. He then served at St. Roch, Hulberton, N.Y. becoming the pastor in 1908. From August 1910 to June 1911 he served as pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Leroy, N.Y. In June of 1911 Fr. Sbrocca became pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Niagara Falls, N.Y. and stayed there until October of 1915. As the parish grew in numbers, Fr. Sbrocca paid off the existing debt and in 1913 built the present magnificent brick church which replaced a small, wooden structure. Fr. Sbrocca also built the parochial school which was debt free when it opened.
After leaving St. Joseph's Parish in 1915, Fr. Sbrocca intended to return to Italy having finally won his battle in the Italian Supreme Court. However, Fr. Sbrocca was a dedicated missionary among the Italian immigrants in America. When the need arose for an Italian priest in the newly established Italian parish of Our Lady of Loreto, Falconer, New York (near Jamestown); he answered the call. Finally, in 1919, at the age of 67, Fr. Sbrocca returned to Italy arriving in Naples on September 7, 1919. After visiting Oneglia, his first love, he resided in Rome. Fr. Sbrocca was further honored by having an avenue named in his honor and a plaque erected on the house of his birth in Matrice. The Pope also bestowed upon Fr. Sbrocca a great honor. He was elevated to Mitred Abbot of Santa Maria della Strada. After a long and distinguished life in service of the Church, Fr. Sbrocca peacefully died in Naples on December 15, 1925.
* Until the 1910’s the finances of a parish were controlled, not by the pastor, but solely by a committee of laity called Trustees who were elected by the congregation. Due to widespread corruption, the infiltration of organized crime, and growing tensions with pastors, this system became untenable. This system was replaced beginning in the late 1890’s with the present system where the pastor is the financial administrator of the parish on behalf of the bishop who controls all assets of the diocese. It was not always an easy transition and some ethnic parishes left the Catholic Church.
Plaque Dedicated To Fr. Sbrocca in His HomeTown
He was born in this house on the day of March 5, 1852 The Official Knight, Mons. Federico Sbrocca Mitered Abbot of Saint Maria Della Strada
A man of high intellect and character Teacher educator philanthropist He wrote popular didactic works
In 1893 in Alessandria He founded the Institute for Deaf Mutes Erected in a charity that bears his name
In the United States of America Instituted parishes schools associations
In Colle Sannita he expended The last of the treasures of his great heart
Died in Naples on December 15, 1925 Leaving his estate in pious bequests
In memory of this meritorious fellow citizen The town places this plaque
We wish to thank Bernard Stefanovich for doing the research on Fr. Sbrocca.
* Until the 1910ís the finances of a parish were controlled, not by the pastor, but solely by a committee of laity called Trustees. Due to widespread corruption, the infiltration of organized crime and growing tensions with pastors, this system became untenable. This system was replaced beginning in the late 1890ís to the present system where the pastor is the financial administrator of the parish. It was not always an easy transition and some ethnic parishes left the Catholic Church.
Rev. Victor Gurisatti (1908-1927)
REVEREND VICTOR GURISATTI: Our Eighth Pastor 1908-1926
Rev. Victor Gurisatti, pastor of St. Lucy’s Italian Church, West Scranton from 1908-1926 died in Mount Hope Hospital, Baltimore, Md. on Tuesday, May 26, 1931. Father Gurisatti, who had been in ill health for a number of years was forced to give up his pastorate at St. Lucy’s for this reason and had since been under medical treatment at interval. The body will be taken to this city and will lie in state in St. Lucy’s church
Fr. Gurisatti was born July 25, 1866 in Genona [now Gemona del Fruili], Province of Udine, in the region Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy, some 55 miles from Trieste. Fr. Gurisatti entered the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ – the Stigmatines - in Verona on November 26, 1879 and made his Perpetual Profession on August 15, 1886. He was ordained by Cardinal Canossa on Nov. 16, 1890. After 15 years in Verona, Fr. Victor Gurisatti emigrated to the United States from Naples, then to Paris, leaving on Oct 20, 1907 on the vessel Hamburg. After arriving at Ellis Island, Fr. Gurisatti spent six months with Fr. Louis Luchi (also a Stigmatine) in Hazleton, PA. His first assignemnt was at St. Anthony's Church in North Adams, MA. After four months at St. Anthony's, Fr. Gurisatti was transferred to Scranton in September of 1908 to set up a house for the Stigmatines. Bishop Michael J. Hoban, D.D. appointed Fr. Gurisatti pastor of St. Lucy’s Church in at this time. He found the church in need of his organizational skills and financial prowess. For the next 17 years St. Lucy's flourished under this kind and pious priest. Fr. Gurisatti bought land and labored to build the magnificent church edifice that still stands today. At the same time he purchased the rectory from Dr. E. A. Heermans, M.D. Fr. Gurisatti also saw the parish school more than double in size during his tenure.
Fr. Gurisatti was a pious, hard-working priest and a credit to the Stigmatine Congregation. His brother, Fr. Pius Gurisatti, was for many years the Congregation's Superior General. He is survived by one brother, Anthony, who is very prominent in Catholic activities in Verona and by two sisters, both sisters of the Mercy order, one in Verona and one in Milan.
