Letters: Abbot Follo to Michele Zullo, 12 May 1950

Posted on Updated on

Lo Stemma - Coat  of Arms  Paduli
Lo Stemma – Coat of Arms
Paduli
Italians of Oyster Bay at Festa di San Rocco - 1931
Italians of Oyster Bay at Festa di San Rocco – 1931

INTRODUCTION

This letter is the tenth in the series of ten letters between Abbot Follo and Michele Zullo. As I said in an earlier post, there are very few letters in existence between the Padulese community in America and their relatives and friends in Paduli.  This series of ten letters is not only rare but extraordinary in that it covers a range of topics  from political to personal.  It shows us that there were numerous contacts back and forth even as late in the history of Padulese immigration as the early 1950s.  We can assume that there was an active exchange of letters starting from the 1880s and continuing through the 50s, 60s and 70s – that is, as long as the first generation of immigrants was still alive.  I can attest from my own family’s experiences that when I was a child in the late 40s and 50s, we would receive letters from relatives in Paduli.  Every so often we would also receive a package of special fragrant foods from Paduli such as pecorino cheese.  When my grandparents were no longer with us, the letters and packages stopped.  Regrettably, as in so many families, these precious letters disappeared.  It is a mystery to me how they could have disappeared as they were practically the only tangible evidence of the ties back to the old country and therefore they must have meant a great deal to the first generation of immigrants.  If I only had the mentality then that I do now I would have horded them and would have asked my grandparents all sorts of questions about their origins.

ORIGINAL LETTER IN ITALIAN

Letter from Abbot Follo to Michele Zullo, 12 May 1950, page 1
Letter from Abbot Follo to Michele Zullo, 12 May 1950, page 1
Letter from Abbot Follo to Michele Zullo, 12 May 1950, page 2
Letter from Abbot Follo to Michele Zullo, 12 May 1950, page 2

LETTER RETYPED FOR CLARITY

Paduli, 12 maggio 1950 – Anno Santo

Carissimo Michele,

Rispondo subito alla vostra del 4 andante innanzitutto per congratularmi con voi, i vostri fratelli ed i vostri cognati Giovanni e Michele per l’ordinazione data per la targa dopo che l’ammontare della spesa è stato coperto. Certo sarebbe cosa buona se qualche nostro compaesano venendo prossimamente in Italia la portasse con se onde risparmiare le spese di viaggio che andrebbero e beneficio della Chiesa ora che vi sono tante altre cosa da fare.

L’Abate De Vivo con la sua squisita nobiltà danimo aveva offerto do coprire il deficit con il suo oblo, ma, grazie a Dio, questo è stato già fatto la sua opera potrà rendersi utile per la colletta del campanone.

Giusta come mi avete suggerito fra qualche giorno gli scriverò chiedendo la sua preziosa opera per it tanti bisogni della nostra Chiesa e nello stesso tempo farò le mie scuse per le continue seccature che gli arrechiamo. La vostra geniale idea di riunire la colonia padulese in occasione della mostra della targa è ottima. L’Abate De Vivo, in tale occasione, parlando del compimento della targa potrebbe lanciare l’appello per il campanone e sono sicuro al pari di voi che ognuno non si farebbe indietro.

Sono piu che convinto delle continue richieste che da Paduli partono alla volta degli Stati Uniti. Qui a Paduli ognuna cerca di tirare ‘acqua al proprio molino, ma quello che si offre alla Chiesa è superiore ad ogni cosa poichè oltre alla gloria del Signore i fedeli ne godono i frutti e vanno orgogliosi di tutte le belle funzioni che continuamente si fanno. Non è il caso di prendere in considerazione richieste che dovrebbero essere realizzate dagli amministrazione della cosa pubblica, invece di arrecare male al prossimo e sperperare il pubblico denaro nelle spese di inutili impiegati. Vi consiglio a rispondere a costoro che voi non siete il Segretario al Tesore degli Stati Uniti. In tutti i paesi vi è stata qualche opera pubblica, ma qui a Paduli fondi non ne mandono poichè gli amministratori si dichiarono e sono nemici del nostro attuale governo. Adesso hanno preso di mira le nostre brave cinque Suore che dirigono l’Asilo Infantile. Col prossimo 31/12/1950, profittando della scadenza del contratto, vorrebbero mandarle via poichè vedono che la loro opera contribuirà alla loro disfatta per le idee cristiane e morali che inculcano nell’animo dei piccoli e della gioventù femminile. Io, insieme alle migliori e sane personalità del paese, nonchè la maggioranza delle madri e padri di famiglia, abbiamo fatta l’opposizione al loro deliberato e fra qualche giorno sarà presentata al Prefetto con la firma di numerosi cittadini. Vi dico, caro Michele, che questi amministratori sono diabolici e fanno soltanto male al prossimo e alla Chiesa.

