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     Home > People > Oral History Projects > Italians Settle in Edmonton >
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     History of Santa Maria Goretti Parish:  Italians Settle in Edmonton

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Read the Book  |  Introduction  |  Chronology  |  Santa Maria Goretti Parish  |  Acknowledgements

The phone rang. Mr. Biasutto picked up the receiver and an unmistakable voice on the other end spoke these words: "Angelo, come and get your priests." It was Bishop Anthony Jordan calling. Two priests. Father Rino Ziliotto and Father John Bonelli, Missionaries of St. Charles (Scalabrians) had just arrived from Chicago to take charge of the pastoral care of the Italian community of Edmonton. It was December 1957. They had no place of their own, so they were guests at the Archbishop's residence. It did not take them long to get into the action and brave the cold winter of Edmonton, at times on foot, at others chauffeured by kind paesani who could afford an automobile. The two priests began to visit families, preach the Word, administer the Sacraments, visit the sick in hospitals, find jobs for the newly arrived, help them with immigration papers, with language problems, and serve as peacemakers. It was an endless mission and not always rewarding.

Previously, a group of Italians had been gathering at the General Hospital's Chapel for their Sunday Mass, celebrated by Father Luigi, of the Salesian Fathers. But the number was now increasing more rapidly and a new place was needed; therefore, they were offered the basement of Sacred Heart Church (not exactly the atmosphere of the beautiful, artistic Churches that many of them had left behind, even in small towns). Soon, even that space appeared not only inadequate, but also not dignified enough for the spiritual needs of our people. The community needed its own Church. So the two priests, with a committee of laymen, set out in search of a building to be adapted as their own Church. But all seemed to present some drawback. Finally, the right choice came along when the Christopher Columbus Society offered a piece of land which it had in trust from the City, for possible future construction. The Society did not foresee any development in the near future and, therefore, decided to turn over the land on 110 Avenue and 90 Street to the Fathers for a new Church. But this was only the first step. Once the land was found, money for construction was needed. So the committee and a number of volunteers set about the difficult task of obtaining pledges. Naturally, it was more easily said than done. Most people were recent immigrants, with small incomes and were striving to build up their own financial stability and their own homes. But with faith, courage and hard work, the construction soon got under way. Permission was granted on September 7, 1958, and on September 8, work got under way. There was no stopping the enthusiasm of so many people, and on December 21 of that same year the new Church was dedicated to Santa Maria Goretti. Two name Saints were presented to the Bishop: St. Cecilia and Santa Maria Goretti. Bishop Jordan felt that the latter would be closer to our people since she is a "saint of our days."

"Do you think that your people can pay for the Church?" Bishop Jordan questioned some of the committee members. The answer was quick and to the point: "Your Grace, if our people were able to pay for hundreds of bigger and more beautiful churches all over Italy, they will be able to pay for this one also." That voice was not mistaken. In less than 15 years, the Church and the hall were paid in full.

Soon the people realized that the Priest's headquarters resembled a shack more than a rectory. This project too was soon begun and fast brought to completion with the skill and dedication of members of the parish. Thus, during the winter of 1966, Father John Bonelli and Father Joseph Vicentini were happy to move into the new rectory.

The Twenty-fifth Anniversary is always an important event. It is precisely this anniversary that brings back fond memories to the hearts of so many people. Just to mention a few, during these 25 years over 1000 marriages were celebrated in our Church; close to 4000 children received God's life in the Sacrament of Baptism; over 2400 First Communions and more than 2400 Confirmations were administered. To these we should add the innumerable encounters in the Eucharistic Celebrations and in the Sacraments of His Forgiveness, words of comfort and prayers of intercession for the departed, and messages of God's Word in the Sunday homilies and on the radio programs.

I see in the short history of our parish, a reflection of the history of so many of our families. The many experiences and stories I often hear from you speak of difficult times, of sacrifices, of dedication and of determination to succeed. We have good reasons, therefore, to celebrate the anniversary of Santa Maria Goretti Parish, the Parish which played an important role in your personal life and the lives of many families.

The first chapter is practically completed, but the book is not finished. A younger generation is fast growing and making good strides in the Canadian community. This young generation, more than ever, needs our efforts and care, so that we may not lose, in a few short years, what precious values have been so painstakingly preserved during these past years, both in the faith and cultural heritage.

The project of new facilities for the parish has been born from these convictions. We look back with pride to what has already been accomplished. We look forward to the next 25 years with great hopes and expectations.

Reverend Father Augusto Feccia

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