In 1928, Fr. Gurisatti would begin the process of leaving the Stigmatines and was incardinated into the Diocese of Scranton on Aug. 23, 1928. During the process he became very ill and eventually was sent to Mt. Hope Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. His illness was too great and he never returned to his beloved St. Lucy's.
Bishop Thomas C. O’Reilly celebrated his requiem Mass on Friday, May 29, 1931, in St. Lucy’s Italian Catholic Church for Rev. Victor Gurisatti.
The Rev. Francis Molino, Hazleton, was deacon, and the Rev. Gaetano Cassibba, Carbondale, was subdeacon. The archpriest was the Rev. Eugene Cherlone, O.S.J., Pittston. The divine office was chanted by Monsignor Humberto Rocchi.
Other officers of the Mass were the Rev. Vincent Mazzucco, O.S.J., Pittston, thurifer; the Rev. William Crotti, Dunmore, and the Rev. Henry Lucchi, Hazelton, acolytes; the Rev. Enrico Giovetto, O.S.J., book bearer, and the Rev. Quirino Rauzi, miter bearer.
The honorary pallbearers were: the Rev. James Lavezzari, Old Forge; the Rev. Daniel Leona, Scranton; the Rev. Clement Cavalletti, Jessup; the Rev Michael DeSarno, Dunmore; the Rev. Joseph Gotti, Hazleton; the Rev. John Reggio, O.S.J., Pittston; the Rev. Nabrario DeScianni, Lattimer, and the Rev. Arcangelo D’Anca, Wilkes Barre.
The acting pallbearers were Vincent Russoniello, A.N. Russo, Angelo Ferrario, Antonio Caputo, Louis Caputo, Charles Masucci, Nicola LaManna and James Arigoni.
Interment was made in the priest’s plot at Cathedral Cemetery. Photo courtesy of the Scranton Times-Tribune.
The Scranton Republican, Saturday, May 30, 1931
Scranton Times, Tuesday, May 26, 1931
Various internet sources.
Additional Information from A History of Scranton and It's People (1914) Pg. 485:
According to COL Frederick L. Hitchock, the author, Fr. Gurisatti was the son of Dominick and Catherine (Lapore). His siblings were Anna; Pius (also a Stigmatine priest and General Superior for twenty years); Esther (entered a convent in Milan); Antonio (a printer and stationer of Verona); Adele (entered a convent in Verona); and Eustachio (a professor of fine arts in Florence).
Fr. Gurisatti was a student of the Stimatini Institue of Verona for eleven years before entering the priesthood. According to this history Fr. Gurisatti was ordained on Nov. 23, 1890 by Cardinal Aloysisu Di Cannosa. In 1907 he left for the USA and arrived on Nov. 2. After six months in Hazleton, PA he was transferred to North Adams, MA. On Sept 3, 1908 he became pastor of St. Lucia's Church (St. Lucy's) in Scranton, PA.
According to this history work began on the basement church on Oct. 24, 1913 and the first Mass was celebrated at Midnight Mass of Christmas that year. The congregation took formal position on Jan. 26, 1914.
This history states: "When the finishing touches have been made upon this edifice a house of worship will stand of which the people and the city may well be proud, and special gratification should come to Rev. Gurisatti forthe part of leadership he has been permitted to play."
Fr. Gurisatti is assisted in his work by Rev. Joseph Nardon, a native of Lesiqnago, Trent, Italy. He is the son of Armadio and Eugenia Ferretti. Rev. Nardon came to the United States on June 3, 1907. He engaged in missionary work in Hazleton, PA.
Reverend James A. Boland (1926-1928)
FATHER JAMES ALOYSIUS BOLAND: ADMINISTRATOR 1927 - 1928
Father Boland was born in Archbald on November 10, 1886, the son of the late James and Anne Killeen Boland. He attended Olyphant public schools, St. Thomas College (now the University of Scranton), St. Bonaventure College and Seminary, and the North American College, Rome, Italy. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 15, 1915 by the late Bishop Michael J. Hoban.
In 1926 Fr. Gurisatti became ill and eventually resigned as pastor of St. Lucy’s Parish in 1927. Fr. Boland was appointed Administrator in 1926 and for two years ministered to the needs of the parish. Fr. Boland was loved by all. His gentle manner and constant concern for his flock marked his priesthood until he died.
In 1928 Fr. Francis P. Valverde was appointed pastor of St. Lucy’s Parish and Fr. Boland was appointed pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Taylor, PA. Over a period of ten years the people of Taylor were shepherded by this gentle and loving priest. Fr. Boland was one of the best known priests of the diocese.
In the beginning of 1938 Fr. Boland became ill with pneumonia. He recuperated with his brother Msgr. Patrick J. Boland in Florida, in an effort to regain his strength. He was expected to make a full recovery. However, after returning a few weeks, he suffered a relapse and died of cardiac arrest in the rectory on Friday, March 25, 1938.
