Tag Archives: Italian American experience

✝️The demise of Worcester’s OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL CHURCH⛪: A LOSS FOR THE COMMUNITY … 💒GREAT MEMORIES FOR SO MANY

By John Monfredo, retired Worcester Public Schools teacher and principal and former Worcester School Committee member

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This summer: John Monfredo, outside his Worcester home. photo: R.T.

Just recently, as I drove past my old house where I grew up on East Central Street in Worcester, I had to stop my car and look across the way as workers were taking down the Mt. Carmel Recreation Center building.

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in its heyday. Photos submitted.

It was a nostalgic time because I started to think of all my childhood memories of growing up on East Central Street and time spent at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and its nearby Center. These were special memories for my family and me. My brothers, Joe and Ben, and I had such good times in the neighborhood at the church facilities!

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Mr. Monfredo’s dad next to the church bell he helped install at Mt. Carmel church decades ago.

It is with sadness that I now look at the demise of the church being torn down and now the property associated with the church … the ball field and the recreation center all gone. However, instead of dwelling on what was, I’d like to look back and think about the good times growing up in the shadow of our beloved church, built by Italian American immigrants. It was the center of Worcester’s Italian immigrants and their families for decades.

Unlike now, we all knew all our neighbors and we all watched out for one another. It wasn’t uncommon to leave your bike or toys in the yard because no one would take them. We respected each other’s property. We were fortunate, for the adults watched over us and made sure we did the right thing.

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A Mount Carmel vigil

FEAST JULY MPS
Parishioners fought nobly to save their church, taking their case to the pope in Rome, Italy.

At that time on East Central Street I was surrounded by many Italian families – the Spaziante’s, the Vigliotti’s, Palumbo’s, D’Elia’s the Virzi’s, Ranucci’s, DeLFemine, Dattis, Panucci’s and the Natalie’s, just to name a few. It was a neighborhood of two and three deckers. All the families were vigilant when it came to children, and folks were not afraid to call up your parents if you did something wrong.

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The young Mr. Monfredo reading his essay at a church celebration.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church played a major role in our upbringing because, not only did it provide spiritual guidance to us Mt. Carmel families, but there were many activities available for the children in the parish. …

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The Mount Carmel recreation center, a place where parishioners held spaghetti dinners, candle pin bowling night, dances and many celebrations. photo:R.T.

I remember going to the beach for the day on a bus with Father Bafaro, as well as going on various field trips to state parks.

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WCCA TV’s Mauro DePasquale, far left, one of his church’s cantors. Mauro and so many other parishioners and Worcesterites are heartbroken over the loss of the beautiful Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and the church’s recreation center and baseball field. Mauro was hoping to build a small shrine on the site, where people could come to pray and remember Our Lady of Mount Carmel. But the property was sold by the Worcester Catholic Diocese to a real estate developer who’s building a huge apartment complex and garage on the once hallowed ground and focal point for Worcester’s Italian American community.

At the Recreation Center, who could not forget the teen record hops where we would meet with many of our friends and have a great time? Kids danced the night away! At the end of the night, we would hear these words from Father Bafaro: “The best way home is the shortest way home.” We also had the pleasure of candlepin bowling at the Center, as well as playing basketball with friends or joining a church team and competing against other teams.

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Home-plate at the church’s ball field. photo:R.T.

Then there was the cafeteria at our Recreation Center where all sorts of events took place: community suppers and so much more. The
Rec Center provided so many other events for our families to attend! At the field, next to the Rec Center, we played baseball and football. I can also remember every Thanksgiving Day morning we would go to the field and have a touch football game with the guys.

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Parishioners gathered together to form prayer vigil groups to pray nonstop for the bishop to stop the sale of their church – the church their Italian parents and grandparents built stone by stone.

I asked some family and friends for their lasting impressions and here is what they said: For my brother Joe it was very personal, for that’s where he met his wife to be! He enjoyed going to the dances every week, and he also mentioned that he loved bowling and playing basketball for the CYC at the Rec Center. … Carleen D’Elia Ford, a friend for life, stated that her first impressions of the church started when she went to Communion classes run by the sisters of Venerini because the nuns were so helpful and communicated well with the students. She then spoke about appreciating the Columbus Day Parade and the Italian Festival in the parking lot of the church that took place each year and how the innocence of youth was so prevalent in those days.

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A Mount Carmel church carnival.

Ann Spaziante, my friend and next-door neighbor on East Central Street, had lasting memories of the Friday night dances and of Father Bafaro driving around to make sure we went right home. She also said, We used the bowling alley downstairs and really had fun. In addition, we all enjoyed just “hanging” around the Rec … great friendship, never an argument, just good socializing. You never had to go very far to be with friends because they were always there in good and bad times.”

