Letters between Paduli and the Padulese immigrants in the United States are a rare find. Diana M. Luchko, a descendant of the Massimiano family, sent me this letter. Diana’s family immigrated from Paduli to Oyster Bay, Long Island and then moved to The Bronx, New York City.
Image of the original letter:
Photograph of Abate Giovambattista (Giovanni Battista) Follo:
Photographs of Villermina, Adele and family:
(above) Wedding Day of Villermina Massimiano Martini, September 16, 1916, Bronx, N.Y.
Left to right: Carmela Randazzo, Villermina Massimiano, Giosue Martini (the Groom) and Rocco Massimiano (Bride’s first cousin)
(above) Wedding Day of Orsola Massimiano (Villermina’s first cousin), November 23, 1913, Brooklyn. N.Y.
Left to right: Orsola Massimiano (the Bride) , Clemente Barone (the Groom) , Vincenzo Massimiano (Villermina’s brother), Villermina Massimiano
(above) Villermina’s family, the Bronx, ca. 1947
Left to right: Rose (Villermina’s daughter), Ralph Massimiano (Villermina’s nephew), Vincenza (Villermina’s daughter), Adele Miro (Villermina’s daughter and the recipient of Abbot Follo’s letter), William Miro (Adele’s husband), Joseph Marvullo (the child, Villermina’s grandson, Vincenza’s son)
1. I received help translating this letter from Antonietta Luongo of Paduli. Thank you Antonietta.
2. Adele (Martini) Miro was the daughter of Villermina Massimiano Martini.
3. Villermina’s name, as Villermina Martini, appears on the 1949 bronze plaque donated to the church in Paduli by the citizens of Paduli abroad.
4. Villermina was the first cousin of Father Henry (Enrico) DeVivo whose mother was a Massimiano. (See Separate post for information about Father Enrico DeVivo.)
5. If you look back into previous posts you will find more letters from Abbot Follo.
This letter is interesting from a number of standpoints. First, as mentioned above, any such letter is rare. Although many letters were sent back and forth, very few have shown up. Also, it shows that in the late 1960s Abbot Follo was still soliciting donations from Padulesi immigrants and their decsendants.
Many thanks to Diana M. Luchko for sharing the letter, the photos of her family and much of the information.
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 RETYPED FOR CLARITY
Paduli, 12 maggio 1950 – Anno Santo
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.
Abate G. Battista Follo
Paduli, 12 May 1950 – Holy Year
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.
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?
This is the ninth letter in the ten letter series. It covers fully two pages. The organ has arrived. Now the Abbot presses to get the bell installed during the Holy Year of 1950 and urges Michele to bend every effort to accomplish this. We also learn that according to Abbot Follo, the liberal leaders of the municipality are attempting to oust the Sisters because they may induce people to vote against them. We also learn that Abbot Follo is annoyed and angry with Eugenio Politano for, as he sees it, spreading negative gossip within the Padulesi community in America. Also, he advises Michele not to involve the young priest De Vivo because of his bad temperament, but definitely to invite the older Errico De Vivo to participate in discussions.
ORIGINAL LETTER IN ITALIAN
Paduli, 21 March 1950
After some time, I am commencing to write you this letter to assure you of our optimum state of health, not to mention having received your letters.
You should not think badly of me because of my silence. If you only knew how I have been consumed in this period. I have had a mission of three Preachers who, as a result of their preaching have attracted a great many people to the Church. I can confirm to you that it has been a triumph of the faith in all ways both internal and external, no matter what the few evil gossiping enemies of the faith are saying.
After the Holy Mission, we had the solemn Forty Hours Devotion that took place over four days with a solemnity such as to amaze the whole community. Along with the solemnity, we also had this year the grand organ affectionately donated by you. The organ has become more than powerful following the donation of the second diffuser.
Another distraction that has impeded my writing to you was the trouble that the liberal gentlemen who run the community are making with all means possible and imaginable to cast out the Sisters and to close the Children’s’ Asylum because they look upon with the evil eye the Sisters’ efforts with the young women of Catholic Action and on the Asylum itself. This is as a result of the fact that the Sisters are attracting all the young women of the community, and the usual enemies do not want to see such holy education, thus they say, “These young women will make us lose the election!”
