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History  Of  Saint  Peter's  Italian  Church


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The Church of St. Peter, according to Diocesan historians, began in 1890 when diocesan authorities realized Italian immigrants needed a church where their native tongue was spoken. The diocese requested the Apostolic delegate in Washington, D.C. send a priest to provide spiritual ledership to Italian immigrants. At the invitation of Bishop Patrick Ludden, Father Nicola Mennella, St. Peter’s first pastor, established a congregation that first celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of the Syracuse Diocese ( St. John the Evangelist Church). Bishop John Baptist Scalabrini founded the Pious Society of St. Charles, presently called the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles, in 1887 to serve the spiritual needs of Italian immigrants throughout the world. With bishop Ludden’s approval, Bishop Scalabrini assigned Father Francesco Beccherini to succeed Fr. Mennella at St. Peter’s. Thus, the Scalabrinians’ mission was established at St. Peter’s Church and continued unti 2001.
On June 24, 1895, a bank loan for $12,000 was secured to purchase a former German Lutheran Church at the corner of State and Burnet Sts. Bishop Ludden dedicated the church that would be known as "the first Italian church of Syracuse" on October 6, 1895. A succession of Scalabrini priests followed Fr. Beccherini: Reverends Gaetano Orlando, Vittorio Sovilla, Eugenio Ostino, Francesco Morassi, and Giovanni Cunneo.
Father Pio Parolin, ordained by Bishop Scalabrini, became pastor in October 1914. Fr. Paroli's legacy includes beautifying the church, ceremoniously burning the original mortgage in 1916 and organizing "The Passion Play." At the request of Bishop John Grimes, he worked with other diocesan settlements helping to establish Our Lady of Pompei Church, Syracuse; St. Batholomew's Church in Norwich and St. Joeseph's, Oswego. Succeeding Fr. Parolin were Father V. Rossi, pastor in 1923, and Father Agostino Lazzarin, pastor in 1924.
The brilliant, intellectual Father Angelo Strazzoni, began his 26 year-tenure as pastor of St. Peter's in 1924. A priest who emulated parental concern and humility, Fr. Angelo's achievements included expanding the church societies, organizing boys' sports and extensively renotating the church; and rectory. Fr.Angelo responded decisively to a destructive fire in 1937, with damage estimated at $17,000, by quickly restoring furniture and ceilings and purchasing a new organ to replace the one destroyed. When trains, running on the newly bulit "Elevation" located close to St. Peter's shook both church and rectory, it was time to find a new home for St. Peter's. Fr. Angelo's fundraising campaign raised $55,251, of which $20,000 was used to purchase land at James, Catherine and East Willow Sts. When he left the parish to assume his duties as chaplain at the former St. Mary's Hospital, the Church of St. Peters had land on which to bulid a new church and $173,824 in capital funds.
Father Louis Riello entered St. Peter's Rectory in April 1951, quickly earning the congregation's affection and loyalty through his saintly piety and humility, his genial manner and his sense of humor. His selfless devotion, leadership skills, and ability to get things done resulted in a successful building campaign that produced our current-day Romanesque church. Dedicated on September 18, 1955, the magnificent structure features exquisite stained glass windows, side shrines, mosaic Stations of the Cross and wainscoting, marble tile, a Botticcino marble pulpit, a mural depicting Mary's assumption into heaven and statues and paintings of many church saints. His failing health forced Fr. Riello to leave St. Peter's in 1960 to undergo extensive medical treatment. With characteristic unselfishness, he continued as an associate pastor in several parishes almost until his passing. In death, Fr. Riello returned to his parishioners and friends at Peter's, wher grieving young men had devotedly served as altar boys escorted his body in his funeral procession.
Succeeding Fr. Riello as pastor was Father Alexander Rinaldo, who founded the Women's Society and actively participated in all parish organizations and activities. Fr. Rinaldo also acquired land on East Willow St., intending to build a parish school but a shortage of teaching nuns made this plan impossible. The property evetually became the site of the Villa Scalabrini, a housing facility for senior citizens.
Associate Pastor Father Louis Pisano, a dynamic, humble, effective and beloved leader who followed Fr. Rinaldo as Pastor in 1970, spearheaded the building of the Villa Scalabrini, a nine-story apartment building on East Willow St. Additionally, he aquired the parish center on East Willow St. and founde a human development program, a senior citizens' organization, and an Italian radio program. When Fr. Pisano died unexpectedly in 1981, Associate Pastor Joseph Moffo became Pastor and continued his predecessor's programs, giving special attention to those affecting the elderly and young alike.
Father Ralph A. Bove succeeded Fr. Moffo in 1985. Using his condierable determination and energy, Fr. Ralph expanded the parish office and facilities, building a children's day care center and a convent for the Franciscan nuns. He oversaw many other projects, including a major renovation of the sanctuary, the installation of a new statue of St. Peter and air conditioning in the church, the restoration of the stained glass windows, the repainting of walls and ceilings and realigning the pews. Fr. Ralph's inspiring homily messages and his commitment to God and St. Peter's church are also fondly remembered.
The Church of St. Peter's last Scalabrinian pastors were Father Michael Tarro and Father Tarcisio Begatin. On Sunday, September 9, 2001, parish members gathered for a Mass and a special dinner following at LeMoyne Manor to pay tribute to the Scalabrini order that provided spiritual leadership and service to St. Peter's parishioners and Syracuse's Italian-American Community for 110 years.
Father Paul Angeliccio, the present pastor of the newly combined St. Peter's and Our Lady of Pompei churches, followed Fr. Joesph Scardella, St. Peter's first diocesan pastor. St. Peter's history would not be complete without remembering Assistant Pastors Father James McCloskey, Father Carmen Negro, and Father Henry Gentile as well as Msgr. Paul Brigandi and Parochial Vicar Father Thomas Carlesimo who provided devoted and spiritual service. Also noteworthy are the vital contributions made to the parish throughout the years by the Sisters of St. Francis and by Sister John Anthony in particular, remembered fondly for working so tirelessly and unselfishly in every church ministry and event before her well-deserved retirement. The Church of St. Peter and Our Lady of Pompei parish joined as one church on July 1, 2008. 

—Rosalie Mastrobattisto