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These three deckers, by the church site, off of Shrewsbury Street, are still standing. They were once home to Worcester’s Italian American immigrants, their children and grandchildren. The Italian immigrants built their beloved church just yards away from their three deckers! photo:R.T.

One of the strongest advocates in keeping the church from closing was Mauro DePasquale of Worcester and executive director of WCCA TV. I asked him about those positive memories: “My favorite memories of growing up in the Church and Rec Center are too numerous to mention. Attending the church with the organ music shaking the congregation amazed me as a young child. Seeing my Dad kneeling over the pew in deep reverence and prayer facing the alabaster white altar with angels and the Blessed Mother, our Lady of Mount Carmel holding the Scapular was memorable. That was the sacred space where my faith and family traditions were taught to me. I have many other fond memories growing up at Mount Carmel such as attending Catechism and later helping teach our faith to other children and adults. I performed at my first “Battle of the Bands” concert at the Rec Center, produced “Notte D’amore” (two seasons), an evening of multi-genre music and poetry for the Italian Cultural Center, while serving on the Board. The church was a community epicenter for the neighborhood, a community of Italian Americans and blended families, and so much more. Fighting more than four years to save the church from being abandoned and demolished by the Diocese was heartbreaking. The church and the buildings are gone, but the spirit and values learned from Our Lady’s and the Holy Family presence among us will shine brightly in our hearts forever.”

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Mr. Monfredo and his brother with their dad.

Finally, my brother Ben perhaps summed up the many thoughts of others with this statement: “We all loved going to the Rec, for there was candlepin bowling, bus trips to the beach and to ballgames, the record hops, the Italian Festivals in the summer where we could go and enjoy Italian food and carnival rides in the evening hours. There were also Catholic Christian values classes where our parents sent us to learn values that helped shape our lives. There was always something to do. It kept kids off the streets and offered an alternative to just hanging out. They also had the Joe DiMaggio Little League field as well as a playground with swings, seesaws, a jungle gym area and a bocce court. We didn’t have video games, so we played outside with friends and came home when it was dark. Those were special times, and the Church played a big part in our development. Yes, I will always remember those special times growing up and how the church played an important part in my life.”

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel church has been blended into another Worcester Italian American church, Our Lady of Loretto Church. But the Mt. Carmel parishioners still pray together, and together, praying, they are Our Lady of Mount Carmel! photo:R.T.

As you can see, Mt. Carmel was a very special place for many of us. After all these years, it is still missed! The demolition of church and recreation center is a loss for the new generation!

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The church was razed a few years ago. The beginning of demolition entailed removing all sacred elements of the church. Photo:R.T.

​AN ITALIAN DINNER SHOW at Mechanics Hall!

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Please attend this elegant evening of great music, food and friendship – while helping to support the work of the Mount Carmel Preservation Society!

“AN ITALIAN DINNER SHOW” Featuring Marco Turo, Lori Z (Sounds of Streisand) and Joe Cariglia

MECHANICS HALL

321 Main St., Worcester

Saturday, June 17

6 PM (Cocktails/ Meet & Greet)

7 PM -11 PM Dinner & Entertainment

Portion of proceeds to: Mount Carmel Preservation Society ​

For tickets: please contact
Nancy Iagallo at nancei888@msn.com

Thank you!
Mauro

A church Sunday bulletin does not give room for rebuttal, does it?

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel church

CROSS at MT CARMEL(2)

By Mauro DePasquale

What we as parishioners and members of the Mount Carmel Preservation Society see as the heart of the matter:

Mount Carmel Preservation Society (MPS) stated it will come up with the $120,000 (the cost the City Building Commissioner had originally said it would take to make Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church safe) to help alleviate the burden of cost upon the Diocese (the real owners of the building).

We said we would be happy to turn over the money raised to the Monsignor after the Monsignor opened the doors for Masses.

The Monsignor accepted that, and at a meeting with the MPS board said he would hope to have it by June 2017.

We proceeded and raised enough funds in pledges and cash and placed it on hold until the Monsignor opened the doors to our church.

We also, at that point, suggested and requested that Masses be conducted, temporarily, in the Recreation Center until the Church was made safe.

The Monsignor rejected that suggestion.

We had the Church positioned for the National Historic Register, which would make the building available for grants and tax credits that could save up to 40% of repair cost.

He rejected that option.

We offered a sustainability plan he was not interested in reviewing.