To see to it that in the end the sisters will not have to go away, I am personally involved with the Provincial authorities of Benevento, not to mention the various ministries in Rome, by means of written statements and memorials. The struggle continues in the hope of being able to achieve victory for the poor Sisters, who do so much good, so that they may be able to stay in Paduli.
All of these multiple activities have impeded me from writing to you. Now I shall respond to your letters as is due them.
The plan that you have conceived regarding the Bell, that is, to form various groups, and then to invite the heads of these groups to your home for a drink, is one that I approve in fully because you know quite well the soul of the Padulesi and what action is needed to be taken in order to achieve certain ends.
My advice would be that it is not opportune to invite the young priest De Vivo, given his temperament, but above all do invite the Abbot Monsignor Errico De Vivo.
I will keep such a plan secret.
I assure you that I have received the detailed account concerning the organ, and that I will put it into the dedication as a perpetual remembrance of you.
I am pleased with the offerings that our [compatriots] are giving for the Plaque [to commemorate the donors] of the Organ. Equally, I am happy that it will arrive for the month of July. However, I would like to have you note that persons of seriousness and character should accompany the Plaque so as not to repeat what happened at the inauguration of the Organ.
Now in greatest confidence I wish to inform you that here in Paduli there are many families that are crying over the things that Eugenio Politano said when he returned to America, and it is a fact that many of their relatives [in America] are no longer writing to these families.
Truthfully, the thing that is most in my heart now is the Bell. If it could be done in a short while and perhaps even before the feast of St. Rocco, it would be a real miracle. I am appealing to the people from the altar and announcing my own gift of 25 thousand lire, but no one has followed my example due to the persistent unemployment and misery that still endures due to the drought and hailstorms of recent years. Certainly, this Holy Year would be an opportune time in which to install the Bell, also because it would be inscribed with the year and the names of the donors.
Dear Michele, try [to accomplish this] with every means. I know how you have suffered for me, recognizing as I look back directly at our fellow townsmen concerning the organ how much petty gossip was brought forth. You are an ingenious thinker, and I am certain that you will succeed.
I had an expert in these matters visit the house of your ancestors in Via San Antonio Abate because you wrote to me that you would like to spend a season in Paduli. The house is in bad shape; it urgently needs four small beams not to mention general repairs to the whole roof and related surfaces, and also repairs to all the framed openings (windows and doors). The tenant that currently inhabits the place is Raffaele Politano, a son of the late Politano Francesco. He separated legally from his wife and is now living with a Sicilian woman. It is not possible to proceed with an eviction because here in Italy there is a rent freeze until the end of 1952.
If your kind wife truly decides to come to Italy, I repeat once more that my home is completely at her disposal and that I would be offended otherwise. I believe that the more I urge you to come, the more likely it will be that she will decide to come.
About the house where your Godfather, Ciccio Tino, lives, I would note that the poor fellow tries to take care of it by himself repairing it as best he can within his means.
Today your Godmother Addolorata came to greet me. She got out of the hospital yesterday where she had an operation for appendicitis. The girl [her daughter?] is well and needs to get up and going again.
As for the requests from the Father Guardian of the Convent, you should manage them as best you can.
The package containing the material for my cassock and the tobacco has not yet arrived, and therefore I have to thank you in advance while letting you know that it has not yet arrived.
I thank you for what you wrote to me concerning my activities as Pastor communicated to you by Ida Moleti and her husband Nicolino Marmorale. Concerning this matter, I want to make clear to you that the aforementioned Nicolino Marmorale is the son of Gaetano (Lupachiello [wolf cub]) and that the mother also is still living.
