From January 1949 through May 1950, the Abbot (Abate in Italian – see note below) of the Church of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle in Paduli, Rev. Giovambattista Follo (see image below), exchanged at least ten letters with Mr. Michele Zullo, Padulese immigrant living in Hollis, Queens. Michele’s grandson, John Zullo, has generously consented to making them public. I am very grateful to John for providing us with this rich trove of historical material. These letters not only shed light on the relationships of the Padulese immigrants with their relatives and acquaintances back in Paduli, they also reflect the politics of the time on both the national and local level.
These ten letters are quite rare in that very few letters between Paduli and America have survived. We will probably never know what happened to the majority of letters that have vanished. Unless more letters are found, those that have survived are the only written testimony of the person-to-person interactions between members of the Padulese community in America and people back in Paduli.
Michele Zullo was actively involved in the efforts of the Padulese community in America to help the Church of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle in Paduli particularly in providing the church in 1949 with a Hammond Organ (no longer functioning) and Brass Plaque (currently hung on the wall of the church leading into the Sacristy) inscribed with the names of 239 Padulese immigrants in America who contributed to purchasing the organ), and the Bronze Bell, donated in 1950, that still today hangs in the belfry of the church. Michele’s love for his native town extended from helping organize these major donations to providing Abbot Follo with cloth and shoes for his vestments. Michele came to the United States in June 1912. His wife Giuseppina Grimaldi and their son Angelo came in December 1919 aboard the SS Taormina. Michele served in the U.S. Army in World War I. He set up a shoe repair and hat cleaning shop in Jamaica Queens. Michele and Giuseppina raised five children: three boys, Angelo his oldest son), Michael and George (his youngest son), and two girls, Aida Zullo Raby and Teresa Zullo Remetta.
The first letter was from Abate Follo to Michele Zullo and is dated January 22, 1949. The letter is presented below, first the original Italian letter, including a jpeg image of the original typed letter in Italian, and then the English translation. The last section contains some comments on the letter.
Nota Bene: The title Abbot originally was reserved for the chief monk in a monastery, elected by his brother monks. Later it was bestowed honorifically with the right to wear a mitre and to carry a crozier. The title is no longer bestowed in this manner. Father Follo was the last Abate of the Church of San Bartolomeo.
LETTERA ORIGINALE IN ITALIANO/ORIGINAL LETTER IN ITALIAN
— DI —
s. BARTOLOMEO APOSTOLO
— IN —
PADULI SUL CALORE (Benevento)
Paduli, 22 Gennaio 1949
Alla vostra lettera, giuntami ieri, del 16 sc. rispondo subito.
Sono molto rammaricato nell’apprendere che la letterina scritto quì il 28 dicembre, nella occasione della venuta di Giorgio [ guarda la nota bene laggiu], non vi sia arrivata. Ciò mi addolora anche perchè nella letterina ci era un saluto che vi inviava, dalla mia casa, vostro figlio Giorgio.
Forse si sarà perduta. Non importa. Il necessario è che ebbi la fortuna di conoscerlo.
Le notizie delle disgrazie capitate alla vostra famiglia, hanno non poco addolorato me e famiglia intera, specie il caso del vostro piccolo nipotinio, e quello della vostra gentile Signora.
Il nipotino è fuori pericolo, grazie al Signore. Per la vostra Signora auguro fin d’ora tutto bene e secondo i desideri vostri e suoi, nonchè di tutti i parenti. Intanto vi prego di tenermi a corrente della sua malattia, come io vi assicuro le mie incessanti preghiere al Signore ed a S. Rocco, affinchè affrettino la guargione per restituila sana e salve all’affetto vostro e di tutti.
Il caso del Marmorale, marito della Moleti, è stato già affidato ai nostri Deputati della Democrazia Cristiana, ed io stesso mi sono interessato ne raccomandarlo a S. E. L’On. Bosco Lucarelli, e speriamo che riesca ad avere di nuovo il posto sul municipio.
