This is the sixth letter in the series of ten letters between Abbot Giovambattista Follo of Paduli and Michel Zullo of Hollis, Queens, New York.
ORIGINAL LETTER IN ITALIAN
Paduli, 24 January 1950
I have your letter of the 12fth, and I am responding to it. As I told you in my last letter, I wrote a letter to Giovannino in which I remarked on his illness, and at the same time, I made him current on everything. Then yesterday I received one of his letters in which he asked me many things, and just today I wrote him a second letter in which I explained a number of things regarding the Organ. If he would let you read it, I would be very pleased.
It greatly displeases me, and also my family with me, that you cannot come to Italy for the Holy Year. In truth, I have been hoping very much to see you, and it would have been an immense pleasure to have had your whole family as guests in my house. Perhaps you may change your mind and at the last minute decide to come. Then my house would as always be at your complete disposal in all for all.
If the Padulesi are always writing to Politano inquiring about this and that, it is because Politano himself when he was here in Paduli promised to send money for the sewers, for the school buildings, for the streets, and for many works throughout the community. But, as of today, the promised funds have not arrived, even when one writes to him for them! But it always remains just promises………. Truthfully, it was I who remitted [the money for] the Organ, without touching a cent, and yet it is said in Paduli that I have made a million on the Organ! And such words were heard also by Politano when he was here. I have not made any million because I have not seen a cent of it, and moreover the money for the inaugural celebration was sent to Politano, and he will administer it.
But, it is better not to speak of such things anymore.
As for the Convent, do as you see fit as seems best to you. In this matter, I cannot give you any counsel, especially when I see myself before the Bell that no longer rings. If I were to counsel anyone it would be to tell them to come less to me for advice given the fact that we still do not have a Bell. Therefore, you should take charge of it yourself and manage it as best pleases you.
You asked me what things I need. Truthfully, because you have insisted on asking me, I expressed the desire for some good wool fabric to make myself a complete priestly habit, that is a cassock and mantle. Thus, if it would not be a bother to you, you could send me seven meters of this fabric of wool for a priest’s vestments. This is all that I ask, as you have asked me what I would like to have, otherwise I would not bother you.
Your godmother Tino is enrolled in Catholic Action, and she comes always to the Sisters of the Asylum. For now, she stays youthful and comports herself well.
I will be the one who will accompany the pilgrimage of the parish when we go to Rome for the Holy Year, including the entire Catholic Action group. Monsignor Petroccia is always in Rome, and he comes to Paduli only for vacations.
Cordial salutations from me and from my whole family to you and your family. Believe me that I will always be your most affectionate friend,
Abbot G. Battista Follo
COMMENTS AND NOTES
ENVELOPE: Postmarked 1-25-50 (25 January 1950), Paduli, Benevento. Two postage stamps: one 100 lire, and one 15 lire. Addressed to Mir. Commendatore MICHELE ZULLO, 186 – 05 Jamaica Ave, HOLLIS – N.Y., U.S.A. Back of envelope, in handwriting: Abate G. B. Follo (Benevento), Paduli, Italy. Translated by Alexander DeAngelis and revised Ma6 6, 2015]
Catholic Action (Azione Catolica) refers to local groups of laity under the authority of the Bishop who oppose secularization and atheism. In 1950, a Holy Year in the Church calendar, in Italy Catholic Action was involved in opposing communism and in supporting the Christian Democratic Party. Many nuns and priest were involved.
In the previous letter Abbot Follo criticizes Michele’s brother-in-law Giovanino for unspecified bad treatment of Michele but agrees to write to Giovanino at Michele’s request. Now we learn that Abbot Follo has indeed written to Giovanino and in returned has received a letter with many questions. The Abbot wrote back to Giovanino and expresses his desire that Michele should read the letter. One can only imagine what the letter contained, but my guess is that it was not very friendly.
It seems likely that Giovanino, Michele’s brother-in-law, was the brother of Michele’s wife, Giuseppina Grimaldi.
Abbot Follo also complains that people think he is pocketing “a million” from the funds for the Organ, and furthermore that Eugenio Politano heard such stories when he visited Paduli. Now it is clear that Politano is increasingly becoming suspect in the Abbot’s eyes.
In this and every letter so far, the Abbot has mentioned Michele’s godmother, Tino (surname). The question is why? Were they so close, or is there something else involved? Perhaps we may never know.
Finally, the Abbot says that he would advise people no longer to seek his advice as he still stands before a tower with no bell. It seems that he has become quite frustrated that the bell has not yet arrived. After the Bell finally did arrive, we know that the local Bishop participated in the dedication. Perhaps it the Abbot’s anxiety to please the Bishop that caused him to lose patience, especially if the Bishop’s staff were frequently asking him when the Bell would arrive.
What business Michele had with the Convent is not known. The Convent of the Madonna of Loreto is a huge Franciscan monastery atop the highest hill in Paduli with 365 rooms for monks. Today is it only used for special events and educational programs. There are no monks there. In the Second World War it was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers and as a sanctuary for the Statue of St. Rocco from the Cathedral in Benevento which city was under attack by Allied bombers.