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The importance of religion to Italians is an issue that is
outside the scope of this short section of the
Celebrating Alberta's Italian Community website. Other Italian community historians have written about
whether Italian immigrants were wedded to religion or
not. Their observations are not about the spiritual
life but, rather, about the power of the Italian church in
Italy and opposition to that power, which made some Italians
anti-clericalist. Having said this, the Roman Catholic
Church is the established church of Italy and its history is
intertwined with the history of Italy. It's central
role in not only the spiritual life of Italians but also
their customs and traditions is unquestionable. This
is what immigrants from Italy brought to Alberta.
Italian culture values religion-or generally a
spiritual and moral outlook on life. The church blesses all
rites of passage in life-marriage, birth, death, and feast
days give shape to the seasons and feast
Christmas and Easter. All hold great both religious and secular significance.
and the church have had particular importance in
immigrant communities. At the end of the 19th century, the Scalabrini order, a
missionary group, was set up to tend to the spiritual and
community needs of Italian immigrants abroad. In
Alberta, the order is important because its priests set up
the Italian parishes in both Edmonton and Calgary. The priests
tended not only to the spiritual needs of the immigrants, but also
helped people find work, translated for those who did not understand
English, and generally acted as social workers.
In Edmonton, Italians worshipped in the basement of Sacred Heart
Parish and also the chapel at the General Hospital
(celebrated by a Father Luigi of the Salesian order) but, as
their numbers increased, a need was expressed for a church
as a community gathering place.
Priests who spoke the Italian language had sometimes
been available to officiate, for example, Oblates of Mary
Immaculate but, now, the community looked to an order that
had been established in northern Italy in the 19th
century to care for the needs of immigrants to North
Scalibrini Fathers were approached as community members
including Angelo Biasutto, Enrico Butti and Pat Giannone
discussed the establishment of church in the mid-1950s.
Interestingly enough, the original
meeting had to do with the establishment of the Cristoforo
Colombo Soccer Club and building a facility for them.
When it was discovered that up to $35,000 was
required, it was decided that better use could be made of
the funds and the piece of land that had been given to the
Club in trust by the City to establish a church.
That explains why the Italian church was built next
door to Clarke Stadium.
Sports and religion have always been close in the
hearts of Italian men!
In December 1957, Father Giovanni Bonelli and Father
Rino Ziliotto, Missionaries of St. Charles (Scalabrini
Fathers), arrived in Edmonton.
They stayed at the Archbishop's residence and with
a committee of layman began planning Santa Maria Goretti
was begun on September 8th, 1958 and the Church
dedicated on December 21. The
priests, experienced in not only tending to the spiritual
life of their parishioners, but also promoting the
preservation of the Italian language and traditions promoted
the development of a range of social, educational and