Italian North American

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Italian

The majority of the following information about the Italian-speaking assemblies comes from the final issue of La Voce Nel Deserto and from personal correspondence with Mr. Michael Rannelli, the co-editor of that magazine. In some of what follows, I use Mr. Rannelli’s own words. Others have also supplied information about the Italian work.


In the days of significant immigration of Italians to North America, Gospel work in Italian was carried on in many places. Many of the immigrant Italians were in happy fellowship in English-speaking assemblies. Although small Italian assemblies in the U.S. existed before 1900, the real expansion of the Italian work in the United States and Canada began in about 1918.


The work among Italians in the United States seems to have started in 1893 in Hoboken, NJ, when a few Italian immigrants met for the first time to Remember the Lord in the Breaking of Bread and to preach the Gospel. One of the first saved was Michael Lisa. A few Italian believers met in his home and were taught by Geremia di Georgio, who had emigrated from Alexandria, Egypt and met with an ‘exclusive’ English-speaking assembly in Jersey City, NJ.


Through the testimony of Mr. Lisa and Mr. di Georgio, P. Conforte of Brooklyn, NY was converted and soon a small assembly met in his home. Some members of a Baptist Church who became dissatisfied with their association joined with them. Thus, the two first known Italian assemblies were established in Hoboken and Brooklyn, and were ‘exclusive.’ Mr. Lisa and Mr. di Georgio helped both assemblies while laboring daily to meet their own temporal needs.


In 1908 the Lord saved another Italian immigrant named Cesare Patrizio in Philadelphia, PA while he read the Bible. He associated with an assembly in the city, and requested of the elders that he be baptized, but they hesitated. He said, “If you do not baptize me, I’m going to go home and fill my bathtub and I’ll baptize myself.”  The elders then agreed to baptize him. Mr. Patrizio became one of the most gifted teachers and evangelists in the U.S. Italian-speaking assemblies; he labored among them all. In 1918, he was commended for full-time service in the Lord’s work by the brethren of the  Bryn Mawr Assembly in Philadelphia. His first Gospel effort was jointly with H.A. Cameron in Waterbury, CT where for 13 weeks in the summer of 1918 they preached in a Gospel tent.


In that same year, 1918, Mr. Patrizio went to the Loizeaux Brothers Publishing House in New York City to meet Timothy Loizeaux. After questioning, Mr. Loizeaux offered him all the tracts he wanted, free, and gave him the address of the Italian assembly in Hoboken. Until this time, Mr. Patrizio was not aware of any Italian-speaking assemblies.


He soon met the Italian believers at Hoboken, but when he learned that they had ‘exclusive’ views, did not join with them. However, in the fall of 1919, Mr. Patrizio received a postal card inviting him to a Columbus Day Conference to be held in Hoboken. When he arrived he realized that he was among the same group he had visited the year previously. E. Fiorella  recognized Cesare Patrizio and asked him to come to the platform to give them a word of exhortation, which he did. Some whom he met at this first Italian-speaking conference, and who later were to play an important part in the work of the Lord among the Italians in North America, were Joseph De Carlo, Frank P. Diorio, J. Compitello, and Constantino Giordano.

===P. Diorio=== 

P. Diorio had been a nominal member of a Presbyterian church. When he heard a servant of the Lord minister on the Church and other Biblical truths, he severed his connections with his church, together with a few others like minded, and they started to meet in his home. In 1903 they rented a store on Mott Street in the Italian section of New York City and started to Remember the Lord each first day of the week. In the afternoons they would go to a park near Mulberry St. and preach the Gospel. The believers carried on this testimony for several years. It was not until July 1919 that Mr. Diorio heard of the Italian believers in Hoboken and Brooklyn. Then he visited the Brooklyn assembly and because he lived in Brooklyn he united with them. F. Diorio suggested that they hold a conference on Columbus Day; it was to this conference that Mr. Patrizio was invited.


Mr. Diorio recognized the scarcity of sound Italian literature and decided to print a magazine called Il Seminatore, later named La Voce Nel Deserto. The first issue was printed in July 1919. The magazine served well to bind the Italian believers together.


He next organized a three-day conference over the Memorial Day weekend of 1920, which was held in the Mariner’s Temple in New York City. Those who took part were C. Patrizio, F. P. Diorio, J. Compitello, E. Fiorella, and P. Bartolomeo. Ralph West, who took the Sunday School, was the only English speaker. It was at the last day of this conference that Nunzio Pizzulli was saved.