I am much grieved to learn that you and your wife have been ill. I hope that you and your wife both are enjoying good health at the receipt of this letter. Meanwhile, try always to be careful and not to over exert yourselves with work. At a certain age, one needs to keep watch over one’s body through preventative medical care. I pray always to the Lord and to Saint Rocco, our Holy Protector, that you be preserved in good health for yourself and for the joy of your entire family. My most affectionate wishes for your health, peace, and prosperity in the name of my family,
With affection I salute you dearly,
Yours most affectionately,
Abbot G. Battista Follo
NOTES AND COMMENTS
Letter Follo-Zullo21Mar50: Typewritten on two sides of 8.5 x 11 onionskin paper. No envelope. Translated by Alexander De,Angelis 4 March 2001 and revised 13 May 2015
This is the second letter sent from Michele to Abbot Follo and the eighth often altogether. It too may be a draft, just as we suspect the previous letter also was. Like the previous letter, it is unsigned. Michele mentions that has received two recent letters from the Abbot written on 12 and 24 January respectively.
ORIGINAL LETTER IN ITALIAN
Hollis 1 February 1950
Dearest Father Follo
Your two letters have been received, one dated 12 [January] and the other the 24th. Before anything else, I and my wife were saddened regarding the misfortunes of your sister, and for the illness of your dear niece, and I extend my best wishes, and those of my family, for a prompt recovery, and that upon receipt of this letter you find yourselves all in the best of health.
I have written you a second letter that you should receive following this one, in which I have explained an idea of mine regarding the Bell. Tomorrow night a part of the Committee will hold a meeting in the house of my brother-in-law, Giovanni, to go over the expenses for the organ, and I have asked him to inform you of everything.
Regarding the seven meters of fabric for your cassock, my wife is awaiting a friend of hers who is supposed to take her to the city of N.Y. where there are stores that exclusively sell such material, and I obtained the address from the Pastor of my church in Jamaica, a city of one and a half million with grand department stores. I went out to find [the material] but with no success; the Pastor told me that it is still quite difficult to find good material, and he showed me some material that he purchased in Rome in 1927, still in perfect condition and better than the material that they sell here, but I also believe that it [the material being produced in America] is still better than the scrap wool currently produced in Italy. Based on the above, you should receive this material rather than something else, as well as the 2000 lire*, without any obligation on your part, except your thoughts [on our behalf] when you say the Holy Mass.
Were I to come to Italy alone, you would be the only one to know about it, no one else before you, but for the present, I cannot give you any assurance, as my job is only to extend a hand of brotherly friendship and to thank you for the opportunity given to me as one you have put your trust in to be of service to the Mother Church, and to tell the Padulesi that your family, from its antecedents to the present, may have been equaled, but never surpassed for honesty and rectitude, etc., etc.! Therefore, to tell you the truth, it is my obligation to serve my Mother Church, and that at the title Pastor that His Eminence the Archbishop of Benevento has named and entrusted to you as Abbot of the Mother Church, the Padulesi here should be proud of you, and thank the Good Lord for such fortune, this is my opinion and that of honest persons of good sense!…
My wife is awaiting a reply from Signora Graziella Alfieri, married name Tretola, regarding the house that my parents left me, as various people have written that it is in bad condition and that it should be repaired, and I do not know what they are writing about, but she told me that she hopes that I will come to spend a season in Paduli and that after so many years of administration she desired that it should be repaired, and I have responded that Signora Graziella is another Mastropiero [unknown reference], and that if so I will not grant her the capacity any longer to give [the house?] to other people, friend or relative, and that in respect for my deceased parents I would like the house to be maintained in good condition, but before this I ask you a favor, that you go see it and tell me what impression you have. Alf. Tino wants to buy it for his sister, but she responded that she did not want to see it. I truly do not know the house as it was bought when I had already found myself in America, and if you wish more information you can ask about it from the father of my Godmother as he knows more about it than do I.
I have heard it said that the municipal administration needs 400,000 lire, the Convent 300,000 lire, and I believe that including the Bell 800 dollars more. The Plaque that comes first setting aside other requests that I direct to you.
NOTES AND COMMENTS
Zullo-Follo1Feb50: Handwritten letter written in ink on both sides of single sheet. Unsigned. Possible draft. From Michele Zullo to Padre Giovanni Battista Follo of Paduli. Translated by Alexander De Angelis, February 25, 2001.
*I believe that this means that Michele is going to send Abbot Follo the cloth produced in America and that in addition he is returning the 2000 lire that the Abbot gave him to buy the cloth.
