“Every part of all this soil is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley…has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished.”
Chief Si’ahl, Duwamish Tribe
One of the many blessings of my youth was growing up in a large Italian American family. In particular the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren of the immigrants Angelo Corbo and Clementina Petrone were like one large family. That was never more evident than at Christmas. Even as the number of generations expanded and the size of the family greatly enlarged uncles, aunts, and cousins bought or made presents for nephews, nieces, and cousins as they would for their own parents, siblings, or children. Such generosity. Such love.
Faith was another critical dimension of family life growing up. I was blessed that my great grandparents lived into my early twenties. My great grandmother Julie (b. Angiolina) dutifully and fervently prayed the rosary every day and fully expected my sister and me to join her if we were visiting. Her daughter Rose still regards one of her greatest accomplishments was getting her daughter into Catholic school despite economic hardships. And Rose’s daughter – my mother – is very active in our local parish harnessing the time, talent, and treasure of parishioners to serve underprivileged youth. Growing up – the rhythm of the home was harmonized to the rhythms of the liturgical seasons of the Church and the activities in our parish.
This extended multi-generational commitment to family, faith, and the community may be unremarkable to the many of you who grew up as “ghetto” or cultural Catholics. However as I discovered in my own genealogical quest that the source of faith and values that propelled my family forward into the future was rooted very deep in the past and very powerful.
I love to Kayak. Two years ago my son and I went on a 60 mile expedition in the northern Adirondacks. One of the hardest parts of the trek was kayaking against the current of the Raquette River. What was earlier almost imperceptible, almost effortless, the further upstream we went the harder we had to paddle. Moreover as we paddled upstream the ambient noise changed from silence to what was a distant roar that kept growing louder and louder and closer and closer as we pressed on for many miles. It was when we turned the final corner and came face to face with the deafening roar and power of Raquette Falls that we saw and understood what was the source and the power behind that current. When we turned the boats around we barely had to paddle. Even as the roar of the falls faded away the current pushed us forward for many miles.
Similarly my own genealogical journey was just like the trek in the Adirondacks. The further back in time I went the harder it got. However the further back in time I went the echoes of a simple, profound, and deep faith grew louder and louder. And when I turned the corner and came face to face with the genealogical equivalent of my own Raquette Falls in the Cilento region of Southern Italy I finally understood the source and the power of the faith that has pushed us forward – even though that source is now almost imperceptible in time. In the Cilento every hillside and every valley had been hallowed by an awe-inspiring event in days long vanished – some 355 years ago. Over the next 3 postings I will take you back in time and space to the land of my ancestors and the wellspring of faith and the discovery I made there. And in the recounting of this journey I hope to be able to provide you insight in your own genealogical research and faith.