EAST HAVEN – About 750 people filled Our Lady of Pompeii Church to overflowing on June 6 for a special Mass celebrated in English and Italian by Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza to honor a traveling image of Our Lady of the Rosary.
During a rare pilgrimage to the United States, the miraculous image traveled to East Haven from Italy as one of several cities scheduled on its tour by the Pontifical Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary in the Prelature of Pompeii.
The image, also known as of Our Lady of Pompeii, represents Our Lady of the Rosary as Queen of Heaven, who holds her Son, Jesus, as they hand rosaries to Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena.
“What a joyous, amazing moment for our parish in honor of Our Lady of Pompeii,” said Father John Lavorgna, administrator of the parish, who was clearly moved by the overwhelming numbers of people in attendance.
“We gather with great joy to celebrate this historic visit, and to pray and give thanks to God for so many blessings,” he said.
He welcomed three priests from the Marian mission in Pompeii, who led the Marian mission: Father Andrea Fontanella, director of the mission; Father Giuseppe Ruggiero, who served as English translator; and Father Salvatore D’Antuono. They brought greetings from Msgr. Carlo Liberati, Archbishop-Prelate of Pompeii and Papal Delegate of the Pontifical Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary; and from Pope Benedict XVI, who sanctioned the pilgrimage.
Father Ruggiero explained that the traveling image, which tells a story of conversion and holds special importance for Italian immigrants, was scheduled to visit largely Italian immigrant parishes in the United States to spread devotion to the rosary.
The special image, a replica of a painting in the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii, is part of a pilgrimage known as the Pompeii Marian Mission that was traveling through several dioceses in this country in June.
Its first stop was June 1 at St. Roch Parish in Greenwich where Father Matthew Mauriello is pastor. Father Mauriello also is this country’s representative for the Pompeii Marian Mission. From there it traveled to Sacred Heart Parish in Stamford before arriving in East Haven.
The missionary image also visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, where Msgr. Carlo Liberati joined the celebration.
The pilgrimage continued on to several parishes in the New York area, as well as Philadelphia, Pa. and New Jersey, before concluding at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in the Bronx, N.Y., on June 26.
“It brings back so many memories that I could start crying,” said Enza Savinelli-Vaccaro of East Haven. “It reminds me of my town of Caserta. I wouldn’t think of being anywhere else than here tonight.”
Echoing those thoughts was Betty Panza, a member of St. Paul Parish in West Haven, who exclaimed, “It’s absolutely wonderful to have the image here. The parish was incredible when Father (James) Shanley was pastor. But Father Lavorgna deserves all the credit for this. He has done a wonderful, wonderful job.”
Blessed Bartolo Longo, who founded the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii, is credited with enshrining the miraculous image in a small chapel there in 1875. On Oct. 21, 1979, Pope John Paul II visited Pompeii as part of a national pilgrimage to Our Lady of Pompeii. On Oct. 26, 1980, Bartolo Longo was beatified by John Paul II and called “the Man of the Madonna” and “the Apostle of the Rosary.”