This handwritten letter is the first that we have from Michele Zullo to Abbot Follo. This document probably was a draft of the final letter which accounts for the fact that John Zullo, Michele’s grandson, had it in his possession. Most of the letters that Michele must have sent to Abbot Follo are no available to us and may no longer exist unless they be found among Abbot Follo’s possessions. However, we do have some fragments that I will publish later.
Chronologically this letter predates the previous two published letters written by Abbot Follo. I should have published this letter before the previous two. However, the important thing is that we have it and can make it available to those who may be interested. If we follow the sequence already established, this then is the seventh of the ten letters in the series.
The firs page of the letter is written fairly clearly. The second page, however, was written in pencil on the back of the first and is very difficult to read even first hand. Therefore, in addition to presenting jpeg images of the two pages of the letter, I have also typed it out for the sake of clarity.
LETTERA ORIGINALE SCRTTA A MANO IN ITALIANO
LETTERA SCRITTA A MACCHINA
Hollis 11/1 – 1950
Carissimo Padre Follo
L’anno Santo rappresenterá per L’Italia un magnifico simbolo spirituale e una occasione per rafforzare i legami di amicizia tra L’Italia e le nazione. Tutti coloro che verrano assolveranno un dovere religioso, in quanto a me è pressuntuso di potervi dire qualche cosa. Solo posso dirvi che come padre mi rimane di compiere altri doveri verso I miei figli, almeno di comprarci un tetto, qui e un guaio per l’abbitazione peggio angora per coloro che l’anno figli, voi compredete bene ciò che voglio alludere.
Per la targa nessuna novità mio cognato Giovannino si trova angora ammalato, di crazia vi chiedo di nuovo, di scriverci una lettera tutte le volte che vado a trovarlo mi domanta di voi, se la Microtegnica a messo a posto l’altro diffusore, ci rispose che a tempo debito voi l’avreste informato di tutto, e che voi eravate ignor della sua malatia, ma che vi scrivevo metendovi accorente.
Mandatami la misura del vostro piede se è possibile inci, e non centimetri e come le volute alte, o scarpini cioè basse così le portono qui i Preti. Se vi serva altre cose scrivetemi così lascio un pacco solo per posta,
in quanto all nomina di commendatore non o fatto parole con nessuno, lo dirò quanto crederò che il tempo opportuno, quando i Padulesi di costì cessono di scrivere petegollezze a i l’oro congiunti. La l’oro malatia e la stessa di quanto vi scrissi i una mia (previe?) lettere, cioè gelosia egoista,
Il Convento mi a scritto dite a Padre Guardiano che mi dia un pochetino di tempo, rispondere alla sua lettera cercherò il meglio che posso di potere accomodare, ma primo si deve finire la targa.
Hollis 11 January 1950
Dearest Father Follo,
The Holy Year  will represent a magnificent spiritual symbol for Italy and an occasion to reinforce the ties of friendship between Italy and the other nations. All those who come will absolve their religious duties, yet regarding myself, it would be presumptuous for me to say anything to you. I can only tell you that as a father it remains to me to fulfill other duties toward my children, at least to put a roof over their heads [lit. to buy us a roof]. Here there is a real problem with housing, and it is especially bad for those who have children. You know well what I want to say.
There is nothing new concerning the Plaque. My brother-in-law, Giovannino, is ill once again, and I ask you in your mercy once again to write us a letter as every time I visit him he asks me about you and whether Microtecnica has installed the other diffusor, and I respond that in due time you will inform him of everything and that you have been unaware of his illness, but that I have written to you to bring you up to date.
Please send me the measurements of your feet, if possible in inches, and not in centimeters, and also how high you would like your socks, that is, whether you want them low like the priests wear them here. If there is anything else that you would like, please write to me so that I can put them all in one package for the post.
Regarding my nomination as Commendatore, I have not said a word to anyone else, and I will only mention it when I believe the time is opportune, when the Padulesi here cease writing gossip to their relatives. Their illness is the same as that which I wrote to you about in one of my previous letters, that is, egotistic jealousy, and The Convent has written to me . Tell the Father Guardian to give me a little time, that I will respond to his letter, and that I will seek to do the best that I can to be able to accommodate him, but that first I must finish the Plaque.