At 3:00 p.m. the Sunday, March 27th his body was transferred from the rectory to the church, where it lay in state until services on Monday morning. An honor guard was formed by the members of the Holy Name Society.
Survived by three brothers, Msgr Patrick Boland, Dr Frank Boland of Yeadon & Joseph Boland of Philadelphia; 1 sister, Mrs Louis Toolan of Carbondale.
Bishop William J. Hafey, with many priests of the diocese, celebrated his funeral Mass on Monday, March 28, 1938 Immaculate Conception, Taylor. Fr. Boland is buried in St. Thomas Cemetery, Archbald.
Photo courtesy of the Scranton Times-Tribune
In September of 1928 Msgr. Valverde became the ninth pastor of St. Lucy's Church. By this time, St. Lucy's Church was a prominent and well known church throughout the Diocese of Scranton both in size, activity, and financial resources. The church could boast of many professionals, tradesmen, and businessmen with over 2,000 families. These were happy times for the Italians of the former Italian Colony of Scranton as they saw the fulfillment of their dreams.
And yet, although the parish was flourishing both spiritually and financially, the turmoil of past years lay just under the surface. Ever present was the fighting between the old political factions that came from Italy and now joining those groups were the Black Shirts (Mussolini's thugs) and the Brown Shirts (Hitler's thugs). The rising fear of yet another war in Europe was beginning to surface. And of course there was the ever present organized crime. Although these groups were now marginalized from parish life and society, from time to time they would intersect with the parish.
Msgr. Valverde was born March 7, 1877 in Borgetto, Sicily, a suburb of Palermo, the son of Mariano and Antonina Valverde. He received college and seminary training at the prestigious Monreale Seminary, Sicily, and was ordained Dec 23, 1899, at the Cathedral of Monreale. Only 22 years old at the time, the young priest was granted a special dispensation by Pope Leo XIII for his ordination. Such were his credentials that the pope waived the regulations that required ordinations no younger than 24.
In February 1904, following two years of postgraduate study at the Royal College DeCosmi, Sicily (during which he founded a boy’s school in Palermo), Monsignor Valverde came to Scranton with his mother and sister (Maria) to visit his brother Joseph who lived on Capouse Ave. Maria Valverde, would eventually become the mother of Msgr. Salvatore J. Florey, the 10th pastor of St. Lucy's and his brother Rev. Myron Florey.
After Msgr. Valverde met Bishop Michael J. Hoban the six month visit became permanent. Bishop Hoban, urgently needed Italian speaking priests to work among the thousands of southern Italians settling in the diocese. With the permission of the bishop in Palermo, Sicily Msgr. Valverde agreed to be incardinated into the Diocese of Scranton and begin an illustrious career for the next 32 years. In 1918 Msgr. Valverde became a US citizen.
Monsignor Valverde’s first pastorate was at St. Anthony's Church, Freeland, where he remained from June 1, 1904, to March 27, 1906. He then was appointed pastor of St. Anthony’s Church, Dunmore, and remained there until Sept. 8, 1928, when he was transferred to the pastorate of St. Lucy’s Church.
During his early years in the diocese Monsignor Valverde came in for special commendation from Bishop Hoban who credited him with “doing the work of three men.” He tirelessly ministered to Italian groups all over the diocese. While in Scranton, for a number of years he served on the foreign language staff of the International Correspondence Schools, where he composed a grammar and reader of the Italian language. In 1914 Msgr. Valverde was included among the notable people in the History of Scranton and Its People by Col. Frederick L. Hitchcock.
Msgr. Valverde was an indefatigable worker throughout his years of service in the Scranton Diocese. Where ever he ministered the parish or mission thrived under his guidance. While at St. Anthony’s, Dunmore Monsignor Valverde increased the size of the parish and then built the present rectory to accommodate another priest. At St. Lucy’s he enlarged the existing rectory to accommodate a third priest.
On October 11, 1929 he was justly honored with the title of monsignor by Pope Pius XI. On November 10, 1929, Bishop O'Rielly invested Msgr. Valverde in St. Lucy's Church in front of over 2000 people and over 40 priests from all over the diocese . This honor crowned 25 years of devoted and notable service to the Church and the people of the Diocese of Scranton.
Msgr. Valverde served as a member of the Diocesan Board of Consulters to the Bishop. He was widely known as an accomplished educator, linguist and untiring charitable worker. Msgr. Valverde organized and taught classes to help Italian immigrants acculturate into the American Society. Monsignor Valverde was regarded with love and admiration by the Italians his ministered to.
Under his guidance, St. Lucy's Church continued to be a very active parish both spiritually and socially. In 1929 St. Lucy's could boast an accomplished Minstrel Troupe and an acclaimed Dramatic Players Society. Members of the parish were active in several local Italian clubs and societies. Parishioners of St. Lucy's Church founded the Victor Alfieri Society in 1911 and continues to support it today
Pictured above are the member of St. Lucy's Dramatic society who presented "Mother Mine," a three-act drama, to an audience of over 300 in the church hall. Left to right are: Standing. Joseph Grecco, Carmen Notarimoso, James Dangloa, Everett T. Jones, director Fred Furnari, Dominich Aiello, and Louis Constanza, leading charactor. Seated, Misses Jean Galucci, Sarah Notarimoso, Connie Constanza, Clara Notarimoso, Josephine Bianca, Mary Grecco.