He then turned around and said the interior of our church needs to also be “proven” safe by a certified engineer. He then asked that the MPS pay for the engineer.

When we had an engineer ready to schedule an entry, the Monsignor sent us to the Diocese facility manager to set up an appointment to enter the building. The facility manager, about a month later, told us we had to ask the Monsignor to let us in.

When we apprised the Monsignor of this, the Monsignor refused to allow our Engineer enter the church and said there will be “no further discussion.”

Every effort the MPS made to reach out to the rest of the parish community the Monsignor censored, blocked, criticized or simply rejected, as if it were a personal attack, which of course it never was.

We are parishioners who simply want to save our beloved Church rather than walk away from it. To us it is a meaningful and Holy sacred place, an anchor to our families, our heritage and our identity as Italian American Catholics and Worcesterites. We simply haven’t given up on our Church like so many Catholics have after the pedophile cases came to light.

Shouldn’t the Church be working to save all that is holy and to save its flock, rather than risk loosing it?

This Sunday’s May 7 Church Bulletin we find the Monsignor spinning his own story, again painting an incorrect perspective about his own parishioners who are members of MPS, pitting our parish against itself.

The Church needs repair. Perhaps it can be doable over the years. We have a sustainability plan that proved it possible. Furthermore, it may also be possible to have Masses at the Church in a short time while a section of the church is under repair. We could also, if need be, have Masses on campus at the Recreation Center while major work is conducted.

Our engineer could have given us a definite answer to that question – IF THE MONSIGNOR WOULD HAVE LET HIM IN THE CHURCH TO INSPECT IT. But he didn’t.

The Pastor and the Diocese continually blame a declining congregation population. We have not seen scientific proof of declining numbers. I remember a time when the count conducted at Mount Carmel consisted of someone standing in the choir loft finger counting heads before Mass. That same person then sang in the choir during Mass.

So what about those in the church who were seated in the ten or so pews below the Choir loft – the people who couldn’t be seen from the choir loft? What about those who came late to Mass, while the choir member was engaged in music ministry? Where’s the real evidence? Where is the real transparency?

Is it really necessary to close the church?

Is it really necessary to merge our parish with another parish that is in deep debt to the Diocese for reasons we are not really fully aware of?

Real transparency would answer those questions, but no one knows the answer to them because there is a lack of transparency. Parishioners have paid to build and sustain the church over the years, a church we do not own, and yet, in this latest church bulletin, the Monsignor spins his story in such a way as to blame parishioners for the neglect of the owners, THE DIOCESE. He opines the fact that the owners had to put money into their own building, even though he knows, if he opens the church for Masses, MPS would come up with that money.

Wow! Can you imagine if all building owners could get their tenants to make a loan, from the owner, to pay to repair that owner’s building?

We also found many model plans for the Church to be preserved as a living shrine, which can have limited masses and serve a community of faith. This was also rejected without discussion.

Talk about transparency!

Can the Monsignor tell us why Our Lady of Loretto church is in such deep debt?

Can he tell us if the Diocese is really loosing parishioners left and right? Why is it so and where are they going? Can he tell us what he is doing to convert or retain parishioners? He doesn’t seem to care about the thousands of Catholics and Christians and others that agree with and support our mission. Can he tell us where ALL the money parishioners donate (including all weekly baskets, legacy giving, and other donations) is really going to pay for?

Can he tell us why he is betraying his flock and the Word of Christ by chastising our members and calling our efforts foolish? Can he tell us where we can find the “Holiness” in all of this?

*****
Here is a link to the church bulletin:​
https://content.parishesonline.com/bulletins/04/0513/20170507B.pdf

A Must Read – One reason Why Loretto and the Diocese May be in Debt:
https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/parishioners-look-to-save-church

MPS BOARD WORKING MEETING Monday, 5:30 p.m. Please contact Mauro for details.

Thank you and God Bless,

Mauro DePasquale, Mount Carmel Preservation Society

From the Mount Carmel Preservation Society

MESSAGE TO MOUNT CARMEL PRESERVATION members and supporters:

We were all deeply saddened by the Historic Commission’s stunning decision to not move our petition for a Historic District feasibility study forward at last night’s meeting on January 19, 2017.

Such a study would have been worthy, on many levels, to undertake, and the commission would have received plenty of facilitation support from Preservation Worcester and from our Mount Carmel Preservation Society. Moving forward with the study would have been a just and respectful step in consideration of a Church that is a primary living historical artifact and an important part of Worcester’s identity as a multicultural city and, as well, to its Italian community.

Mount Carmel Preservation members and our supporters should be proud of their hard work and amazing accomplishments. Thank you for pursuing our collective mission with dignity, with conviction and assertiveness.

