Memories are Made of This - Fr. Stanley Klasinski, Pastor St. Clare Parish, Lyndhurst, Ohio

Padre Stanley Klasinski, Pastore di St. Clare Parish, a Lyndhurst, è recentemente tornato a Sant’Agata di Militello per visitare i luoghi di provenienza della madre, emigrata negli Stati Uniti a soli dieci anni. Il racconto del viaggio, la riscoperta delle proprie radici e l’emozione di sentire il forte legame che ancora sussiste sono esperienze e sensazioni che accomunano milioni di italo americani.  

There’s no place like home.  It was not so much a tour as a pilgrimage! My good friends and classmates, Fathers Philip Racco and Joseph Labak were  hosts of an October 2014 Best of South & Sicily Custom Tour escorted by Donna and Peter D’Attoma, President of DaVinci Custom Travel & Tours.  45 Americans were immersed in the land and culture that is unique to the mezzogiorno for 16 days and 14 nights. Many of us have roots in the sunny South and Sicily. I was one of several of our good company blessed to return to the home of parents or grandparents.  For us a tour became a pilgrimage. Allow me to share my storia.  I know it will resonate with many readers!

Rome may be New York and Palermo may be Chicago. On what good day of Creation did God fashion the towns of the South and their people clinging to their traditions and to the cliffs that hover over waters described as azzurro azzurro (blue, blue)?   The town squares witness to the faith and family values held dear by the friendliest of folks and the best of cooks.  Shops and schools close early afternoon in time for the daily family pranzo.  Ask for directions and you will be led to your destination.  I engaged several elderly gentlemen on a park bench in conversation and heard the Sicilian dialect spoken by my elders on Fulton Road at Sunday dinners. And that brings me to Sant’Agata di Militello!

Are you from Cleveland?  My cousin lives there! Seemingly everyone has someone in Ohio. My mother Caroline was born on the 10th of December to Salvatore Petrolo and Concetta Spinelli. She traveled alone from the Port of Naples to Ellis Island (where her father awaited her) to Cleveland just shy of her tenth birthday. (10 year olds paid adult fare in economy class.) I had no known relatives to contact in Sant’Agata but PeterD’Attoma arranged for a day driver from Taormina. So Claudio was my guide and the office workers in the municipo were my friends.  An hour long search of dusty record books pointed me to Via Etna 33 – the stone house and solid wood door I recognized from old photos! I have photos and a few small stones to show from the now abandoned house but only those who have stood before a home across the ocean can know how it did and still feels.

The office manager embraced me as a fellow citizen of Sant’Agata. “IF you come to the Feast next year you must stay at my brother’s bed and breakfast.”  He kissed me again. “When  you come to the Feast next year you must stay with my brother.” Now that is Sicilian! And Sant’Agata will always be home.