The Atlantic Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood was officially established on April 23, 1987 by the Moderator General Very Rev. Fr. Anton Loipfinger, C.PP.S. during the Provincial Assembly in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Fr. Nicholas Arioli, C.PP.S. was elected first Provincial Director.
Since after the first half of the 1800, Missionaries of the Precious Blood were sent to the United States of America from Italy to conduct apostolic work among the Italian immigrants. It was not until the early 1900 that they took over the pastoral care of parishes like Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Niles, Ohio with Fr. Nicholas Santoro, C.PP.S.; St. Mary of Mt. Carmel, Chicago, Illinois with Fr. Edward Ricciardelli, C.PP.S.; Sacred Heart Parish in Gary, Indiana with Fr. Richard Fantozzi, C.PP.S.
On November 29, 1928 the Moderator General, Very Rev. Fr. Antonio Velardi, C.PP.S. established the Italo-American Delegation with Fr. Nicholas Santoro, C.PP.S. as Superior. In 1930 a third parish was entrusted to them in Rochester, New York, Most Precious Blood with Fr. Anthony Pece, C.PP.S. and Fr. Sebastian Contegiacomo, C.PP.S. The small group grew of 16 priests during the forties and the fifties, some still sent from Italy while others from the United States. It was at this time, on September 1966, that the Delegation was elevated to Vicariate.
In 1964 the Missionaries of the Precious Blood went to Toronto, Canada to assist the Italian Immigrants. To this day they have the pastoral care of St. Alphonsus church where the chapel of St. Gaspar is located and St. Roch church, both in Toronto while they are in the process of developing a ministry in the Niagara area.
The Forerunners of the Atlantic Province
Fr. Valentino Grilli (born Sept. 21, 1845 in Porto Recanati and ordained a priest December 19, 1868) was sent with Fr. John Thoma (born in Werback, Baden, Germany and ordained in Albano for the Italian Province in 1857) to help Fr. Patrick Hennebery in Eureka, California at the parish of St. Bernard, were he had started the “California Province”. The Province was short-lived; it lasted from January 3, 1870 to December 25, 1874. The two new-comers ended up going to Detroit; they were welcomed by Bishop Borgess and set their headquarters at North Dorr, Michigan. Rizzoli and Grilli made an agreement with the Bishop to allow Grilli to go to California to help Fr. Hennebery temporarily, while Fr. Thoma remained in Michigan. On January 5, 1875 Fr. Casimir Rohowski, Fr. Joseph Ebert and Fr. Victor left Alsace, and were directed to go to North Dorr. They insisted with Fr. General Rizzoli not to be placed under the Provincial of the American Province (at that time Austermann in residence at Mariastein, Ohio). At one point these small groups of priest were the answer to the Bishop’s needs: they took care of German, Polish, French and Italian-speaking communities.
Fr. Grilli returned to Italy for a visit and was conscripted into the Italian army; he did not go back to America, even after leaving the military. He was replaced by Fr. Theolbald Bitsch from Alsace who had finished his studies and was ordained a priest in Albano. In 1879, because of some ordinations in the diocese, the Bishop relieved him of his assignment. Fr. Bitsch then went to Canada to spend some time with Fr. Luigi Elena (Fr. Rizzoli’s cousin) in Formosa, Ontario. Giving in to their pressures, he followed them to Manitoba Province in July 1879 where the Bishop of St. Boniface assigned him to the settlement of St. Leon. Fr. Bitsch wrote to Fr. Rizzoli requesting copies of the rules of the Society, prayer books and indulgences of the Archconfraternity of the Blood of Christ and of the Pious Union which he intended to establish there.2
1. Klopke, John R., C.PP.S. More Essays in Honor of St. Gaspar del Bufalo. The Messenger Press, Carthagena, Ohio, 1993, p. 95.