NOTES AND COMMENTS
This letter from Michele Zullo to G.B. Follo, Abbot of Paduli appears to be a draft in that there is evidence of rewriting. It also is unsigned. It is written mostly in ink on the front and then in pencil at the bottom of the first side of the page, starting with the word “commendatore”, and on the first third of the second side. There is no envelope with the letter. The penciled portion is extremely difficult to decipher, as it is faded. Therefore, I have written out the text of the whole letter in Italian so that those who come later may know what I was able to see or, in some cases, to guess at. I have copied the text as written without inserting any spelling, grammatical, or punctuational corrections. – Alex De Angelis, February 16, 2001.
I noted the fact that Michel addresses the salutation to “Padre” Follo rather than to “Abate” Follo. I do not know what significance this may have if any.
Michele refers to the “same sickness” among the Padulesi associated with the transfer of the gifts, jealous egotism (gelosia egoista). From things that Abbot Follo says in his letters, I think that he may have had a part in fanning the flames of jealous in that he attributes all good to Michele, who certainly deserved praise, and says nothing about the generosity of anyone else.
Michele also mentions his contacts with the Father Guardian of the Monastery (Convento)hat sits atop the highest hill in Paduli. If I find out what this was about, I will let you know.
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.
This is the fifth letter of ten between Abbot Follo and Michele Zullo.
Below is the original letter as a jpeg image followed by the English translation. I have attached some comments and notes at the end.
ORIGINAL TEXT IN ITALIAN
Paduli, 12 January 1950
I am noticeably late in responding to you for reasons that I will now explain.
Above all, I am pleased that you have received the Certificate of Nomination as Commendatore, and therefore, as I have already expressed in my Christmas letter to you, once again I send my best congratulations to you and to your whole family.
We have the diffuser, and it has already been installed; and now the Organ works very well and everyone is more than pleased and grateful for the magnificent gift from you to your dear fellow citizens of Paduli. Now we await the Bronze Plaque so that your great effort will be passed on to posterity, and it is for this reason that I am awaiting it always.
I am still awaiting the circular [letter?] to the Padulesi that should arrive, just as you wrote to me in your letter. The news that you sent me regarding your misfortunes has deeply saddened me, and I pray to the Lord that he will return calm and tranquility to your family.*(See note below.)
Truthfully, I had not written to your brother-in-law, Giovannino, for the simple reason that he should not have comported himself toward you in that manner. You cannot imagine how it angered me when you wrote to me about Giovannino’s bad treatment toward you and his lack of trust toward you. For this reason, I did not write to him. However, given that you want me to, I will write to him.
I conveyed your respects to His Holy Eminence the Archbishop, and he may well write to you directly.
In order to come to Rome during the Holy Year, one needs approximately 10 thousand lire per person, which you should communicate to your wife from your godmother, Tino. I myself have handed on the 5 thousand lire from Politano** to the nuns; and it would be well if you would reproach him for making me look very bad; and I have written to him that he should not have used my name; but he has not replied.
Forgive me that I did not respond sooner; but you should know that my sister, the one who is married, fell and broke her foot, and now she still has it in a cast; and my niece had typhus and that her situation was very serious; and you can imagine what our holidays have been like with such calamities. Now both of my sisters and my niece are much better, and we hope that they will soon be completely well.
All of us, however, have had coughs and colds for a number of days, and I believe that the same is true for you and yours.
Have you decided to come for the Holy Year? I would be very happy to be able to receive you in my home for the whole period that you would stay in Paduli. It would be such an honor for me and for my desire to repay everything that you have done for our benefit.
I repeat once again: You must be my guest and no one else’s; my modest house will be at your disposal completely. And also your kind wife must accompany you on your visit. Do not deprive me of your hearing from you. I am always anxious to read your letters.
With salutations to you from me and mine, with brotherly affection, I affectionately salute you.