Sono rimasto molto addolorato della morte del Grand. Uff. Generoso Pope [Editore del giornale Il Progresso Italo Americano]; veramente l’Italia ha perduto il più grande amico. Eppure la sua immatura fine non si sospettava. Anche in Italia i giornali hanno parlato lungamente di lui, delle sue opere e dei suoi grandi meriti. Possa il Signore compensargli con la gloria del Cielo tutto il bene fatto.

Dite all vostra buona Signora che la sua commarella Tino fa parte di questa Azione Catolica di gioventù femminile che viene diretta dalle nostre benemerite Suore. Io da parte non manco mai d’interessarmi di lei e di consigliarla al bene. La sua condotta è buona e nulla vi è da dire sul suo conto per cui la vostra Signora può essere tranquilla.

Mio cognato vi ringrazia sempre cordialmente per le vostre sincere simpatia a suo riguardo. Egli sa di contare sulla vostra intelligente, leale ed affettuosa amicizia. Non è ancora partito per la Sicilia perchè la famiglia è contraria a vederlo allontanare così distante. Anche lui è innammorato della Sicilia e specie per il carattere dei suoi abitanti essenzialmente leali, generosi e pieni di amor proprio. Vi dico sinceramente che fino a questo momento non sa ancora decidersi a partire.

Le mie sorelle sono quattro: la prima è insegnante, insieme al mio primo fratello Gaetano, nel comune di S. Bartolomeo in Galdo (Benevento). Le due gemelle Gioconda e Giuseppina sono qui con me. Gioconda è la moglie del Maestro Fantozzi. Esse si ricordano con tanta simpatia di vostra moglie. L’ultima mia sorella a nome Giovanna si è sposata al figlio di Caropreso Antonio, possidente di Paduli, e attualmente si trova a Benevento ove il marito è Ispettore del Dazio.

Alla presente troverete una modesta fotografia (formato tessera) di mio cognato. Egli a miglior tempo ne invierà una migliore, dato che non era possibile accluderla alla presente. Posso assicurarvi egli è assai entusiasmato della vostra buona persona e ne ammira il carattere, la bontà, la lealtà e soppratutto la profonda generosità. Egli dice: “Se tutti i cittadini del mondo avessero doti di mente e di cuore del Comm. Zullo, allora non esisterebbe più la cattiveria, la maldicenza, l’invidia e le guerre. Infine non sarebbe più necessaria la giustizia degli uomini.” Credo con questo avervi detto abbastanza e nello stesso tempo potete giudicare in che considerazione vi tengono anche i miei familiari.

Attendo da voi buone notizie.

In salute tutti bene, lo stesso mi auguro do voi tutti nonchè i vostri cognato Grimaldi ai quali va sempre anche il mio grato ricordo.

Abbiatevi i saluti affetuosi di tutti i miei familiari estensibili alla vostra Signora, figliuoli, nuore, generi e nipoti, da me una fraterna stretta di mano.

dev.mo

Abate G. Battista Follo

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Paduli, 12 May 1950 – Holy Year

Dearest Michele,

I am immediately responding to your letter of the 4th of this month, and first of all I want to express my congratulations  you, your brothers and your brothers-in-law, Giovanni and Michele, for the ordering of the Plaque following upon the payment of all the costs. It would certainly be a good thing if one of our fellow townsmen (compaesano) who will be coming soon to Italy would bring it with him thereby saving the costs of the voyage, which would go to the benefit of the Church now that there are so many other costs to cover. Abbot De Vivo with his exquisite nobility of spirit offered to cover the deficit with his salary, but, thanks be to God, this has already been taken care of, and his good efforts can be made useful in the collection for the Bell.

As you have suggested to me, in several days I will write to him asking for his good offices for the many needs of our Church and at the same time I will make my excuses for the continuing troubles that we cause him.   Your inspired idea to reunite the Padulese colony upon the unveiling of the Plaque is superb. Abbot De Vivo, on that occasion, can launch an appeal for the Bell while speaking about the completion of the Plaque, and I am sure, as you are, that no one would be taken aback.

I am sure that requests from Paduli continue to pour forth to the United States. Here in Paduli everyone wants to divert the stream to his own mill, but the offering to the Church is superior to anything, and in addition to the glory of God, the faithful may taste of the fruits and be proud of the beautiful events that are constantly done for them. It is not a case considering requests that should have been taken care of by the administrators of public affairs, but on the contrary doing ill to one’s neighbors and squandering public funds to pay useless employees. I advise you to respond to them that you are not the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. In all communities there have been public works, yet here in Paduli they don’t send funds for them because the administrators declare themselves as, and in fact are, enemies of our current government. Presently they are taking aim at our five brave Sisters who run the Children’s Asylum. By the coming 31st of December 1950, taking advantage of the termination of the contract, they intend to cast them out [of the Asylum] because they see that their [the Sisters’] efforts will contribute to their defeat [in the elections] through the Christian ideals and morals that they inculcate in the spirits of the children and young women. I, together with the better and healthier personalities of the community, not to mention the majority of mothers and fathers, have opposed their decision and in a few days will present the Prefect [Apostolic Prefect?] with the signatures of numerous citizens. I tell you, Dear Michele, that these administrators are diabolical and that there sole aim is to do harm to their neighbors and to the Church.

