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Weekly Bulletin August 8, 2021
by Terrie Evans
On August 6, 1922, families from South Fairmount came together to celebrate the founding of the St. Anthony Welfare Center and the start of our church with a Mass presided over by the Assistant Pastor of Sacred Heart, Church, Rev. Antonio Bainotti. As we look back into the history of San Antonio Church; we must remember how the Italians from the original Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on 5th and Broadway helped pave the way for the residents of South Fairmount. Before the colony of Little Italy around Queen City Avenue was formed, the 2 Italian born Sisters of Charity did much work with the Sacred Heart Church Italians. Those Italian families arrived from a journey that took them from Calabria, Italy to New Orleans and then by boat up the Mississippi River to Cincinnati around 1800. They too wanted a church to serve their community and to unite all new arrivals from their home country. After years of planning and fundraising, the new Sacred Heart Church was dedicated on August 27, 1893.
This church was not only for the benefit of their parishioners but, for the whole community as Archbishop William Elder was very concerned about proselytism spreading among the Italian people. Sacred Heart Church soon became an important cultural and social center as well as a spiritual home for the Italian Catholics of Cincinnati. At that time, the Sisters of Charity, Blandina and Justina took responsibility for the Italian Children to prepare them for their First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Before our church was established, Sacred Heart Church held some Baptisms and weddings of our South Fairmount Italian families. Many traveled by carriage on cobble stone streets to attend church or receive the sacraments where they felt welcomed at Sacred Heart. Some of the early weddings that were celebrated during those early years were: Lorenzo Panaro to Maria Josephine Palmieri on Sunday, June 16, 1895, by Rev. Lotti, Dena Panaro to Silvano Minella on Sunday, September 14, 1913, by Rev. John Baptist Balangero, one of the 51 weddings performed that year and the wedding of Sacred Heart Parishioner and well known boxer, Anthony LaRosa to Mary Elena Panaro on Wednesday, September 4, 1929, by Rev. Remigio Pigato.
Srs. Blandina and Justina became acquainted with many of our families through Sacred Heart Church and realized the need for a church in their own neighborhood. They realized how difficult it was for the South Fairmount families to traverse their way to 5th and Broadway. Even though Sr. Blandina and Justina came from Cicagna, a commune in the City of Genoa, northern Italy, they knew of the many struggles of the Southern Italians who were mostly peasant farmers. They did whatever it took to serve the Italians from Sacred Heart and the colony of the later arrivals from the southern mountain villages of Felitto, a town founded in the 10th Century, Potenza, overlooking the valley of the Basento River in the Apennine Mountains of Lucania, and Roccadaspide near the Cilento National park where prized chestnuts are grown for chestnut flour that is used for sweets and pasta. For 40 years the much beloved Sr. Blandina (Servant of God) and Sr. Justina, the Segale Sisters unconditionally served many generations of grateful Italian families. We will never forget them.