Your friend always,
Abbot G. Battista Follo
COMMENTS AND NOTES
[Letter from Abbot Giovanni Battista Follo to Michele Zullo dated Paduli, 12 January 1950. Consisting of one “A4” sized page written on one side in type. Envelope is postmarked 14-1-50, that is, January 14, 1950, Paduli Benevento. It is stamped with two 50 lire airmail stamps, one 5 lire stamp and one 3 lire stamp. The envelope is addressed as follows: “Al Commendatore, Sig. ZULLO MICHELE, 186 – 05 Jamaica Ave., U.S.A., HOLLLIS – N.Y.”, that is “To Commendatore Signor Zullo Michele…” etc. On the back of the envelope is written “Abate G.B. FOLLO (Benevento) PADULI, ITALY. Translated by Alexander P. DeAngelis, and revised May 5, 2015]
*This paragraph is difficult to translate because it relates to things that we are not aware of. We do not know what the “circular” (circolare) is about and why it is addressed to the Padulesi, but apparently Michele mentioned it in a previous letter to the Abbot that unfortunately we do not have. We do not know what “misfortunes”(disgrazie) to which the Abbot alludes. Perhaps the misfortunes are related to the following paragraph in which the Abbot mentions some problems between Michele and his brother-in-law.
** “Politano” refers to Eugenio Politano who will appear again in a future letter from the Abbot. There was a falling out between the Abbot and him.
The Abbot states that the Bronze Plaque will transmit Michele’s great work to posterity but says nothing about the donations of the hundreds of other Padulesi immigrants who donated money for the Organ and the Plaque.
This is the fourth of ten letters between the Abbot Giovambattista Follo of Paduli and Michele Zullo. In addition to extending affectionate greetings for Christmas, the Abbot again mentions that the Diffuser for the Organ donated by the Padulese immigrants in America has not yet been delivered by Microtechnica. He also again asks for Michele to confirm whether he has received a letter conferring on him the honorary title of Commendatore.
Once again I wish to thank John Zullo, Grandson of Michele, for making these letters available to us all.
Below is an English Translation followed by a jpeg image of the original letter and envelope in Italian.
ENVELOPE: Postmarked Paduli, Benevento, 19-12-49 (19 December 1949), Six postage stamps including four 20 lire, one 10 lire, and one 5 lire. Addressed: Al Commendatore ZULLO MICHELE, 186 – 05 Jamaica Ave, HOLLIS – N.Y., U.S.A. Back of envelope: Abate Follo (Benevento), Paduli , Italy]
Paduli, Christmas 1949
At the approach of the Holy Birth of Our Lord, I feel the need to express to you and to your kind family my sentiments and affections.
The Baby Jesus, who, in a little while, will come to lighten our homes, brings with him all graces and benedictions, and he also spreads his smiler upon those who truly participate in His Birth.
May your home be enriched by these graces and benedictions, and may you also enjoy the intimate peace of family joy and the beauty and the poetry of the Holy Birth of Our Lord.
Such is my greeting that it comes from a heart that feels love for you and that esteems you as among the best parts of my own life.
I have received your greeting so gracious and beautiful. My unending thanks to you.
The Diffuser [for the Organ] has arrived, but the representatives of Microtechnica have not quickened themselves to come and install it and to retrieve the old one as their property.
Taking this occasion, I also extend to you, and to all, my best wishes for the New Year of Our Lord; that truly this year that is about to dawn may be the harbinger of new fulfillments and new joys.
As always, I remain in waiting for your letters and also for you to assure me that you have received your nomination as Commendatore.
Once again, a thousand affectionate wishes for a holy Christmas, and for a good beginning of the New Year. With immense affection, I salute you and all.
Abbot G. Battista Follo
ORIGINAL LETTER IN ITALIAN
This is the third of ten letters between Abbot Follo and Michele Zullo. In addition to talk about cloth for vestments and the Organ, this letter mentions the coming Holy Year, 1950, of the Catholic Church. Holy Years (Anno Santo) are held every 50 years or so sometimes with special years in between. They are meant to revive the spirits of the faithful. The Holy Year of 1950, in addition to aiming at a revival of faith, also was aimed at combatting communism.