In 1930 the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, founded by St. Frances X. Cabrini, celebrated their Golden Jubilee. In 1900, Mother Cabrini came with her sisters to Scranton to open the parish school on Chestnut Ave (now St. Frances Cabrini Ave). In 1930 there were over 300 children in the school. For several days various Masses and events were scheduled and Bishop Thomas O'Rielly presided at the Jubilee Mass. Being an educator, the school was important to Msgr. Valverde who worked tirelessly with the sisters and the Mother Cabrini Society (PTA) to ensure the children received the best possible education. In one generation, the parish school raised the children of immigrants to the middle and upper classes. The first local Italian doctors and lawyers were alumni of Mother Cabrini School.
These were the days of magnificent spiritual events such as the celebration of Corpus Christi on May 29, 1932 which started with First Holy Communion for 150 boys and girls. This was followed by a massive procession throughout the neighborhood as the church bells rang. Leading the procession was the Motorcycle Police Squad of Scranton followed by the flags of the United States, the Vatican State and Italy; each with honor guard. After those came the various sodalities and societies, each with their banner. These included the Christian Mothers, Blessed Virgin Society, Junior Blessed Virgin Society, Mother Cabrini Society, Sacred Heart Society, the Altar Society, The Rosary Society, the Holy Name Society, The Italian American Club, and others.
They were followed by the First Holy Communion class and the Confirmation class. The large choir came next and sang throughout the procession. Then came the cross bearer, acolytes, many priests of the area and the canopy covering the Blessed Sacrament carried by Msgr. Valverde. The procession symbolized bringing Jesus to the world. After threading their way through the neighborhood, the procession ended back at the church with Solemn Vespers and Benediction.
The expressions of faith during Msgr. Valverde's tenure were the envy of all and added to the reputation of St. Lucy's as a stronghold of faith and action that continues to this day. There were weeklong Novenas to St. Anthony and St. Lucy as well as the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The month of May was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and October to the Holy Rosary.
This was the time also for the many social events held throughout the year. These included the summer Garden Parties in the backyard of the rectory. These events grew so large that 10th Street and Scranton Street were closed around the rectory, sometimes for two days. The rectory garden was noted for its fountain and statue of Our Lady. Over Our Lady and around the fountain were huge arches with lights. Sometimes these summer parties were card parties and other times ice cream socials to the delight of the neighborhood children. Sometimes these events would be for two or three evenings. They were great opportunities for both prayer and fellowship.
And of course, there were fund raising events such as a weeklong carnival, bazaars and minstrels held in the church hall.
However, among the good times were also the growing anxiety, especially among Italians and Germans over the assent of Mussolini and Hitler to dictatorial power and the threat of yet another world war. There were supporters of Mussolini among the Italians in the diocese and in America. Msgr. Valverde was not one of them and with the other Italian priests of the diocese preached against the Fascists and Mussolini. From 1926 on there were shootings and bombings between Fascists and anti-Fascists in the Diocese. The Fascists made their presence known with outlandish funerals for members and public spectacles. Adding to the violence were the Red Shirts (Communists) , anarchists, and the ever lurking organized crime.
The Fascists sent Msgr. Valverde a letter that he had better keep his mouth shut "or else". From the magnificent pulpit, Msgr. Valverde continued preaching against the Fascists. On June 10, 1931, the "or else" happened. The original sacristy was in the huge bell tower which stood on the city side of the church. A bomb, of forty to fifty sticks of dynamite, exploded under the steps leading into the sacristy. The police attributed it to the local Fascists. The damage to the steps and costly Zettler German stained glass windows exceeded $400,000 in today's dollars.
Outspoken priests as well as church property were targeted during these times by secret societies, political organizations and others. Bishop O'Rielly decried the violence as he set an advisory board of prominent Scrantonians who embarked on a campaign to collect funds to restore St. Lucy's.
The Italian consul, Chevalier Fortunato Tiscar a member of St. Lucy's Church was also a noted speaker against Fascism. On Nov. 11, 1931, the consul and his family were rocked from their beds by great explosion under the front porch. The police attributed it to the local Fascists who were trying to intimidate well known Italians from speaking out against Mussolini.
The 1930's also saw many distinguished Italian speakers come to St. Lucy's. In 1932, Bishop Ernest Coppo of New York, a noted retreat master in America and Europe, gave the parish mission at St. Lucy's. At one celebration, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, New York City, was invited to address the parish.
The Italian American Club of St. Lucy’s Parish, circa 1933. Italian Consul, Chevalier (Knight) of the Crown of Italy Fortunato Tiscar, a prominent member of the parish is front row center. These clubs helped new immigrants to find work and acculturate them into the American society.
The Scranton area is noted for its coal mines which even in the 1930's caused problems.
