Story by Bill Stephens
from all over Los Angeles gathered downtown Sunday, September 12 to celebrate
the centennial of St. Peter's Italian Church.
along with its church hall, Casa Italiana, is the focal point for L.A's far-flung
activities included a mass, reception, rededication of Casa Italiana, and banquet. Improvements to the church and
Casa Italiana were unveiled, as were a centennial history book and video.
Speakers recognized those who nurtured the church and urged members to keep the tradition
Peter's remains a beacon, the mother church and spiritual home for Italians in
Los Angeles," said Cardinal
Roger Mahony during the mass. "Look back and look ahead. Maintain this spiritual center and keep it alive.
Pass it on to your children and grandchildren."
was founded in 1904 on Spring
Street to address the needs of Italian immigrants in Italian. The church soon moved to "Little
Italy" along North Broadway in today's Chinatown. Italians eventually
dispersed throughout L.A.
editor of L'Italano-Americano newspaper wrote part of the centennial history.
He says St. Peter's adapted by becoming a center for special occasions and
enlarging the function of Casa Italiana into a center for meetings and
celebrations for church groups, as well as for Greater Los Angeles social and
Italian community remained attached to the church and wants it to
continue," says Trecco. The social function of St.Peter's has actually
increased, as has the ceremonial function, including feasts, funerals,
who may belong to a suburban church, like to come here to link with their
ancestors and Italian heritage," says St. Peter's pastor Father Giovanni
Bizzotto. St. Peter's is run by the Scalabrini Missionaries.
has services in Italian and
Latinos and Asians attend services, as well as Italians. Some 50 Italian church
societies and cultural/professional clubs are based at Casa Italiana,
maintaining Italian traditions and supporting the church.
pastor in 1998, Father Bizzotto has
boosted church attendance, upgraded facilities, energized the clubs,
started a small seminary for young men deciding whether to become priests, and
enlarged migrant services with a feeding program.
Italians throughout L.A. and other
cultures in our neighborhood, especially newcomers to America," Father
Bizzotto said in an interview.
was launched a year ago to recognize those who have nurtured the church and to
stimulate participation, especially
among church members' children. A centennial committee organized the Sept. 12
event and fundraising. The church
received fresh paint and improved air conditioning. Casa Italiana received
paint, wood paneling, sound system, flooring.
centennial banquet, attended by 450, First District City Councilmember Ed Reyes
congratulated church members for not forgetting their roots, and promised that
a new park across the street will add local appeal.
General Diego Brasioli told the audience that he and his family feel at home at
St. Peter's. He's trying to build a closer relationship between the downtown
and West Los Angeles Italian communities.
were singled out for keeping St. Peter's vital. Father Michael Cecere, who was
pastor from 1943-1949 and built the
current church structure, was a special guest. Father Luigi Donanzan (pastor
from 1962-1979) was recognized for
building Casa Italiana and Villa Scalabrini retirement center, and for reviving
St. Peter's clubs and festivals.
involved with St. Peter's say the church has been important to them.
Smaldino grew up in the neighborhood, was married at St.Peter's, and lives
nearby. "The church has meant everything to me--the Italian language, the
Carone: "Many want to reconnect with this place because they want to
reconnect with their roots and with their Italian-ness."
Sciarra: "We live in Arcadia
but are drawn here by our friends. It's a hub for the Italian
Costantini moved to L.A. from Italy in 1948 he says St.Peter's helped reduce
culture shock. He was married in the church, his two sons were baptized and
confirmed there. Though he lives in the suburbs, he remains very involved.
Noema Corradi: "The centennial got everyone re-energized. It's history in
the making. This church and hall are very important. We need the closeness and
attachment to each other."
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