Questo fanno quì a Paduli i nostri amministratori Liberali del Comune; mandano via dal municipio, tutti quegli impiegati che non hanno votato per loro il 18 Aprile, e li mettono in mezzo alla strada.
Il caso Marmorale non è il solo; ma son tanti, specie poi contro quelli che votarono per la Democrazia Cristiana.
Come vi scrissi l’altra volta, i Liberali sono cattivi, malvaggi, pessimi e cercano solo di mettere in mezzo la strada i loro avversari di idee.
Questo è lo stato del nostro infelice paese. Siamo dominati dall’antico partito Marcarelliano, ma peggio di prima; e non aggiungo altro, voi ben immaginate tutto da intelligente che siete.
Abbiamo fatto parecchi esposti a Roma, e speriamo che veniano ascoltati Stato certo che si sistemerà la faccenda del Marmorale, come di tutti che vengono a raccomandarsi a me.
Ciò posto sono molto contento anzi contentissimo che la Società ha costituito il Comitato per Organo, e che Voi ne siete il Cassiere.
Come Cassiere Vi auguro che la Cassa del Comitato subito si riempia in modo da vedere realizzato quello che è stato il mio primo sogno, quando venni a Paduli nel 1947.
Se Attilio è cattivo, lasciatelo perdere! Di tale gente è meglio non averne a fianco, poichè tradiscono gli affetti più sacri cioè quelli di fede, di sangue e di patria!
Così fanno anche i nostri signori liberali, quì a Paduli!
Ma noi dobbiamo far sempre vincere la Chiesa, perchè chi è con Cristo trova salute, pace, benessere e vita.
E per questo desidero che l’Organo venga fatto a tutti i costi. I nemici della Chiesa dovranno tremare e fuggire!!!.
Vi communico che ho scritto a Musto Saverio una lunga lettera, e son certo che la gradirà. Mi deve anche rispondere.
Fra giorni vi manderò l’appello per il giornale americano.
Sono molto contento per le prime afferte, comprese le vostre e dei cognati. Il Signore ve ne ricompenserà abbondantemente.
Ho preso visione dei tipi di organo ed oggi stesso ho scritto a Torino.
Carissimo Michele, ora a voi una notizia riservatissima che nessuno deve sapere.
Prima che voi mi aveste mandato quel piccolo pezzetto di giornale ove c’è la Onorificenza del Cav. Susca, io già ebbi occasione di parlare con S.E. l’Arcivescovo di Benevento nei vostri riguardi, e di tutto ciò che voi avete fatto (altoparlante, globi) e di quanto state faccendo per l’Organo.
L’Arcivescovo rimase molto contento della vostra opera, e dietro mia proposta per una Onorificenza, non si negò. Perciò state pur certo che ad opera ultimata, vi arriverà una Onorificenza, che dovrà premiare tutto il vostro lavoro, e la vostra opera svolta a beneficio della nostra Chiesa.
Vi raccomando di tenere celata questa notizia; nessuno la deve sapere, altrimenti verrebbero sù le gelosie, le invidie, e si intralcerebbe il lavoro dele offerte.
Solo Voi e nessuno più. Voi tutto meritate e tutto avrete. Ho a mia disposizione tutto, ed a suo tempo sarà messo in esecuzione.
Intanto sono in attesa di sempre ottime notizie a riguardo. Con saluti cari a voi, ed auguri alla Signora. A ben leggervi con affetto. Vostro
D. [Don]G. B. Follo – Abate
Images of the Actual Letter
LETTER IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
22 Jan 1949
Abbey Church of St. Bartholomew Apostle, Paduli on the Calore (Benevento)
January 22, 1949
I am responding forthwith to your letter that reached me yesterday on the 16th. I was surprised to realize that the letter that I wrote from here on the 28th[December, 1948], on the occasion of Giorgio’s [Michele’s youngest son] arrival, appears not to have reached you. This saddens me because in my short letter there was a greeting from your son, Giorgio, that was sent from my home. Perhaps it became lost. It is not important. What is important is that I was able to have the fortune of meeting him.