The horse, whose name was Taft, was swallowed by a mine subsidence that opened up in front of St. Lucy’s Church in West Scranton. Taft, the horse, was part of team of horses pulling a Scranton DPW wagon that was going around the neighborhoods collecting ashes. The hole opened up in front of the church around 8:30am
and it took twenty city workers to free the horse from the hole. In addition to the city workers, a large crowd gathered to watch.
Beginning in the mid-1930's Msgr. Valverde's health began to fail. On May 3, 1936, Monsignor Valverde resigned his duties as pastor at St. Lucy’s. Monsignor Francis P. Valverde died on Dec. 14, 1949 at the age of 73, he is buried at Cathedral Cemetery.
Monsignor Valverde, whose priestly career spanned almost half century, would have observed the golden jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood Dec. 23, 1949.
Monsignor Valverde was regarded with love and admiration by all, particularly by the older Italian residents of this area for whom he had a special care.
MONSIGNOR FRANCIS P. VALVERDE: Our Eighth Pastor 1928-1936
Msgr. Valverde Succumbs at 73; Ill long time Pastor Emeritus of St. Lucy's Church Ordained in 1899
Very Rev. Msgr. Francis P. Valverde, 73, pastor emertius of St. Lucy's Church, West Scranton, and one of the oldest priests of the Diocese of Scranton, died today [Dec. 14, 1949] shortly before 11 A.M. at the home of his nephew, Joseph Valverde, 1534 Capouse Ave. [Scranton, Pa.].
Monsignor Valverde, whose priestly career spanned almost a half century, would have observed the golden jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood Dec. 23.
An indefatigable worker throughout his years of service in the Scranton Diocese, Monsignor Valverde retired form the active pastorate of St. Lucy's Church 13 years ago because of ill health. Although he had been hospitalized several times in recent years and was discharged a month ago from St. Mary's Hospital, his death today, attributed to a heart condition, came as a shock to his hundreds of friends among the clergy and laity of this diocese.
Widely known as an accomplished educator, linguist and untiring charitable worker, Monsignor Valverde was regarded with love and admiration particularly by the older Italian residents of this area, among whom he began his diocesan work while visiting relatives in this city 45 years ago.
A native of Borgetto, Sicily, a suburb of Palermo, Monsignor Valverde was born March 7, 1877, a son of Mariano and Antonina Valverde.
He received college and seminary training at Monreale Seminary, Scilicy, and ordained Dec. 23, 1899, at the Cathedral of Monreale. Only 22 years old at the time, the young priest was granted a special dispensation by Pope Leo XIII for his ordination. Church regulations required that a seminarian must be 24 years old before ordination.
Following two years of post graduate study at the Royal College DeCosmi, Sicily, during which he founded a boys school in Palermo, Monsignor Valverde came to Scranton with his mother to visit his brother, the late Joseph Valverde of the Capouse Ave., and his sister, Mrs. Giovanna Genovese, who still resides in Scranton. Besides his mother he was accompanied at that time by another sister, the late Mrs. Maria C. Florey, mother of Msgr. Salvatore J. Florey, pastor of St. Lucy's Church and Rev. Myron C. Florey assistant pastor of the same church.
First Pastorate in Freeland
The visit, orginally scheduled for six months, became permanent after Monsignor Valverde met the late Bishop Michael J. Hoban, the diocesan prelate.
Bishop Hoban urgently in need of Italian speaking priests to work among the thousands of Italian immigrants from Italy then settling in the Diocese, interested the young priest in remaining in the Scranton Diocese and received permission from the Church authorities in Italy for the change.
Monsignor Valverde's first assignment was at St. Anthony's Church, Freeland, where he remained from June 1, 1904 to March 27, 1906.
He then was appointed pastor of St. Anthony's in Dunmore and remained in that capacity until Sept. 8, 1928, when he was transferred to St. Lucy's Church.
During his early years in the diocese, Monsignor Valverde came in for special commendation form Bishop Hoban who credited him with "doing the work of three men." For a number of years he served on the foreign language staff of the International Correspondence Schools, where he composed a grammer and reader of the Italian language.
While at St. Anthony's and St. Lucy's, Monsignor Valverde was responsible for the construction of a rectory in each parish.
He served as a member of the Diocesan Board of Consulters for a number of years and on Sept 23, 1929, was named chamberlain of the Papal Court and elevated to the rank of Very Reverend Monsignor by Pope Pius XI.
Several years later his health began to fail, and on May 3, 1936, Monsignor Valverde was forced to resign his duties as active pastor of St.Lucy's, a parish where his two nephews now carry on his work.
In addition to his sister, Mrs. Genovese, and his three nephews, Mr. Valverde, Monsignor and Father Florey, Monsignor Valverde is survided by a number of nieces and nephews, many of the latter prominient in the business and professional fields in Scranton and other communities.
The funeral will be from St. Lucy's Church Saturday with a Mass at 10:30 a.m. following a recitation of the Divine Office at 10 A. M. Buriel will be in the priests' plot, Cathedral Cemetery.