Louis Rosania

Louis (Luigi) Rosania was born in Calitri, Italy in 1895 and emigrated to the United States when fifteen years old. In 1916 he was living in Newark, NJ where he met a young man who invited him to the English-speaking  Newark Gospel Hall and it was there that he was saved. Later he moved to Waterbury, CT where he opened a tailor shop. The Italian believers in Waterbury were meeting then with the English-speaking assembly at the  Waterbury Gospel Hall. But Mr. Rosania was exercised as to full time service among Italians and sold his tailor shop. In February 1921 he was commended to the work of the Lord and became a co-worker with Cesare Patrizio. Though he continued to live in Waterbury, like Patrizio his ministry extended to the Italians wherever they were.


Rocco Cappiello

In 1919, a young man named Rocco Cappiello was invited to some Gospel meetings in Waterbury, CT. The first time Mr. Cappiello went, he was so impressed with what he heard from the Bible that he told others there that he was going to get himself a Bible even if he had to steal one. After the meeting the believers gave him a Bible which he embraced as if someone had given him a bag of gold. He was soon saved.


In 1924 the Italian believers in Waterbury rented a hall to have meetings in Italian but continued to Remember the Lord with the English-speaking assembly. In December 1928 they started to Remember the Lord for the first time in Italian. In August 1944 they purchased their own Gospel Hall. The assembly had a two-day conference every Labor Day. Annual conferences were also held in the Italian assemblies in Boston and Methuen, MA, and Hartford, CT.


In August 1921, Messrs. Patrizio and Rosania pitched a tent in an Italian section of Philadelphia. This section had a bad reputation, and they had to sleep in the tent at night to keep the tent from being destroyed or burned, but the Lord protected them. Matthew Brescia was saved then and led his brother George to the Lord. This was the year that the Italian-speaking assembly in Philadelphia began. Matt Brescia invited a friend, Cesare Illuminati, to the tent meetings. Illuminati was a staunch socialist and agnostic. Mr. Illuminati came on the night that Mr. Patrizio preached on the Prodigal Son, and Mr. Illuminati wondered who had told the preacher all about him. A few days later, he confessed salvation, and a little later his wife also was saved.


In Orange, NJ, an English-speaking assembly had rented a store in the Italian section to get an Italian work started. The work was extremely difficult and they were able to get only a few out to the meetings. In 1921, Rocco Cappiello moved to Orange and found a room in the home of the in-laws of Salvatore Iatesta. Mr. Iatesta saw the new boarder reading a book and asked what he was reading. Mr. Cappiello told him it was the Bible, God’s Word. Mr. Iatesta was gloriously saved.


Joseph Rannelli

Mr. Cappiello called for two of his brothers from Italy, and the Lord saved them. He met Joseph Rannelli who soon accepted Christ. Others were saved and started witnessing. Mr. Cappiello recruited Vito Soccurto of Waterbury, CT to help at Orange, and asked Louis Rosania to come over. As souls were saved they joined with the English-speaking assembly at Orange until 1922, when they met together to Remember the Lord in Italian for the first time.


Five local pastors visited their rented store front building during a prayer meeting. Afterward, one of them said they were happy to see how the Lord was working and blessing the work and suggested that the Italians might like to join with one or another of their churches. Joseph Rannelli thanked them and said that because they were saved recently through reading God’s Word, they would continue to study God’s Word, and if it led them to join any of these churches they would do so. But God’s Word led them to continue to meet in the Name of the Lord alone. Two years later they held their annual conference on Memorial Day weekend, which continued yearly until World War II forced them to discontinue it.


The assembly at Orange prospered and in June 1955 purchased its own building, called the  Clinton Street East Orange Assembly. In 1984, the Orange assembly purchased eight acres of land in Livingston, NJ and built the  Livingston Gospel Hall. By that time, the assembly was using English as its language for the meetings.


Nunzio Pizzulli

Nunzio Pizzulli at first fellowshipped with the Italian assembly in Brooklyn. Later he moved his family to Long Branch and became identified with the Asbury Park English-speaking assembly. Joseph De Carlo of Brooklyn visited the Pizzulli family to encourage them and help Nunzio Pizzulli in the per¬sonal work he was doing for the Lord in Long Branch. In 1925, four believers started to meet in the home of Mr. Pizzulli to Break Bread. In 1927 the assembly had grown to about 30 believers so they rented an upper room at Branchport Avenue. In 1928, C. Patrizio and L. Rosania erected their tent in the town and others were saved. The assembly erected the  Long Branch Gospel Hall on Art Street and formally opened it in August 1932.


After the Italian assembly in Long Branch was started, Frank Pizzulli, the son of Nunzio, became active in children’s and young people’s work and started a large Sunday School. In June 1938, he was commended by the Long Branch assembly for full-time service.


Francis Carboni

Another servant of the Lord who played an important part in the formation of Italian assemblies was Francis Carboni. He heard the Gospel preached for the first time by Frank Diorio and Mr. Compitello in a little store that these brethren had rented for meetings in Dumont, NJ. Mr. Carboni was commended to the Lord’s work by the assembly at  Tenafly Hall in New Jersey and by the Italian-speaking assemblies.