The news of the misfortunes that have befallen your family has saddened both my family and me more than a little, especially the cases of your little grandson and of your kind wife. Your little grandson is past danger now, thank God. As for your wife, I wish her all the best that both you and your family could desire for her, not to mention the desires of all of your relatives. Moreover, I hope that you will keep me current with respect to her illness, as I assure you of my continuous prayers both the Our Lord and to Saint Rocco that they will hasten their recovery and restore her to you and yours cured and in good health.
The case of Marmorale, husband to Moleti, has been entrusted to our Deputies of the Christian Democratic Party, and I myself am involved in recommending him to His Excellency, the Honorable Bosco Bucarelli, and we hope that he will succeed in obtaining a new position in the municipality.
This is what our Liberal Party administrators of the Community are up to here in Paduli. They throw out all those employees of the municipality who did not vote for them on the 18th of April, and they cast them into the middle of the street. The Marmorale case is not the only one; there are so many, especially against those who voted for the Christian Democratic Party. As I wrote to you on another occasion, the Liberals are evil, wicked, pessimists whose sole goal is to cast their ideological adversaries into the middle of the street. This is the state of things in our unfortunate community. We are dominated by the old Marcarelli [Dr. Nicola Marcarelli, Mayor of Paduli 1922-1931] faction, only worse than before. Without embellishing any further, I believe you can well imagine everything that is going on as intelligent as you are. We have made many appeals to Rome, and we hope that they will be heard. Be assured that the Marmorale matter will be set right, as is the case with all who have come to me for help.
At this time, I am very pleased – even extremely pleased – that the Society has established a Committee for the Organ and that you are its Treasurer. With you as Treasurer, I hope that the Treasury will soon be filled to such a degree as to make happen that which has been my prime dream ever since I came to Paduli in 1947.
“If Attilio is evil, let him perish!” As for such people, it’s better not to have them by your side – that is, those who would betray the most sacred affections of faith, blood and country! This is also how our Liberal gentlemen act here in Paduli. But we must always see to it that the Church triumphs, because he who is with Christ will find health, peace, well-being, and life. And for this reason, I hope that the Organ will come with all costs completed. The enemies of the Church must tremble and flee!!!
I also wish to inform you that I have written a long letter to Saverio Musto, and I am certain that he has received it. He also needs to respond to me. In a few days I will send you an appeal for the American newspaper. I am very pleased with the first offerings , from you and your brothers-in-law. The Lord will amply reward you. I have seen images of the types of organs, and I have written to Turin today [headquarters for Hammond Organ in Italy].
Dearest Michele, now I have some news for you of the highest confidentiality which no on must know. Before you sent me the small newspaper article in which the Honorific Title of Cavaliere was given to Susca, I had already had occasion to speak with His Excellency the Archbishop of Benevento in your regard, and about all that you have done (the loud speakers and globes) and of what you are doing for the Organ. The Archbishop is very pleased with your work, and regarding my proposal that an Honor be bestowed upon you, he is not opposed. Therefore, it is certain that in the end an Honor will be bestowed upon you that should serve to reward you for all your work and all your efforts on behalf of the Church. I urge you to keep this news to yourself. No one must know about it, otherwise it will bring out their jealousy and their envy, and it could interfere with the efforts at obtaining donations. Only to you and to no one else – all the merit is yours and you shall have it all. Everything is at my disposition, and at the proper time it will be put into effect. Meanwhile, I await as always the best of news regarding this matter. With sincere greetings to you and best wishes to your wife. Pleased to write to you. Affectionately, Yours, D. [Don] G. B. Follo – Abbot
Nota Bene: Giorgio (George) was Michele’s youngest son. He served in the Navy and was stationed in Naples. Giorgio passed away in 2014.)
1. The great importance of St. Rocco to the people of Paduli is evidenced by the Abbot’s appealnot only to God but also to St. Rocco for help.