Photo courtesy of the Scranton Times-Tribune 12/14/1949 Scranton Times
Additional Information from History of Scranton and Its People by Col. Frederick L. Hitchcock, Vol. II, 1914, pg. 649
"For the past eight years Rev. Francis Valverde, born in Palermo, Sicily, has been pastor of St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church, of Dummore, Pennsylvania, that having been his second charge since the beginning of his connection with the American branch oi the Roman Catholic Church. Before assuming his place as a member of the clergy he was favored by educational advantages of unusual attractiveness, and he entered the ministry endowed with all of the embellishments of university training, having made high and worthy use of his liberal scholastic culture.
Rev. Francis Valverde was born March 7, 1877, and was reared in his native city, the capital of Sicily, attending, upon the completion of his perliminary schooling, Messura Seminary, whence he was graduated in 1899. He then became a student in the University of Palermo, and was later a college professor, occupying the chair of languages. Having been ordained to the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church, he decided for service in other lands than that of his birth, and was assigned to duty in the United States, his first charge being at Freeland, Pennsylvania, where he remained for one year.
At the expiration of this time he was placed in charge of St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church at Dummore, where he remains to the present time, a prominent figure in ecclesiastical activities in the borough. His parish contains about four hundred and fifty families, a large proportion of which are regular attendants at church services. Soon after his arrival in Dunmore Rev. Valverde prepared a new curriculum for the school maintained by the church, and after the same was placed in operation become instructor in Italian, meeting his classes in the school daily, a duty that, added to his other clerical responsibilities, makes his existence a busy one."
Reverend Joseph Edward O’Brien
Assistant Pastor: Aug 1, 1934 – May 3, 1936
Administrator: May 3, 1936 – Sept 9, 1938
Fr. Joseph Edward O’Brien was born in West Side Scranton on Feb 1, 1908 to Mary and John O’Brien who lived at 1223 Schlager St. Fr. O’Brien was an excellent student graduating from St. Patrick’s High School and St. Thomas College with honors. While at St. Thomas College he was on the staff of The Aquinas school newspaper. Fr. O’Brien continued his studies at St. Bernard’s Seminary, Rochester, N.Y. and completed his priestly studies at the North American College, Rome, graduating in October 1933.
Fr. O’Brien was ordained in Rome on Dec. 5, 1933 in the chapel of the North American College by Cardinal Marchetti Selvaggiani, vicar general to the Holy Father, Pope Pius XI. Fr. O’Brien celebrated his first Mass at the ancient Church of Santo Stepheno-Rotondo in Rome. On May 8, 1934 he and his classmates received an audience with Pope Pius XI. Upon returning to the United States, Fr. O’Brien read his first Mass in America at St. Patrick’s Church in West Side Scranton on Sunday July 29, 1934.
Being fluent in Italian, on Aug 1, 1934 Bishop William J. Hafey assigned Fr. O’Brien as the assistant pastor at St. Lucy’s Church to assist Msgr Francis P. Valverde, the pastor. Within a short time Fr. O’Brien was a part of the life of St. Lucy’s parish becoming the chairman for the annual bazaar soon after his arrival.
Fr. O’Brien taught in the parish school and was constantly surrounded by the children who found his sense of humor and good nature attractive. At the eighth grade commencements Fr. O’Brien often gave the commencement address. In 1936 Fr. O’Brien, as the Garden Party chairman, was featured on the open air radio show by Mrs. Rose Fiorani who broadcasted her program to northeastern PA during the Garden Party. Fr. O’Brien proved to be a very competent priest with an affable and congenial personality who was well liked by young and old. Fr. O’Brien proved to be a true friend and helper to Msgr. Valverde, especially when Msgr. Valverde’s health began to seriously diminish. Fr. O’Brien took on many of the responsibilities of running the parish.
When Msgr. Valverde became too ill to continue Fr. O’Brien was appointed Administrator of St. Lucy’s Church on May 3, 1936.
On Sep 9, 1938 Fr. O’Brien was transferred to Sacred Heart Church in Plains as the assistant pastor. Fr. Salvatore Florey came from Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Jessup as the tenth pastor of St. Lucy’s Church also on Sep 9, 1938.
Fr. O'Brien 1971
On Jul 30, 1940 Fr. O’Brien was transferred as Administrator of Immaculate Conception Church in West Pittston. On March 19, 1941 he became the pastor and retired from there a little over thirty years later on Dec 15, 1971. Fr. O’Brien was dearly loved by all in West Pittston.
Fr. O’Brien’s retirement was short. He died at Mercy Hospital, Wilkes Barre after an illness on July 25, 1973.
His funeral Mass was celebrated at Immaculate Conception Church by the Most Reverend Joseph Carroll McCormick, D.D., Bishop of Scranton with many priests in attendance. The church was filled to overflowing by family, parishioners, and friends. Interment was at the family plot in Cathedral Cemetery, Scranton.
