Chuck Huller is a proud Italian-American who was feeling extra pride at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Oct. 8. The parishioner of Old St. Patrick’s in Manhattan attended the 41st annual Columbus Day Mass celebrated by Cardinal Dolan and later joined the thousands who lined Fifth Avenue for the 74th annual Columbus Day Parade.
“It was fantastic,” said Huller of the Mass. “It brought me into a very divine place of spirituality. The cardinal has made his community of faith proud of him. He’s made the Catholic Church proud of him, and he’s made our nation proud of him.”
Huller’s grandfather came to the United States from Sicily in 1914, and three years later, he returned to Italy to fight with the U.S. Marines during World War I.
“The Italian-American community has family values and it gives me a great sense of pride and enjoyment to see the camaraderie of how they feel about one another,” Huller said.
Cardinal Dolan, speaking in Italian at the beginning of Mass, welcomed visiting clergy and guests to St. Patrick’s. “You’re all at home here,” he said.
The first reading and music also were in Italian. Bishop James Checchio of the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., delivered the homily.
“You and I begin this day remembering in prayer the millions of men, women and children, our ancestors, who came to America in pursuit of freedom and opportunity,” said Bishop Checchio, an Italian-American who served in Rome for many years as rector of North American College.
Bishop Checchio said the Lord joined Italians on their journey to the United States, calling it an “incredible gift.”
“You and I are also descendents and disciples of the Lord. Do not just remember those who paved the way for us, but we’re asked to pave the way for others, the next generation,” he said.
Bishop Checchio cautioned that many Italian-American families in today’s fast-paced society are missing out on the Sunday tradition of attending Mass followed by a family dinner with prayer and conversation.
“It’s something we cannot let slip from our culture. We need it. Our children need it. Our grandchildren need it,” he said.
The celebration ended with closing remarks from Cardinal Dolan and the singing of the national anthems of Italy and the United States.
“I look forward to being with all of you at the parade,” the cardinal said.
People lined Fifth Avenue from 47th to 72nd streets, waving Italian and American flags. Cardinal Dolan greeted parade participants and posed for photos with them in front of St. Patrick’s, including Grand Marshal Guy Chiarello, president of First Data Corp.
Politicians including Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were in the line of march. So was Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive and Republican candidate for governor.
The parade was sponsored by the Columbus Citizens Foundation.
“This is such a celebration of our Italian heritage, of Columbus and more importantly of all the immigrants who have come to these shores, no matter what their ethnicity,” said Marian Pardo, president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation.
“We’re excited that this is a big celebration for New York. It’s something the membership of the Columbus does very happily as our present to New York. We try to make this the most exciting parade we can, and look forward to doing better ones every year.”
The Columbus Citizens Foundation held its annual gala Oct. 6 at the Hilton in Manhattan to raise money for scholarships awarded to elementary, high school and college students. The scholarship winners were invited to ride on floats in the parade.
“It’s really special because of our heritage,” said Julia Palermo, a 16-year-old junior at Maria Regina High School in Hartsdale as she stood on the Columbus Citizens Foundation High School and College Scholars float.
“I’m blessed to have this scholarship, and I enjoy this day.”