We love our Church and our Faith, we were not ashamed to bring witness to the truth.

We continue to believe our Church is a historical Sacred structure worthy of preservation. The City Building Commissioner said there was no need to knock the church down. Our studies indicated our parish, seated on Mulberry Street, could maintain and sustain the Church and campus. As a parish that has a potential to thrive on a plot of land, of approximately five acres, assessed at approximately $7 million dollars, it is no surprise, as parishioners, with respect to all who made sacrifices over the last 100 years toward building our Church, that we are very disappointed with the Commission’s decision.

You all stood tall as a true family, continually respectful and professional through the entire process in our passionate appeal to fix and re-open our church and save our parish on Mulberry Street. We acted in good faith throughout the entire process. We were let down by our Parish leadership.

There may be opportunities for various appeals to consider and our Board is taking them under advisement.

Now, as we move forward with thanksgiving and forgiveness, we join members of the Worcester City Council, Preservation Worcester and Mass Preservation, in hopes, and as we requested, to continue discussions with the Bishop, to work together and to explore ways to re-open our Church.

We pray the Bishop will have a change of heart or, at the very least, the WBDC and the Chamber of Commerce will find a developer who fully understands and appreciates the value of functional sacred space.

We will update you with further actions as soon as possible. I hope to see you at our Prayer vigil this Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Mt Carmel Apartments.

Our next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Monday, February 6, at 6 p.m. Details will be forthcoming.

God Bless you and God Bless Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Ann Parish.

Mauro DePasquale, President
Mount Carmel Preservation Society

Can the bishop and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Preservation Society MAKE PEACE? … “Historic” meeting tomorrow night! Jan. 2!

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Jesus hated money 💰and loved homeless 🔑people😇!      pic: R.T

By Rosalie Tirella

A few days ago I left Mauro DePasquale a voicemail re: his efforts to save his church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and to stave off gentrification of the Shrewsbury Street corner on which his beloved church sits.

CUT A DEAL WITH THE BISHOP! I cried into my cell phone. THESE GUYS ARE BRUTAL AND WANT THAT VALUABLE LAND. THEY WILL SELL IT – AND  MT. CARMEL – DOWN THE RIVER FOR THE MONEY. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CAN BE ARROGANT, RIGID … BRUTAL. CUT A DEAL. HAVE THEM TAKE SOME OF THE LAND TO SELL TO THE GENTRIFIERS,  AND WITH SOME OF THE MILLIONS THEY MAKE HAVE THEM BUILD YOU A NEW, SMALLER, ENERGY-EFFICIENT CHURCH. And you get to KEEP your rec center.

I sounded urgent because I’ve come to know, often from first-hand experience, how slippery, rigid and vain the Catholic church is and how slippery, rigid and vain Worcester politics is, a kind of Catholic church in its own dogmatic, cliquey right. I’ve watched how the game is played here in Worcester, and I believe Mt. Carmel is about to be flushed down the crapper by the Catholic Diocese of Worcester – basically a group of anal, proud, unyielding old Irish guys who happen to be “clergy” – for money. Why do I feel this way?  Because they recently met with fellow powerful Irish Catholic, St. John’s/Fordam University alum Chamber of Commerce head Tim Murray. Murray is a BIG TIME gentrifier and big time Catholic. The ducks were being lined up …  As Donald Trump would put it: SAD.

Mauro DePasquale and the Italian Americans who want to save and restore their beautiful old church are/were never in the Tim Murray-former-City Manager Mike O’Brien political circle of trust, that rigid roley-poley cabal that  still runs Worcester and pays you municipal jobs, political connections, back-room deals … in short, power … if you are Irish, went to Fordam or Holy Cross and give them your soul. Tangentially speaking,  now washed-up-pol Murray (precisely BECAUSE he tried to transfer the clubby political Worcester MO to a state-wide political campaign and was LAUGHED OFF THE STATE STAGE) is part of/connected to the Irish Catholic gang on Elm Street in the chi chi chancery.

So when the Bishop crowed at a recent public meeting that he rang up Murray and met with Murray I knew the fix was in for Mt. Carmel. These two Irish Catholic bros wanna move – for different reasons: the Bishop for $$$/Murray for development – that Mt. Carmel parcel of land just sitting fallow in the middle of a flourishing hipster business and restaurant district, a district ripe for another fucking artisan bakery that sells $7 loaves of bread, clothing boutique, bacon bar or something else that you eat, drink or wear to make yourself feel more cool, less fat, more sexy, more intelligent, etc., I knew it was over. I told Mauro he had to compromise, give these assholes some of what they wanted. AND MAURO AND THE MT. CARMEL PRESERVATION SOCIETY SHOULD, AT THE VERY LEAST, GET A NEW, SMALLER CHURCH AS REWARD FOR RELINQUISHING THEIR GRAND DREAM. Maybe with the mosaic and altar and other precious architectural details fom the old church incorporated into the new one.