2. This letter and the others in this series of letters demonstrate a very strong relationship between the Abbot and the Padulese community in America at least on three levels. First is the familiar level of friends. Second is the practical level of goods and services as evidenced by the discussion of the organ, the Bronze Plaque, the loud speaker and the globes. Third is the mixture of politics and religion reflecting the struggles between the left and right, socialists and Christians in Italy in the postwar years.
3. The mixture of politics and religion is quite interesting because, for one thing, the Abbot’s comments are so direct and unrestrained, and second because he clearly is appealing to the Padulese immigrants in America to help him fight what he sees as the evils of the opposition in Paduli.
 The word used in the original letter is “afferte”. This word does not seem to exist in Italian, but it does exist in the Neopolitan dialect with the same meaning as “offerte” (offers) in Italian. It would certainly make sense in context, yet it is puzzling that the Abbott would suddenly use a dialect word in a letter otherwise completely in Italian.
 “Globi” meaning globes but also used in reference to light bulbs.
One of the gaps in our history of the Padulese immigrants who came to the United States is knowledge of the contacts between them and their families back in Paduli. Letters written back and forth would be excellent sources of information if we had them. Unfortunately, many, if not most, of these letters were destroyed or lost over the years. I have been able to acquire a few letters from my cousin Nicola D’Angelis and from my friend John Zullo. Below, I would like to share one of those letters with you that I received from Nicola who was farsighted in seeing the value of saving letters written between his grandfather, also named Nicola, and his grandfather’s brother-in-law in Oyster Bay, Rocco Verlingieri.
The letter is copied below, first in Italian and then in translation. It tells us several interesting things about the continuing ties across the Atlantic.
LETTER FROM ROCCO VERLINGIERI TO HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, NICOLA D’ANGELIS, 1 SEPTEMBER 1944
22 Spring Street
Oyster Bay, L.I.
My Dear Brother-in-Law,
With great pleasure we received your dear and welcomed letter; and we are very happy, I and my wife and my children and their families, at hearing the good news assuring us that all of you are enjoying the best of health. We are pleased to know that you all are fine; and I can assure you as I write this letter that we here are all fine. We always hope as we look ahead that we can give you good news from one to another, but we are very sorry to hear that your son Pellegrino finds himself a prisoner; and we pray to our Lord Jesus Christ that this war will end soon and that all of the enemies will be driven out of the whole world and not just from our country, but from all parts of the world so that all the populations will be liberated from Nazi and Japanese fascism and thusly that all may return to their homes in the bosom of their families and that they remain peaceful and happy, just as you have made us to know about your son-in-law who remains at home or perhaps is still soldiering. We are happy to know that our home town has not been touched by the enemy. You have been very fortunate. Saint Rocco, our Protector, has watched over us and we hope that he may always watch over us. Now that we can write to each other frequently our worries have disappeared.
Not having anything more to say, please receive our salutations from me together with my wife, and also my children and their families salute you, and your brother Giovanni salutes you and your sister Grazia and her husband salute you, and also receive salutations of all of our nephews and nieces who all are fine. We here salute all of our relatives, and please salute my brother and his family for me, and also everyone who inquires after us. And if your son Pellegrino writes to you, please send me his address so that we can write to him and bolster his courage. Once again, I an my wife and my children and all of their families salute you, your wife and all in your family.
Below I remain, as always, your brother-in-law,
Hoping always for good news from you.