Abbot Follo also mentions in this letter that he has ceased correspondence with anyone else in the Padulesi community in America s they have not answered his letters. In previous letters we learned that he was writing to Saverio Musto. Apparently there was a break in relationships between them.
Below is a jpeg image of the original letter in Italian followed by the English translation.
ORIGINAL LETTER IN ITALIAN
LETTER Follo-Zullo 4Dec49.
ENVELOPE: postmarked Paduli, Benevento, 6-12-49 (6 December 1949) Al Commendatore Zullo Michele, 186 – 05 Jamaica Ave, HOLLIS – N.Y., U.S.A. Two postage stamps each of 50 lire. Back of envelope D.G. Battista Follo, Abate, (Benevento) PADULI, Italy]
December 4, 1949
I have received the package so kindly sent to me by the Lady, your wife. I received it all with immense pleasure, and I cannot find appropriate words capable of thanking your most kind-hearted wife for such affection and such thoughtfulness. I found everything to be in perfect order and of the best condition, especially the packets of soup. Everything, everything was the best, and thus I thank you a thousand and again a thousand times.
How can I return such affection? I hope that it may become possible for me in the coming Holy Year to have the pleasure of being able to host you in our home. I take this opportunity to repeat my invitation to you to come and absolutely to be guests in my home. Come, together with your wife and other members of your family, but only on the precise condition that you must stay as guests in my home and no other. It would be for us an immense pleasure and a great honor if we were to have such good fortune. Come. We all anxiously await you.
I have not had any news from you for some time; nor have you informed me whether you have received the diploma naming you Commendatore. I sent it to you, Registered Mail, dated November 8, and I believe that it should have reached you by now, and I await your assurance with respect to this matter. This high honor has been given to you, with the consent of His Holy Eminence the Archbishop, to reward you for all that you have done for our Church in Paduli. I believe that you must be pleased, along with your family, which is now tied to me and to us with indissoluble pathways of friendship and affection both sincere and loyal, and without any self-interest or anything else that might serve to dilute our affection.
Now you are the only person who remains tied to me and to whom I continue to write with pleasure. With the others, I have suspended all correspondence, also because they no longer write to me.
From Turin they have informed me that you have ordered the sound diffuser [for the organ], and yet as of now they still have not come to exchange it. I fear that not even by Christmas time will it be possible to play the organ, precisely due to the lack of this second diffuser. However, I hope that before Christmas they will come to put in the new one.
As for the Bronze Plaque, I have not had any news. How come? Perhaps there is no longer enough money to pay for it? I am here as always: when the Plaque arrives, it will be my duty to place it as a perpetual record of your gift.
As for the fabric needed for my vestments, I have already informed you in my letter of November 12 that I need seven meters of pure wool. Your wife is knowledgeable regarding these materials, and thus I trust her exclusively on this matter.
Once again, a thousand and a thousand thanks for all the concern that you have shown in my regard. May the time come when I will be able to return your affection and thoughtfulness.
My family salutes you lovingly, and I await your coming here in the coming Holy Year. I extend to you my most sincere congratulations for your nomination as Commendatore, and in the hope of reading your letters, I salute you and your wife.
Yours always most affectionate friend,
Abbot G. Battista Follo
INTRODUCTIONThis is the second of the ten extant letters between Abate Giovambattista Follo of Paduli and Mr. Michele Zullo of Jamaica, Queens, N.Y. (See the first letter in Blogpost 5.)
Below, first appears a jpeg image of the original letter in Italian. This is followed by an English translation.
ORIGINAL LETTER IN ITALIAN
12 November, 1949
Just this moment I received your most cordial letter, and I am hastening to respond to it and also to the letter which involves your nomination to the title of Commendatore. I am certain of your affection and have never doubted it. Equally, I can assure you of mine; to me you are a true confidant, and what you tell me I regard as an inestimable treasure because your counsel is very wise.
I have never doubted you nor your work for the good of the Church of Paduli; and if there are those of malintention who wish to end our most cordial and affectionate friendship, all of them will be unmasked at seeing the good works that have been accomplished for the benefit of the Church, which must always be beautified and enriched as much as possible to draw souls to the Lord.
