While we milled around in front of the great green door of the church, a few locals approached us curiously. We asked where we might find the Monsignor of the church.
Tony had written to the Monsignor (in English) a few months before our arrival to ask if we could pay a visit to him and the church. The Monsignor had responded (also in English, which is curious since he doesn’t speak a word of it), expressing his delight at our impending visit.
We gathered in the small courtyard while someone went to fetch him. While we waited, an old woman approached us. She must have heard the Del Pozzo’s were in town because she was desperately try to explain something in rapid-fire Italian about Tony’s grandmother, Maria Perrotta, and some connection between her and something inside the church. I couldn’t quite understand.
But when we heard people crowding around us exclaim, “AH! Del Pozzo!” that meaning was unmistakable. It was emotional even for me to watch the faces of Tony, Nichole, and Chris as they experienced a true home-coming.
“That was the moment I really felt like I was in Italy,” Nichole said later. “We finally made it to the place we had always dreamed of seeing…the place where our grandfather and our roots are from.”
Chris stood still, vividly imagining his grandfather as a little boy standing in front of this very same church after mass. Having had the experience myself of returning to the town of origin of my own grandparents, and standing inside the very church in which my great-grandparents had been married, I understood this powerful emotion.
A few moments later, Don Donato de Mattia, “Don Donato,” as the locals called him, arrived. I had imagined a tall, somewhat stern, stand-offish man. He was not. Short, roundish, with smiling eyes and warm hands, he bustled up to our small group and greeted everyone with a kiss, Italian-style. I smiled as I watched Tony kiss his hand, a gesture of honor and respect.
After making Nichole’s acquaintance, the monsignor affectionately took her arm and began speaking animatedly to her in Italian. When her apologies that she understood no Italian did not deter his discourse, she simply responded to him with polite uh-huh’s.
Don Donato was delighted we had come. He unlocked the massive front door to the church and herded us inside. Andrea was right with us, participating equally in this poignant moment. Excited, but hushed, we followed the Don down the center aisle towards the front altar.