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Weekly Bulletin July 25, 2021
by Terrie Evans
San Antonio National Italian Parish was established on the insistence of Sr. Blandina Segale (Servant of God), who lobbied for the immigrant Italians she feared, would lose their Catholic Faith. These Sisters of Charity: Sr. Blandina, Justina, and Euphrasia also knew these families wouldn’t survive unless they received assistance to acclimate to their new surroundings. These three women religious were entrusted to the care of the Italian Population in 1897 by Mother General of the Sisters of Charity, Sr. Mary Blanche. The religious Sisters knew of the 200 children in Fairmount, so they requested funds, especially for children’s welfare work. Another much-needed priority was an Americanization Center in the neighborhood. The Sisters of Charity received $3,400 toward their cause and chose to use it on a building at 1946 Queen City Avenue. They would name the center, The Saint Anthony Welfare Center and use some of the rooms for citizenship classes, as many immigrants failed to pass the examination required to gain naturalization papers.
They also encouraged those Italian families to attend church, receive the Sacraments, Baptize their children, and enroll them in Catholic Schools; this would become the start of our church. As Rose (Esposito) Campbell would say many years later, “ With Italians, everything centered around the church, it was like that in the old country.” After Sacred Heart Church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel became the 2nd Italian Catholic Parish in Cincinnati, followed by San Antonio, with a total Italian population of around 5,000. During those early years, families settled close to the church when rent was about $11.00. Their belongings were “three pieces of furniture and a rug,” as Philomena (Marckesano) Schare once said. This founding of what is now San Antonio Church taught many of our ancestors to maintain our Catholic Faith, culture, traditions and come together to form Catholic Social Clubs while acclimating to America.
With the guidance of Sr. Blandina, Sr. Justina, Sr. Euphrasia, and the Franciscan Fathers, those early immigrants became stable. They found a place in American civic life while giving them pride in being Italian. A milestone event took place in 1923 when the Italian Community in Cincinnati celebrated their 1st Columbus Day Banquet. In 1924, many Italians realized how fortunate they were to be in their new home country when the Johnson Immigration Bill passed and new immigration quotas were enacted. A perplexed Sr. Justina worried that this Bill would work against and cause significant damage to the Italians. When it was passed, Sr. Justina then said, “An Italian discovered America and gave it to the world.” They were given the tools to live and prosper for a life they journeyed more than 5,000 miles for. To quote Sr. Blandina: “Always keep your chin up and your eyes on God! ” and our ancestors took her advice.