I am very saddened at the death of our Great Officer Generoso Pope [note: editor of the newspaper Il Progresso Italo-Americano]; truly Italy has lost its greatest friend. And yet, his premature death was unexpected. Even in Italy the newspapers have spoken at length about him, of his works, and of his great merit. May the Lord reward him with the glory of heaven for all the good that he did.

Tell your wife that her Godmother Tino participates in Catholic Action with the young women who come directly from our deserving Sisters. I, for my part, do not hesitate to involve myself and to counsel her for the good. She behaves well and there is nothing really to tell you regarding her, which should put your wife at ease. My brother-in-law is continually grateful to you for your sympathy in his regard. He knows that he can count on your intelligent, loyal and affectionate friendship. He has not yet departed for Sicily because his family is opposed to seeing him go so far away. He also is enamored of Sicily, especially of the character of its inhabitants that in essence is loyal, generous and full of love itself. I tell you sincerely even at this very moment he has not yet decided to depart.

I have four sisters: the first is a teacher, together with my first brother Gaetano, in the community of San Bartolomeo in Galdo (Benevento). The two twins Gioconda and Giuseppina are here with me. Gioconda is the wife of Maestro Fantozzi. She recalls your wife with great affection. My last sister named Giovanna married the son of Antonio Caropreso, a landowner in Paduli, and now she is in Benevento where her husband is Inspector of Customs.

In the present letter you will find a small photograph (passport-size) of my brother-in-law. He will send you a better one in good time seeing as how it was not possible to include one in the present letter. I can assure you that he is very enthusiastic concerning your good person and that he admires your character, your goodness, your loyalty, and above all your profound generosity. He says:” If all the citizens of the world possessed the gifts of mind and the heart of Commendatore Zullo, there would not be any more wickedness or slander, or envy, or war. In short, there would no longer be any need for human justice.” I believe that with this I have said enough and that at the same time you can judge the consideration that my family holds for you.

I await good news from you.

Being in good health, I wish the same to you and yours not to mention your brother-in-law Grimaldi to whom I always extend my grateful thoughts.

Please accept the affectionate salutations of everyone in my family extended to your wife, your sons, daughters-in-law, parents and grandchildren, and from me a stretched-out hand of brotherliness.

Most devotedly,

Abbot G. Battista Follo

NOTES AND COMMENTS

Letter: Follo-Zullo12May50. On “onion skin” thin paper, A4 size, written in type on both sides, including envelope postmarked Paduli, Benevento,16.5.1950 (16 May 1950), with three postage stamps of denominations 100 lire, 10 lire, and 5 lire, addressed to “Mir Commendatore MICHELE ZULLO, 185 – 05 JAMAICA AV., HOLLIS, 7 – N.Y., U.S.A.” Someone has hand printed 1950 in blue ink on the front. On the back of the envelope is written “Abate G.B. Follo – Paduli – (Benevento), Italy.” The envelope paper is watermarked with “VIA AEREA” and “PAR AVION”, and on the flap with a shield and crown above, in the shield the words “CARTE” horizontal, and “BURGO” vertical form a cross. The letter came with a picture measuring 6 X 8.5 cm of “Maestro” Fantozzi, brother-in-law of the Abbot, on the back handwritten is “Al Comm. Michele Zullo con profonda stima. Donato Fantozzi, Paduli 12 – 5 – 1950.” (To Commendatore Michele Zullo with profound esteem.) A small oval stamp on the back of the picture contains the words “Foto Paragone.” Translated by Alexander P. De Angelis March 6, 2001, and revised 14 May 2015.

So many questions are raised by these letters:

What is the story of the Children’s Asylum and what in fact did happen to them?

Who were the Sisters who ran the Asylum?

Why does the Abbot mention Michele’s godparents in every letter and state that Michele’s wife will be relieved to hear that her godmother comports herself well?

Did Abbot Follo engage in correspondences of such length with other Padulesi in America?

What issues were discussed between the Father Guardian of the Monastery and Michele?

What was Eugenio Politano saying that so upset the Abbot?

How were relations between the “liberal gentlemen” governing Paduli at that time and the Church handled?

Why are there no other letters after May 1950?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s