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“We are qualified and have earned our stripes”

“We are qualified and have earned our stripes”

“We are qualified and have earned our stripes”

by Fr Vitaliano Papais

TORONTO – I’ll be direct: as far as I am concerned, the failed opportunity to include representation from the Italian community in the latest round of Senate appointments is inconsistent with the publicly professed modernity of a new Canadian society.

If the [relatively] young Canadian democracy is to grow in strength, it needs to “take stock” of those so-called ethnic groups who have proven their worth, and can contribute, to a consistent, sustainable national character – one based on values such as “[human] rights, liberty and economic growth”.

In my opinion, the Italian community has contributed as much as, if not more than, any other in the development of “values”, be they moral, cultural, entrepreneurial, style, taste or openness to Canadian inclusiveness.

We are not embarrassed to admit to being “upwardly-mobile in orientation”. The Italian community is unsatisfied with “shacks” as domiciles. We prefer solid little villas, equipped with all the modern comforts and luxuries and furnished with high-end quality products. Not for us the living conditions tolerated by those first immigrants who found themselves living in homes constructed from wood … like those pens reserved for domesticated animals.

There is something about the classical, humanistic context of the Italian culture that propels the innate drives of Italians to strive for the best that Life has to offer. Even the struggles overcome to impart the Italian language to their children has impacted positively on their offspring of second and third generations, infusing them with character, conditioned by “fear of the Lord.”

If, in days gone by, some felt embarrassment or shame in admitting to being Italian for fear of being ridiculed and humiliated, today this is no longer the case. In fact, knowing more than one language is held out as an advantage that young people glory in sharing among themselves and with their friends.

It goes beyond that and to the impact on self-awareness and self-confidence that flows from the cultural exchanges made with our “motherland”.

I am part of a project that, in every July, sees me serving as a guide for about 50 teenage students, to Friuli, with an organization called EFASCE. Sponsored by the provincial government of Friuli Venezia Giulia, it is a culture course designed to explore the “roots” of one’s origins.

Of the many positive responses, I would like to share this one given in confidence because it speaks to the “ethic” which is at the base of our culture: “thank you Father for having pushed me to participate, because I, now, finally understand my own father and the values that form the foundations of our life.”

These are the experiences which prepare new cohorts of a Canadian society oriented to a better world.

Exempla trahunt … examples educate and stimulate a joy for Life. Have you noticed how the children and grandchildren of Italians have populated Catholic Schools? Wherever Italians have taken up residence, they have constructed Churches and parishes thereby creating new “assets” for the Curia in the Diocese of Toronto. Should they not receive more attention?

At the inaugural of the CN Tower -Toronto’s Tower, the symbol of a city that projected itself toward the Future – Italy’s tricolore waved along with Canada’s flag. There was a reason (pride by the workers who had toiled to erect the structure, for those unfamiliar with the story, ndr).

So, it is not whiny rhetoric to suggest that the great and large Italian community deserved a representation in the Senate. It would have done well for everyone and at little cost.

We are qualified and have “earned our stripes”.

(Thursday 24 November 2016)

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