Msgr. Salvatore Florey (1938-1973)
MONSIGNOR SALVATORE J. FLOREY: Our Tenth Pastor 1938-1973
MONSIGNOR SLAVATORE J. FLOREY BURIED FROM ST. LUCY'S CHURCH
Scranton -- Monsignor Salvatore Florey, 78, pastor emeritus of St. Lucy's Church, Scranton, was buried from his parish church on Wednesday, October 10, at 11:00 a.m., with a Pontifical Concelebrated Mass of Christian Burial. Bishop James C. Timlin was principal celebrant. Monsignor Florey died on Sunday, October 7, 1984 in Mercy Hospital, Scranton, after an illness.
Concelebrants were Monsignor Mark Mecca, Monsignor Constantine Siconolfi; Father Paul Cottone, Father Girard Angelo, Father Carmen Perry, Father Anthony Palmasani, Father George Windsor and other priests in attendance. Father Julian Connor, CP, chaplain, St. Gabriel's Passionist Monastery, Clarks Summit was the homilist.Officers of the Mass included Father Alfred Vito, cross bearer; Father Martin Boylan and Father Mark Taffera, acolytes; Father Thomas Cappelloni, thurifer; Father Richard Polmounter, miter bearer; Father Cyril Edwards, book-bearer; Father Neil Van Loon and Father Dale Rupert, assistant masters of ceremonies; Father Francis Kulig, director of music.Transferal was held on Tuesday, October 9, at 7:00 p.m., with Monsignor RobertMcNulty, V.F., dean of Scranton - Lower Lackawanna, presiding.
Monsignor Florey was born in Scranton on December 25, 1905, the son of the late Francis and. Maria Valverde Florey. He attended local schools, St. Thomas College, now the University of Scranton, [St. Thomas Seminary at] the University of Denver in Colorado, and the Roman Pontifical Seminary in Rome where he was ordained to the priesthood on December 7, 1933, [at St. John Lateran] by Cardinal Marchetti Selvaggiani [in Rome].
After serving [for a few months] as assistant pastor at St. Mary’s Old Forge, Monsignor was appointed administrator of St. Mary’s Assumption, Jessup, December 17, 1934. He later became pastor of this parish and held this post until September 8, 1938, at which time he was transferred to the pastorate of St. Lucy’s Scranton. [After 35 years as pastor] he became pastor emeritus on September 4, 1973.
In 1943 he was appointed to the Board of Examiners of Junior Clergy and seminarians and three years later was named a diocesan consulter. On May 25, 1948, he was designated a Papal Chamberlain to Pope Pius XII and was elevated to [Domrstic] Prelate of Honor on September 2, 1956 [by the late Bishop Jerome D. Hannon].
Monsignor Florey observed his Golden Jubilee in the priesthood in December of 1983.
He is survived by a sister, Mrs. Rose Fiorani, Scranton, and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by two brothers, Father Myron Florey and Dr. Peter Florey.
Interment was in Cathedral Cemetery.
10/11/1984 Scranton Times
Assistant Pastors to Monsignor Florey (1951 - 1973):
Rev. Anthony R. Tombasco Rev. Salvatore P. Oliviero Rev. Michael Penn Rev. F. Allen Conlon Rev. Charles J. Zazzera Rev. Gerard F. Angelo Rev. Andrew Gallia Rev. Luke Sylvester Rev. Kenneth Dolan Rev. Joseph Bucolo Rev. Maurice Raymond Rev. John A Esseff Rev. William Bellucci Rev. Albert Brogus Rev. Vincent Grimalia Rev. Peter Herhenreader
Father Paul Peter Cottone: Our Eleventh Pastor 1973-2002
DIOCESE MOURNS FATHER PAUL COTTONE
Bishop Joseph F. Martino celebrated a Pontificial Mass of Christain Burial for Father Paul P. Cottone, on April 24, 2006, in St. Lucy's Church.
Father Cottone, pastor emertius of St. Lucy, died On April 19 after an illness. He was a resident of Greenridge Health Care Center, Scranton.
The Reverend Cottone, son of the late Salvatore and Colette Cottone, was born in Scranton on July 19, 1923. He was a graduate of Scranton Central High School. He began his studies for the priesthood at the University of Scranton and completed them at St. Peter's Seminary, London, Ontario, Canada, and Christ the King Seminary, St. Bonaventure, Olean, N. Y.
The Rev. Cottone was ordained to the priesthood in st. Peter's Cathedral, Scranton, Pa., on June 4, 1949, by the late Bishop William J. Hafey, D.D.
Following the ordination, the Rev. Cottone 's first assignment was as assistant pastor of St. Patrick's Church, Milford. From there he served as assistant pastor of St. Ignatius
Church, Kingston; Church of the Ephinany, Sayre; Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Peckville; and the Most Precious Blood, Hazelton. On September 14, 1996, he became the first pastor of the Church of St. Nazarius in Pardersville. Subsequently, he was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Carbondale and the Most Precious Blood where he also served as the Moderator of South East Luzerne Deanery Council of Catholic Men. On September 4, 1973, he bacame pastor of St. Lucy's Church where he remained until his retirement and appointment as pastor emeritus on July 25, 2002.
In 1971, he was appointed chaplain for UNICO International and served intermittantly as spiritual director of the Italian-American Charitable Organization for nine UNICO presidents.
