TORONTO - It's next to impossible to write about Italians who made Canada their new home without talking about their Catholic faith. A very high percentage of Italians are Roman Catholic. Many religious orders sent their members to establish themselves in Canada in order serve the Italian community.
This goes back to 1856 when the Capuchin Fr. Luigi Lavagna came to Canada and was appointed pastor of St. Mary's Parish on Bathurst Street, in Toronto. Others religious orders that have come to Canada are the Franciscans in Toronto, who came from the U.S. to a "mission station," as a priest used to talk about the mission stations he was also sent to in Pakistan! The Servites went to Montreal and the Oblates were sent to the West Coast. After the Second Worl War the Scalabrini priests' mission was to work with the huge wave of immigrants, both in Canada and the United States.
As a result, in the 1960s, in many of Canada's Catholic parishes, Italians could attend Mass in their own language. The parish became an important part of family and community life. In Montreal, by 1970, eight parishes o.ered services in Italian. In Toronto, at that time, there were 65 Italian speaking priests and one-third of all Catholics in the diocese were of Italian origin.
The parish was the place the family came to baptize a child, where children received their First Holy Communion, received confirmation, later married and where funeral Masses were attended by friends and relatives. The Mother Church was the life blood of the community. The Church was there for spiritual needs but also to provide help with immigration issues, education and recreational activities. The Church made it possible to keep Italian customs, language and culture alive. Days to honour Christ, the Blessed Mother, the Saints and the Sacraments were reasons to celebrate and have banquets. Who hasn't seen the live Stations of the Cross on Good Friday from St. Francis Church and many other churches. Or the ever presence of the Christmas creche, il presepio, throughout Canadians cities. Wedding banquets were often held in the Church halls following the religious ceremony.
Religion was strongly connected to social events. The "festa" (party) was a great way to bring the family, relatives and friends (paesani) together. Italians have strong family traditions, many of them founded on their faith. Past generations had more children, and couples were less likely to divorce or separate. Most of them were against abortion, divorce and the use of contraception. They believed in taking care of their old parents in their own homes.
It's difficult to imagine how the Italians who came to Canada in the 1950s and 1960's would react to what is currently happening at the Toronto Catholic District school Board and the rest of Canada. They would find it difficult to believe that their children and grandchildren have helped to legalize samesex "marriage," euthanasia, gender identity, abortion and pushing homosexuality and radical sex-curricula into our public and separate schools. It's worth noting that the majority of Italian families sent their children to Catholic schools. This increase and support for separate schools has lead to the large number of schools we have today.
The Archdiocese of Toronto has made an effort to recognize the contributions made by Italians to the Catholic community. Fr. De Angelis, a strong figure in the Italian community, was appointed member of the Minister's Advisory Committee for Education in Ontario. He was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto in 1992 and in 2002, he was appointed Bishop of Peterborough. He retired in 2014. In addition, the Italian Pastoral Commission was started in Toronto to serve the Italian community. We can only guess about Bishop De Angelis' utter disappointment and sadness given the aggressive secularization of Ontario's Catholic schools today.
However, sadly, what Church leaders and the Catholic laity once fought so hard to obtain in parishes and schools, now, some trustees at the TCDSB, like Maria Rizzo, Markus de Domenico, Norm Di Pasquale and Ida Lipreti, are working hard to destroy. They have no sense of history and their own roots. There is no appreciation for the patrimony they have inherited.
Their disrespect, ignorance and worship of political correctness has made them blind to the need to preserve, protect, or live the faith freely handed to them by their ancestors on a silver platter. Shame on them. Double shame! What total ingrates. They're an embarrassment to the Italian faith community, to their grandparents and great-grandparents and to the rest of Canada.