Posts Tagged ‘Sicily’
Another anniversary, and a terrible one — the 100th anniversary of the worst earthquake to strike Western Europe, before or since. It struck today, in 1908 in the Strait of Messina, virtually obliterating the city of Messina in Sicily and doing nearly the same amount of damage in Reggio di Calabria. Tens of thousands were killed. Padre Gaetano was a parish priest in Pentidattilo at the time and barely escaped injury. The devastation was widespread and longlasting. It was decades before the two main cities were rebuilt.
MORE on the American response to the devastating earthquake here and the role of President Teddy Roosevelt, thanks to Joe Guarino.
This video was shot in Chorio, a small village in the southern Aspromonte in Calabria. The saint and his cousin, Carmelo Catanoso, who was my grandfather, were both born there. My Uncle Tony is the star of this story. He calls it The First Miracle. It is, without doubt, one of my favorite stories in the book, taking place as it does during World War II — in Chorio. Sticklers should note: this miracle was not vetted by the pope’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
This video was shot and produced by UNC-Greensboro film professor Michael Frierson in Italy last March.
Tonight at The Monti in Chapel Hill, I will tell the story of my Uncle Tony and how he came to find and meet his long-lost aunt during World War II in Chorio, the Calabrian village where his father was born. There’s a side story that I won’t tell but is in my book, and it centers on Rina Catanoso, the lovely Italian woman on the left. She remembered the day in 1944 when Uncle Tony showed up in the piazza in Chorio and the commotion it caused. Two summers ago, she invited me to her home in Messina, Sicily, to share the story. Others pictured here include her husband, who was held as a POW by Americans during the war, as well as her three daughters and son-in-law. Next to me is Patrizia Catanoso, my cousin from Reggio.
The News & Observer wrote about the Monti on Sunday.
This is Pentidattilo, a tiny hillside village up from Melito di Porto Salvo on the tip of Calabria. It overlooks the Ionian Sea and offers an unimpeded view of Mount Etna on the east coast of Sicily. It is beautiful and haunting and, since the mid-1950s when rock slides threatened, abandoned. But it is also the place where a saint got his start.
In 1904 — two years after he was ordained, one year after my grandfather emigrated to America — Padre Gaetano Catanoso was assigned to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (look, you can see it clearly) in Pentidattilo. There he found a people beyond poor. They were illiterate, jobless, bankrupt of all hope. This is the place where the young priest began his outreach, where he started his first school, where he stood up for the first time to the Mafia goons in town. He somehow survived the earthquake of 1908, which leveled Reggio and Messina and did its share of damage in villages like this. He stayed here for 17 years, and often hiked to other remote Aspromonte villages to preach and help out. At that time, Italian priests were usually called don, as in Don Francesco. Not Gaetano. The people called him padre, or father.
I love to post photographs on this blog, particularly from Calabria. Sometimes simple tourist shots tell a greater tale than the best photo essayist. Here’s an example, with lots of photos — a retired teacher and football coach from California sharing highlights from his recent visit to Catania, Sicily. My paternal grandmother, Caterina Foti Catanoso, was from a tiny fishing village, Riposta, located just north of Catania near Taormina. The coach’s photos of the WWII museum remind me of my Uncle Tony’s experiences there in 1943 as part of Operation Husky, the allied invasion of Sicily.
Thanks coach. Buon viaggo.
Here I am with my Uncle Tony and Aunt Phyllis in NJ on May 23. Uncle Tony is one of the stars of Part I of my story. An American soldier during WWII in Sicily, Uncle Tony went AWOL one week to search for an aunt he had never met before. He told me later that finding her was “the first miracle” of Saint Gaetano Catanoso (who wasn’t even a saint at the time!). My brother Len Catanoso took this photo.