by Antonina Zielinska
In the wake of the tragic deaths of over a 100 immigrants off the coast of Italy, the faithful of Italian descent gathered for the 32nd annual Italian Apostolate Day in honor of Our Lady of Pompei.
After reciting the Rosary in Italian, the congregation in the Basilica of Regina Pacis, Bensonhurst, recited several Hail Marys for the people who died in search of a better life.
The deaths occurred when a boat carrying as many as 500 people from Africa shipwrecked off the coast on Lampedusa, the closest Italian island from the southern continent.
Deacon Vincent M. La Gamba, the coordinator of the Italian Apostolate, said it is especially important for Italians in the U.S. to pray for the souls of those who have died.
“We are all immigrants,” he said. “And we thank God that we have America to teach the world what freedom is all about.”
Deacon La Gamba also led the congregation in prayer for peace in the world and within individual hearts.
Msgr. Ronald Marino, the rector of the basilica, was the main celebrant of the Mass. At the end of the ceremony, he led the congregation in the Supplica alla Madonna di Pompei. This prayer is said internationally by the Italian community in honor of the patroness of the Rosary.
Msgr. Marino said the celebration is important because devotion to Mary is a staple of the Italian culture.
“We gather together to underscore the unity of the Italian community,” he said.
He recited the prayer in front of a replica of a painting depicting the Holy Mother with her Infant Son, handing out Rosaries to St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Genoa. The Italian atmosphere of the prayer was emphasized by the fact that the Basilica of Regina Pacis is a replica of a church in Pompei.
This year’s Italian Apostolate Day honoree was Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who has attended the event every year since becoming bishop of Brooklyn in 2003. This year he was unable to attend due to an illness.
Msgr. Marino accepted a gift from the apostolate on behalf of the bishop. Deacon La Gamba presented him with a thurible in honor of the bishop’s 10th anniversary as Bishop of Brooklyn.
“He is a dedicated listener,” Deacon La Gamba said of the bishop. “He encourages us to follow the traditions and to pass the faith of the Church to the younger generations.”