2. Pollack, Fr. Andrew, C.PP.S. “CPPS in North America Excluding the American Province.”
While the plan of the CPPS Curia was to send priests of different nationalities ordained at Albano (Italy) to the United States to spiritually care for the immigrants of different ethnic groups, the desire of many CPPS Moderator Generals, like Merlini, Rizzoli, Palmieri…, was to establish the Congregation wherever possible. The attempt to establish the Province of California in Rohnerville with Fr. Patrick Hennebery had failed; in 1874 the General Curia decided to close it because of the many debts and lack of members. Propaganda intervened in favor of the foundation, urging Bishop Dwenger to come to a solution: suppress the province of California and invite the province of Ohio to take over. All parties agreed and Fr. Joseph Uphaus, CPPS, from the American Province was sent as superior. Fr. Hennebery tried again to revive the California Province at St. Joseph parish in Rohnerville with Fr. Fred Schaeper in 1886 with no success, and a third attempt in 1894 also failed. In 1891 the Archbishop of St. Francisco assigned a parish in Mendocino to the Society and with the approval of the Moderator, Fr. Rohowski was appointed pastor and head of the foundation. But it fell through for lack of help. On January 28, 1893 the Moderator General, Palmieri, wrote to Fr. C. Rohowski to approach the Bishop of Detroit, or any other Bishop, in order to establish a foundation for the Congregation. Bishop Foley accepted the two CPPS priests, Frs. C. Rohowski and Fred Schaeper, giving them St. Mary’s in Bronson, Branch County, Michigan. Fr. Casimir wrote to Fr. Fred: “Finally, it has been accomplished. Our Society is established, you and I are the beginners of our Order.” Fr. Casimir became sick and went back to Italy to die in 1908 in Rome; in 1902 Fr. J. Ebert died in New Salem, Michigan. Fr. Fred Schaeper, pastor of St. Anthony in Detroit and the only CPPS left in the USA belonging to the Roman Province, was by decree of the Moderator, Hyacinth Petroni, transferred into the American Province as of Dec. 3, 1917. He held the pastorate in Detroit until September, 1941 and on April 22, 1948 he died at St. Charles Seminary, Carthagena, Ohio.
1 Pollack, Fr. Andrew, C.PP.S. “CPPS in North America Excluding the American Province.”
The General Curia in Rome and the Missionaries from Italy in the States shared the same desire and agenda, that is, to establish a “Roman Province” under the guidance of the Moderator General with the members living in community. This was the wish expressed in the General Chapter of 1896. They even envisioned a seminary in their planning. Bishops of different dioceses were willing to receive the priests, but not ready to ensure a place large enough to house all of them together (four, or at least two). A place for students was over and above their means, so they began sending the students to Rome. In 1903 the Moderator General, Fr. Luigi Biaschelli, contacted several bishops, diocesan priests and CPPS of the American Province to realize this plan, but with no results. He was advised to go west and start a new American Province rather than a Roman Province that followed the “community rule.” Convinced that there was too much difficulty involved in establishing a new House, thus initiating a new Province, Father Biaschelli got another idea. On June 23, 1902 he wrote to the Provincial of the American Province, Fr. Boniface Russ with a new plan. He was sending two newly-ordained Italian priests to be subject to the American Provincial pro tempore. In Assembly at Carthagena on July 22nd, the American Province agreed to welcome them and find a place for them to work. On February 5, 1904 Fr. Pascal Renzullo and Fr. Edward Ricciardelli arrived in Chicago where Archbishop Quigley assigned them to Holy Guardian Angels parish. In 1905 Fr. Ricciardelli was moved to a CPPS parish in Fort Wayne, Indiana with Fr. Schlachter, Fr. Virgilius Krull and others of the American Province. In October of the same year, Fr. John Mullen, CPPS, from Michigan (who had been educated in Rome on behalf other Missionaries from Italy) was sent to Chicago and became pastor of Holy Rosary parish and Fr. Renzullo went to live with him. In June 1906 Fr. Ricciardelli became pastor of St. Mary of Mt. Carmel in Chicago and Fr. Mullen switched to the American Province. In 1908 Fr. Renzullo moved to St. Rocco’s which he had built. No changes are reported in personnel until 1914. 1
1 Pollack, Fr. Andrew, C.PP.S. typewritten copy of “CPPS in North America Excluding the American Province.”
Something happened in 1914 which brought the CPPS Missionaries to work among Italian immigrants in the Untied States. For a better under-standing, it helps to backtrack a bit. In November, 1989 the General Curia had established “Casa del Sol”, a CPPS Mission House in Casares, Spain staffed by missionaries from Italy. On November 26, 1911 two of them were sent from Spain to Mexico: Fr. Joseph Arrache (a priest from Buenos Aires who had joined the community in 1909) and Fr. Ottavio Zavatta. The same year, Fr. Nicholas Santoro and Fr. Richard Fantozzi, who were in Spain at that time, were also sent to Mexico. In 1913, when revolution and persecution of the Catholic Church became the order of the day there, all foreign priests were expelled. Fr. Fantozzi went to San Antonio, Texas with Fr. Joseph Schaeper, then to Chicago to stay with Fr. Mull, and finally to St. Rocco’s parish with Fr. Pascal Renzullo. In the meantime, Fr. Zavatta went to Brownsville, Texas with the Oblate Fathers where was joined by Fr. Santoro in July. Together they went to Carthagena, Ohio from where they were sent to the Mission House of the American Province at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Cleveland. In September, Fr. Zavatta went to the floundering parish of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Niles, but two months later he left for Chicago to take care of some business there. On November 14, 1914, Fr. Nicholas Santoro was appointed Pastor of the parish in Niles with a mission at Mineral Ridge. In 1915, Fr. Fantozzi became pastor of Sacred Heart in East Chicago, then of St. Joseph’s in Gary, Indiana in 1917 and returned to Spain in 1920. In the Spring of 1916, Fr. Angelo Della Vecchia came from Italy, after spending a few months in Spain, to assist Fr. Zavatta in East Chicago. In 1921 Fr. Renzullo returned to Italy and the parish of St. Rocco in Chicago Heights was taken over by the Conventuals. In 1922 Fr. Vincent Tripi came to New York to assist at St. Anne’s parish staffed by the Pallottine Fathers. On September 12, 1922 Fr. Schaeper, Procurator General, went to Cartha-gena for the dedication of the new Seminary of the American Province. An official meeting was held at St. Mary of Mt. Carmel in Chicago, with Frs. Zavatta, Santoro, Martiniano, Ricciardelli, and DellaVecchia; Fr. Tripi was absent and Fr. Arrache was not mentioned, even though he appears in the Catholic Director until 1938. It was determined that the American Provincial was to be the overseer and protector of their interests with the Bishops.2
CPPS Missionaries from Italy now had an official presence in the States!