Mio Caro Cognato,
Con tanto piacere siamo ricevuti la vostra cara e desiderata lettera la quale mosto siamo rimasti contenti io unito mia moglie i miei figli con le loro famiglie sentire le vostre buone notizie assicurandoci che tutti godete ottima salute quello e’ il nostro piacere sapere che state bene. E cosi nel momento che io vi scrivo posso assicurandovi anche di noi tutti che stiamo bene e cosi lo speriamo sempre nell’avvenire di darci delle buone notizie da una parte all’altra, siamo rimasti dispiaciuti sentire che il vostro figlio Pellegrino si trarre prigioniero speriamo al nostro Signore Gesucristo che presto finisca questa guerra che viene scacciato il nemico di tutto il mondo non solo dalla nostra Patria ma da tutte le parti del mondo che tutte le popolazione vengono liberate dal Nazi fascismo nipponico cosi tutti si ritornano alle loro case in seno al loro famiglie che stanno tranquilli e felici come anche ci fate sapere di vostro genero se sta a casa o pure per soldato, siamo contenti sapere che il nostro Paese non e stato toccata dal nemico siate state fortunati S. Rocco il nostro Protettore vi ha guardato e speriamo che vi guardasse per sempre. Adesso che ci possiamo scrivere diamoci notizie spesso cosi stiamo senza nessuna pensiero. Non avendo altro ricevete i saluti di me unito mia moglie cosi vi salutano i miei figli con le loro famiglie vi saluta la Sorella Grazia e suo marito e figli cosi ricevute i saluti di tutti i nostri nipoti che tutti stanno bene da qui salutiamo tutti i nostri parenti cosi mi salutate mio fratello e sua famiglia e tutti coloro che domandano di noi come pure se vostro figlio Pellegrino sei scrive ci mandate il suo indirizzo cosi lo possiamo scrivere a dargli piu coraggio di nuovo vi salutiamo io mia moglie con i miei figli e loro famiglie a voi vostra moglie e tutti di vostra famiglia.
Sotto mi dico sempre vostro cognate,
Spero sempre vostre buone notizie.
The first thing of interest is that the letter was written in Italian, not in Padulese dialect, even though it is possible that neither sender nor recipient knew Italian. It is even possible that they did not know how to write, but that is conjecture based on the fact that many Padulese immigrants were illiterate. When they wanted to send a letter, they asked someone who knew how to read and write to write it for them. Then, when the letters were received, somone would not only have to read them but also translate it from Italian into dialect.
The second bit of interesting information is that Nicola’s son, Pellegrino, has become a prisoner of war. It does not say who is holding him prisoner. Many unfortunate Italian soldiers were taken prisoner by the Russians, and of those many were never heard from again or showed up years later when everyone thought they were dead. Such a thing occurred in my own family to my grandmother’s sister. Thinking that her husband was dead, she remarried. Then, after several years, her first husband showed up.
The third thing of interest is that Paduli “has not been touched by the enemy” (il nostro Paese non e stato toccata dal nemico…”
Another interesting point alluded to in the letter is that a substantial number of family members then resided in Oyster Bay. These included Nicola’s sister Grazia and her husband (Bartolomeo Ranaldo) and their five children, Nicola’s sister Filomena and her husband Rocco Verlingieri and their children, Nicola’s brother Giovanni, his nephew and niece, Rocco and Madalena D’Angelis (my grandfather and great aunt), and so forth. In other words, this one letter alludes to the tremendous family dislocation that occurred at that time.
Finally, I wish to point out the appeal made to St. Rocco, Protector of Paduli. Veneration of St. Rocco remained very strong among the immigrants. It was a bond of faith shared between them and their relatives back in Paduli. Every year, whether in Paduli or among the immigrants in the United States, the Feast of Saint Rocco was celebrated with singing, bands, food and fireworks. In Oyster Bay, the statue of St. Rocco in St. Dominic’s Church, was taken out and paraded through the streets of the town to the accompaniement of a band playing Italian marches. As the statue passed by the houses of the Padulese immigrants, people would stream out of their houses to pin dollar bills on the ribbons streaming down from the statue. The statue itself was imported from Paduli and still stands in the St. Dominic’s church to the right as one faces the altar. During the festival, the statue is placed in a tent on the festival grounds for the duration of the several day celebration. Unfortunately, time has taken its toll and none of the first generation are still around, and many of the second generation are also gone. Nowadays, the music is rock and roll and the religious aspect of the Feast is all but gone. It remains stronger in Glen Cove where there is still a large community of Italians. Padulese immigrants in Campbelltoen, South Australia, also still maintain a strong interest in the Feast. They also have an active club dedicated to Saint Rocco, the San Rocco di Paduli Club.