Sad.

The Bishop probably called Tim Murray after Mauro and the church preservation society were on their way to having the church and its environs declared a Historic District – this move would make it much harder for the Catholic church to do anything to the property. That’s when the Bishop panicked. He’d lose money. More important, he’d lose CONTROL. Very crucial to the self worth of the old school, by the books, dogmatic, soul-crushing Catholic big wigs. More crucial than Jesus and what He stood for. The Bishop called Murray to squelch the church preservation society’s effort.

This makes even more sense – in a pathetic kind of way – if you know this back story: Mauro DePasquale and his wife Tracy head WCCA, the local cable access TV station. Former Worcester City Manager Mike O’Brien, another devout Irish Catholic, spent years trying to kill their TV station –  never liked them or the cable money they were getting to pay for their jobs, their staffers etc. O’Brien felt the dough was City of Worcester money and wanted WCCA shuttered.  He wanted the thousands of dollars WCCA gets to flow to the City of Worcester TV station where HE could CONTROL EVERYTHING: programming, staff, point of view … squeezing out Mauro, his wife, and Mauro’s staff…

And so began the death by a thousand cuts with WCCA losing funding every year. Mauro, a Worcester guy who grew up on Bell Hill, was shaken, upset. He called O’Brien, but Mauro’s phone calls weren’t returned, meetings with O’Brien were cancelled last minute. The city of Worcester government TV channel was beefed up by O’Brien – surreptitiously, of course. The dance goes on to this day with the new city manager following O’Brien’s lead, building and growing a state-of-the-art City of Worcester government TV channel, slowly cutting off WCCA. But Mauro has hung tough. He still has his beloved TV station and runs it his way – OPEN TO ALL VOICES IN THE COMMUNITY. It’s amazing that he’s got the energy for the Mount Carmel fight in light of the eternal battle to save WCCA TV.  Of course, on the Mt. Carmel front, he’s basically up against the same assholes.

Sad.

Where is the love hiding in all these freakin’ Catholics?!

To make things even sadder: We hear a real estate investor pal of former Worcester City Councilor Phil Palmieri is jonesin’ to buy the primo real estate parcel from the Diocese of Worcester. Palmieri, when in office, represented in part, the people of Shrewsbury Street, Mt. Carmel church. But he is also a local developer, owning that big building next to East Park and other East Side property. Phil’s a good guy but a money$$$$ guy. He knows the land on which Mt. Carmel and its rec center sit is worth millions! Millions! Because instead of simply being located in Worcester’s ol’ Italian neighborhood, it’s now located in the middle of Worcester’s booming, blooming urban coolio extravaganza – a $$$$-generating hipster business and restaurant mish mash that millenials love to patronize. It’s as if  Mt. Carmel, low on parishoners, high on a pastor who could often be seen down the street at the glitzy bar of Coral Seafood enjoying a drink, is a cultural anachronism. Even its pastor was imbibing at one of the hippest spots on Shrewsbury Street!

There seems to be no room for an Italian church whose flock has diminished, moved away … or died. Mauro believes the parish is still strong and is growing stronger by the day now that everything can be lost. Forever! He believes folks who care about Worcester history and architecture support his group’s efforts.

I said on his voicemail: CUT A DEAL, Mauro! THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN WIN THIS. THE IRISH BISHOP HAS CALLED THE IRISH HEAD OF THE WORCESTER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. The politics are against you.

In Worcester, that’s everything.

*******

From the Mount Carmel Preservation Society:

IMPORTANT

Please make every effort to attend for what may be an historic MPS meeting

Monday night – January 2, 2017

6:30 PM

The meeting will be held at WCCA TV studios 415 Main St. (Parking on street or municipal lots on Pearl/Elm St. or Commercial Street.)

We will communicate to you what has transpired with our meeting with the Bishop and I will ask you to vote to decide what our next step will be for the future of our church and our mission to Fix (reopen) the Church and Save the Parish on Mulberry Street.

I wish you all a wonderful blessed, healthy, happy, and peaceful new year.

God Bless us all!

SEE YOU MONDAY NIGHT!

Mauro DePasquale, President, Mount Carmel Preservation Society

http://www.preserveourladyofmountcarmel.org