Fr. Cottone is survived by two brothers, Judge S. John and Salvatore(Sam); and a sister Lillian, all of Scranton; and several neices and nephews. He was also preceeded in death by three brothers, Dr. Peter, Dr. Benjamin and Joseph; and three sisters Ida DeFilippis, Mary Noto, and Janet Cottone.
The evening before the funeral, a Vigil Mass was celebrated at St. Lucy's Church with Monsignor David L Tressler, V.F., presiding. Internment was in Cathedral Cemetary, Scranton, Pa.
The Catholic Light, (May 4, 2006, pg. 3)
Assistant Pastors to Father Cottone (1973 - 2002):
Rev. Vincent Grimalia Rev. Peter Herhenreader Rev. Samuel Ferretti Rev. Thomas Cappelloni Rev. Louis Grippe Rev. Joseph Saltry Rev. Thomas Yuen Rev. Joseph Motsay Rev. Patrick Genello Rev. John Kennan, S.J. Rev. Austin Flannagan Rev. Joseph Fanti Rev. Paul Eura Rev. Salvatore Bentivegna
Reverend John J. Chmil 2002-2005
REVEREND JOHN J. CHMIL: Our Twelveth Pastor 2002-2005
The Reverend John J. Chmil was born on June 20, 1966, son of Paul and Regina Ann Sharkey Chmil, in Ashley, Pennsylvania. He received his early education in Lyndwood Elementary School, Wilkes-Barre, and graduated from Hanover Area High School, in 1984.
Father Chmil attended St. Pius X Seminary in Dalton and the University of Scranton.In 1989, he received his bachelor’s degree in theology from King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, where he also minored in philosophy.
Father completed his preparatory studies for the priesthood at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, where he earned a master’s degree in pastoral ministry, in 1995.
Following his ordination on June 24, 1995, at Saint Peter’s Cathedral, Scranton, by the Most Reverend James C. Timlin, D.D., Bishop of Scranton, Father Chmil was assigned as Assistant Pastor at Saint Nicholas Church, Wilkes-Barre, on June 30, 1995.He remained in this assignment until July 6, 1999, when he was appointed Assistant Pastor at Saint Peter’s Cathedral, Scranton, and Secretary to Bishop Timlin.Father served in this capacity until July3, 2002, at which time he was named as Pastor of Saint Lucy’s Church, Scranton.In August, 2004, Father Chmil was also appointed Administrator of Saints Peter and Paul Church, Scranton.He was reassigned in the Fall of 2005. He is currently stationed at St. Peter's Church, Wellsboro, Pa.
Assistant Pastor to Father Chmil (2002 - 2005):
Rev. Thomas Yuen
"Our Thirteenth and Current Pastor"
Reverend Sam J. Ferretti Jr. was born in Pittston, PA, the son of Sam and Olga Ferretti. He attended Hughestown Grade School and St. John the Evangelist High School, Pittston.
After high school Rev. Ferretti attended King’s College where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in 1970. Having entered St. Pius X Seminary, Dalton, Pa., Rev Ferretti was sent for theological studies to Christ the King Seminary, Bonaventure University, Olean, NY where he earned a Master’s Degree in Theology in 1974.
On May 18, 1974 he was ordained to the priesthood in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Scranton, PA., by Bishop J. Carroll McCormick, D.D., Bishop of Scranton. Rev. Ferretti served as assistant pastor at St. Ann’s Parish, Shohola (summer assignment), St. John the Evangelist Parish, Honesdale, St. Lucy’s Parish (1975-1976), St. Theresa’s Parish, Shavertown, and St Francis of Assisi, Scranton. Rev. Ferretti served as Administrator of St. Dominic’s Parish, Wilkes Barre; Blessed Sacrament Parish, Wilkes Barre and briefly at Sacred Heart Parish, Dupont.
In addition to his parish duties, Rev. Ferretti taught at the Honesdale Catholic Elementary School, Bishop Hannon High School, Scranton, Bishop O’Rielly High School, Kingston and Bishop O’Hara High School, Dunmore. From 1980 to 1982 Rev. Ferretti was also the hospital chaplain at NPW Hospital (now Geisinger), Plains, PA.
In 1985 Rev. Ferretti was given permission by Bishop James C. Timlin, D.D., Bishop of Scranton, to accept an officer’s commission in the U.S. Navy as a Catholic Chaplain. After attending the Naval Chaplain’s School in Newport, RI, Rev. Ferretti was ordered to duty at USMC Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. His other assignments were; USMC Air Station Futenma, Japan, USMC Third Marine Air Wing, Futenma, Japan; Naval Weapons Station, Charleston, SC; Naval Air Station, Signolla, Sicily; USS AMERICA (CV66), Norfolk, VA; Chaplain Resource Board, Norfolk, VA; General’s Staff, Marine Corps Base Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa, Japan; Naval Hospital, Okinawa, Japan, and U.S. Coast Guard Training Center, Cape May, NJ.
In September 2005 Rev. Ferretti retired from U.S. Navy and returned to the Diocese of Scranton. He was appointed as the thirteenth pastor of St. Lucy’s Parish on October 1, 2005.