Italian American Heritage Hailed at Columbus Mass, Parade


Father Anthony Sorgie opened his homily at the 44th annual Columbus Day Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with a story many Italian Americans can relate to.

The priest spoke movingly of his mother arriving as a young girl with his grandmother at Ellis Island in 1925 to eventually meet with his grandfather and his uncles who were awaiting their arrival to settle as a family in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx.

“He was talking about when his mother first came here from Italy in 1925 and I was thinking in the back of my mind when my grandfather came here with his brothers in 1900,” Michael Grillo, 59, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady in Tuckahoe where Father Sorgie is pastor, told CNY. 

“I was thinking about the neighborhoods they lived in. They went to Brooklyn. My grandfather owned a pub at one time and during Prohibition it changed over to a candy store.”

 Father Sorgie said Christopher Columbus was a Third Order Franciscan and his journey included spreading the faith in the New World. 

“Those Franciscans made him proud,” he said. “Four centuries later they came here to take care of those Italian immigrants.

“But the Mass and parade today are only partly about Christopher Columbus. They’re part of Italian American Heritage Month, and we are the same and we remember and give tribute to all of those immigrants, especially today to the Italian immigrants that came and made our country here better for their coming in so many ways.”

Father Sorgie, in closing his homily, shared three of the many ways the Italian immigrants made the United States better—faith, family and la dolce vita, a popular Italian phrase meaning the sweet life, a way of life that is easygoing and enjoyable and worthy of emulation.

Father Sorgie used la dolce vita to extol the human genius in Italian art, sculptures, music, and food and wine. 

“So capturing all the dreams, all the exploration, all the wonder, all the discovery that immigrants needed and the discoverer needed, we praise Almighty God today for all of them but especially for our faith, for our families and for the sweet life that continues to be human genius,” he said.

Cardinal Dolan opened Mass with a welcome in English and Italian.

“(Christopher Columbus) was an agent of Jesus in bringing the faith to the New World, so we thank God for him and we thank God for the Italian culture, the magnificent contribution of the Italians to the fabric of American life and, if I might say so, to our Catholic family,” the cardinal said. 

Cardinal Dolan was joined on the altar by Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations; Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn; Bishop Philippos Stephanos Thottathil of the Syro-Malankara Eparchy of St. Mary, Queen of Peace in the United States and Canada; Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen, vicar for clergy in the archdiocese; Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Colacicco; Auxiliary Bishop Luis Miguel Romero Fernandez of Rockville Centre; Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn; Msgr. Joseph LaMorte, vicar general and moderator of the curia in the archdiocese; Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral; Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities; and many other priests and deacons.

Attending the Mass were Fabrizio Di Michele, Consul General of Italy in New York; Michael Pascucci, grand marshal of the Columbus Day Parade; and parade honorees Joseph Gurrera, Jodi Pulice and FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, the parade’s Humanitarian Award winner.

The 77th annual Columbus Day Parade, sponsored by the Columbus Citizens Foundation, on Fifth Avenue, was back in-person after being limited to a virtual celebration last year due to Covid-19 restrictions. Thousands of marchers processed along the route from 44th Street to 72nd Street.     

Gloria Avery, 65, of Manhattan, who attended the Mass and parade, said, “It’s wonderful to see the Italian community come together.” Her mother, Jeannie Venuto, hailed from Italy. 

Grillo was watching this year’s march from the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral with his wife, Maria, and son, Michael.

“There is no better parade than the one here in New York,” he said.