1 Klopke, John R., C.PP.S. More Essays in Honor of St. Gaspar del Bufalo. The Messenger Press, Carthagena, Ohio, 1993, p. 95.
2 Pollack, Fr. Andrew, C.PP.S. “CPPS in North America Excluding the American Province.”
The Moderator General, Antonio Velardi, instituted the Italo-American Delegation onOctober 29, 1928. Fr. N. Santoro was named Superior, with Martiniano as Procurator and A. Della Vecchia as Secretary. In the name of the community the three priests had assumed the spiritual care of two parishes: St. Mary of Mt. Carmel in Chicago (Fr. A. Della Vecchia, pastor till his retirement of 1971), and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Niles (Fr. Santoro, pastor till his death in 1941). Fr. Martiniano went to Our Lady of Sorrows in Brooklyn, still giving missions (he died in Italy, 1934). On March 2, 1930, a third parish was entrusted to them - Most Precious Blood in Rochester, New York (Fr. Pece was the first pastor and then Fr. Sebastian till his retirement, 1973). For a short time they also had St. Anthony’s in Elmira, New York (1937-1939). Accepting parishes they accomplished stability for the members, and missionaries from Italy came at a steady pace: Frs. Anthony Pece and Valentino Nardoni (1928); Frs. Sebastian Contegiacomo and Joseph Saraceno (1930); Frs. Guido Nardoni and Raoul Sabatini (1934); Fr. Oreste Cerbara (1938); Fr. Armando Rotondi (1945, USA born); Frs. Matteo Quaranta and Joseph Gentili (1947); Fr. Nicholas Arioli (1949 from Rochester, New York); Br. Anthony Canterucci (1952 from Niles, Ohio); Fr. Carlo Della Vecchia (1960); Fr. Lui LaFavia ( 1961); Fr. Albert De Pascale (1962, from Niles, Ohio); Fr. Luciano Baiocchi (1964); Fr. Mario Bufalini (1965). Several left the community (Frs. Saraceno, Rotondi, Sabatini, G. Nardoni) and others became sick and went back to Italy (Martiniano, Pece, V. Nardoni).
The General Curia elevated the Delegation to Vicariate status on September 1, 1966. From this point on, the Vicariate was able to provide priests for itself: Carl Longanback (1968 from Cincinnati Province); Richard Maschiangelo (1969) and Peter Nobili (who had come from Italy as a student); Michael Norton (1971); James Reposkey (1974); Ronal Mahon (1977); John Colacino (1980); Doherty Brendan (1981); Mario Cafarelli (1985); William Mnyagatwa, from Tanzania and Joseph Grasso (1992); Lui Santi (1994); Dominic Jung, from Korea (1995); Gus Constantinides (1997). (T. Ratherman and D. McLean (71), D. Bonin (74), J. Roche (86) left the community. )
Since 1964 we have been in Canada with two parishes in Toronto: St. Roch’s and St. Alphonsus. Parishes were given back to the dioceses in Chicago and Rochester, while others were administered only temporarily, like St. Anthony and St. Jerome in the Diocese of Rochester and St. Mary’s in London, Ontario. The students have resided in Rochester, New York; London and Toronto, Ontario. On April 23, 1987 we became the Atlantic Province. (See p. 42 for other Milestones.)
“Meaning to establish the Roman Praxis in America, they became absorbed by the parish ministry, partially compromising the charism of the community: missions were sporadic yet they managed to maintain community living.”1 In the last couple of years there has been a return to the Mission House concept with the purchase of a house in Rochester, New York (and shortly in Niagara Falls, Ontario),and the establishment of the Merlini Mission House in Toronto.
1 Pollack, Fr. Andrew, C.PP.S. “CPPS in North America Excluding the American Province.”