Regarding the [Bronze] Plaque, I am always ready to receive the orders; and as of this moment, the Church stands ready, and as soon as it arrives, the Plaque will be placed by the side of the gift [the organ] so that all will know who the contributors were.
I quite understand your concerns regarding collecting [funds] for the Organ and then placing them at my disposal; but, because you have already encountered some obstacles, it is better this way, and at least it will not be said that I have taken the money. It is better that you do it all in America and that you send the Plaque here completed and done.
They telegraphed me from Microtecnica stating that the second diffuser has been ordered, and that they would have it sent as soon as possible. We have to have this second diffuser because otherwise the gift will be incomplete.
The cloth for my habit must be completely of wool and no other material. Your wife is very good and very precise in these matters; and I thank her for her generosity a thousand and a thousand times, hoping that I can return the favor at an opportune time.
Your godmother Tino stays at home and is well. The father, Ciccio, is a communist and regularly likes to raise his elbow with a glass of wine, but he does not disturb anyone and minds his own business, and when he finds a bit of work he does it in the grace of God.
Don Errico De Vivo has written me to thank me for the messages, and he sent me some Holy Masses that I am already celebrating. I have no problem with his young nephew who is over there; on the contrary, it is he who is cool toward me because of the post of Abbot. But, when we parted, we saluted one another cordially. He has never written to me from there, yet his uncle has written to me
Regarding the Bell, you should take charge of it. I would only say to you that you should not involve your paesani [fellow Padulesi] so many of whom are politicians and critics. If it should not succeed, do not blame yourself, and do not worry about it. If later you should find an easier way, then you should go ahead. However, you should know by now that even the Bell will be completely due to your merit, just as were the Loudspeakers, the Globes, and the Organ. You are the one who thought of them all, and the merit will always be all yours. Regarding the honorific title of Commendatore, just say that it arrived from Italy without your knowing how or who recommended you for such an honor. You know well the reasons why.
With heartfelt greetings to your whole family, especially your wife. A thousand greetings and salutations. Good work. Most affectionately,
Abbot G. B. Follo
Date Stamped: 12-11-49 [day.month.year], Paduli, Benevento
No stamps on envelope
Addressee (front of envelope): Al Commendatore Mir. ZULLO MICHELE, 185 – 05 Jamaica Ave., HOLLIS – N.Y., U.S.A.
Sender (back of envelope): L”ABATE di Paduli (Benevento), ITALY
Translated by Alexander DeAngelis and revised May 2, 2015
Interestingly, the Abbot begins the letter with reaffirmations of the Abbot’s affection of friendship and esteem for Michele referring to him as a confidant and some of wise counsel. The Abbot must have had some reason to reassert this so directly. We are left to conjecture that someone must have raised doubts about the Abbot’s true feelings.
The previous themes of the donations to the Church from the Padulese immigrants in America again appear in this letter. In addition, we learn that there is some suspicion of the Abbot within the Padulese immigrant community over who controls the funds. Apparently some did not want the Abbot in control. The Abbot agrees that Michele should control all of the funds. Curiously the word he when referring to the funds is “moneta” which is usually currently used to refer to small amounts in coins or change – instead of the usual word “soldi” – but which can also be used generically for money. I don’t know whether this has any significance. In addition, for the first time the Abbot mentions the cloth for his vestments. Apparently the cloth was being provided by Michel and his wife.
Politics again appear in this letter. The Abbot mentions that “Ciccio is a communist”, albeit a harmless one. He gratuitously adds that Ciccio likes “to bend his elbow with a glass of wine.” (There aren’t many who don’t.)
Abbot Follo also mentions Don Errico (Enrico/Henry) De Vivo who was Pastor at St. Rita’s Church in Connellsville, Pennsylvania (see Blogpost 2). We lean for the first time that Don Errico had a nephew, presumably also a priest, who was cool to the Abbot over his appointment (1947) as Abbot.
Finally, the Abbot again attributes all of the responsibility and recognition for the many gifts to the church to Michele alone and to no others. Truly Michele’s role was large, but to discount the contributions of others seems rather ungrateful.Below