Our Lady of Pompeii Church was opened in Dobbs Ferry for Italian immigrant families, and 100 years later Cardinal Dolan celebrated Mass Oct. 1 to mark the close of the anniversary.
The anniversary year began with Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Colacicco offering Mass last October and included a pilgrimage to the St. Frances Cabrini Shrine in Manhattan.
The celebration will continue in January, with Father Christopher Monturo and 50 parishioners touring the Holy Land and Italy, as they visit Rome, Naples and Pompeii.
“They are very proud of their parish and its history,” said Father Monturo, pastor of Sacred Heart-Our Lady of Pompeii since 2019. “I really love the people of my parish and I feel their love in return. I’ve grown to love and respect them as my own family. The parish embodies the feeling of family and community.”
Our Lady of Pompeii merged with Sacred Heart in 2015 as part of Making All Things New. The parish has about 1,600 families. The parish has 245 children in the religious education program where Joyce Battistin serves as the interim director of religious education.
Father Monturo is assisted by Father Fidelis Oppong; Father Siby Thomas, C.M.I.; and Father Jude Egbiji. Father Timothy Scannell is pastor emeritus.
Masses are offered at Sacred Heart on Saturday at 5 p.m. and on Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., and at Our Lady of Pompeii at 10:15 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekday Masses are celebrated at Sacred Heart at 8:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, and 7:30 a.m. at Our Lady of Pompeii on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“The holiness and the camaraderie with the people, it’s an extension of my family,” said Paula McCarthy, 66, who has been a parishioner for her entire life. “Being raised in that church, it’s a warm, comforting church.
“It makes you feel like you’re back in Italy. We originated from the Italian immigrants and knowing that Mother Cabrini had something to do with building that church makes it very special.”
Mrs. McCarthy has served as co-chairperson of Our Lady of Pompeii’s annual spaghetti and meatball dinner, an event that dates back to 1939 and is held on the last Sunday of October. In 2021, over 2,000 meatballs were made and 545 dinners were served, down a bit from 650 dinners before the Covid pandemic. The meatballs are prepared two days beforehand, and refrigerated at the church. The sauce, or gravy, is made the day before and refrigerated by a local business.
People come from Westchester County and beyond to enjoy the spaghetti and meatball dinner.
“It’s a big community gathering, and everyone looks forward to it,” said Sue Puzzuoli, 77, another lifelong parishioner.
“We have friends coming down from Massachusetts.”
Ms. Puzzuoli, who served as parish secretary for 15 years and as a catechist for many years, remembered her father, Pasquale Puzzuoli, telling her stories of how the excavation work for the current church was done with a horse and plow.
“It’s family, it’s home,” she said of the church. “It’s a place where you can go in and talk to God, and feel like he’s listening.
“It’s not a big church, but it’s big in our hearts.”
In 1915, Mother Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants, was granted permission by Cardinal John Farley for Italians to celebrate Mass in their native language in a chapel at Sacred Heart Villa, which she founded.
The chapel soon became too small to accommodate everyone who came, and Our Lady of Pompeii was created when Archbishop Patrick Hayes sent Father Conelio Dattolo to start the new parish in 1922, 60 years after Sacred Heart became the first parish in Dobbs Ferry.
Groundbreaking on the current Our Lady of Pompeii Church began the next year, with the lower level completed to celebrate Masses later that year. The main church was completed in 1925 and the lower level of the church was converted into a parish hall. The church was dedicated in 1926.
Father Monturo hopes everyone will reflect on the past and look ahead with the anniversary celebration coming to a close.
“We remember them and celebrate their memory and thank them for all they’ve done,” he said of people who made Our Lady of Pompeii what it is today.
“My deepest hope is for those who are there now and those coming in the future, that their relationship with our blessed Lord will grow and strengthen. Through that relationship, we have everything we need.”