Francis Carboni labored much in the Hackensack and Lodi, NJ areas and saw an assembly established in Hackensack. He encouraged Frank Pizzulli of Long Branch to go into full time service and they joined hands in East Boston, MA and also in Mechanicville, NY and were helpful in forming assemblies in these two cities. Mr. Carboni and G.G. Johnston pitched their Gospel tent in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario in the summer of 1945, and visited other cities in Canada. But Mr. Carboni had developed a burden for Italy and prayed for an open door for the Gospel there. In 1946, the Lord granted his desire, and Francis Carboni visited Italy and spent nine months preaching the Gospel there with much fruit and encouragement.


He later labored in Sicily, with the full blessing of the Italian brethren in the U.S. The Orange assembly sent a bounty of gifts for the furbishing of a home for missionaries that he had established there. Blessings were evident immediately, many souls being saved and some assemblies established in Sicily.


The Gospel tents were the means of spreading the Gospel among the Italians and were very successful. Gospel tents were set up in Italian districts every year. They were set up after Memorial Day and were taken down by Labor Day. A store would then be rented, which would become the beginning of an Italian assembly. This happened almost every year.


The Lord blessed the Italian work with the diversity of gifts needed to sustain such a work. Rocco Cappiello was one who could endure the hardness necessary in breaking up new ground. He was not a platform man but a great personal worker and tract distributor. It was most natural for Louis Rosania to follow him. Mr. Rosania was the exceptionally gifted personal worker and evangelist. Cesare Patrizio challenged the believers by emphasizing their new position in Christ; he had a very practical ministry. Francis Carboni and Frank Pizzulli were the biblical expositors of the Italian assemblies; they unfolded the scriptures as to the person of Christ and other doctrinal truths.


Some of the most gifted Italian teachers were called home in the prime of their usefulness. Constantino Giordano of Hoboken, one of the early leaders in the work, died at age 39. Romeo Torrone of Philadelphia and Joseph De Carlo of Brooklyn had exceptional teaching gifts; Mr. Torrone was called home in December 1941 at age 50, and Mr. De Carlo died in July 1950 at age 54. George Brescia was called home in October 1951 when 46 years old. Frank Pizzulli was taken home in November 1960 at the age of 51. In May 1959, the Lord took Louis Rosania to be with Himself at age 64.


By 1952, the following cities had Italian-speaking assemblies, some having over 100 in fellowship and some with less than 25:

New Jersey:  Orange, Long Branch, Hoboken, Jersey City, Hackensack

New York:  South Brooklyn, Greenpoint Brooklyn, New Rochelle, Mechanicville, Poughkeepsie Connecticut:  Hartford, Waterbury, Bristol, Danbury, New Haven

Massachusetts:  East Boston, Methuen, Worcester, Springfield

Pennsylvania:  Philadelphia

Michigan:  Detroit

Ontario, Canada:  Toronto and Sault Ste Marie.


Thus in 1952, there were Italian-speaking assemblies in 23 cities on the continent. Today there are no assemblies on the continent which use Italian for their services, though there are many assemblies composed primarily of people of Italian descent.


Assembly Histories

Now we turn to the history of specific Italian-speaking assemblies, many of which have already been mentioned.


1941: Hoboken, NJ

Hoboken, NJ  This was the first Italian assembly established in the United States. In 1941, the  Hoboken Assembly purchased their own hall on Bloomfield and Seventh St.


1942: Jersey City, NJ

Jersey City, NJ  The assembly was started here in March 1942 by families that belonged to the Hoboken assembly. Most of the believers in that assembly lived in Jersey City and wanted a testimony in their neighborhood. They purchased their own  Jersey City Gospel Hall on Paterson Plank Road in 1946.

Red Bank, NJ  Frank Pizzulli had tent meetings in Red Bank, but no Italian-speaking assembly was established. The few believers went to the Long Branch Assembly.


1928: Danbury, CT

Danbury, CT  When R. Cappiello was commended to full time service for the work of the Lord he moved to Danbury in November 1926. He started visitation work with encouraging results. In 1927, L. Rosania came to help and in 1928 a small store was rented and the  Danbury Assembly met for the first time. The assembly moved into larger quarters later, but was still called small in 1946 when F. Pizzuli labored there.


1927: Hartford, CT

Hartford, CT  Through Anthony Barbati, the seed of the Gospel was carried to Hartford. Several Italians were interested, so Messrs. Patrizio and Rosania pitched their tent in the summer of 1927. In August six believers were baptized. In 1931 the  Hartford Italian Assembly met for the first time in the home of Joseph De Luca. When George and Matthew Brescia moved to this city there was a revival. After meeting in rented quarters for many years they purchased their own building, which was opened June 1946.


1928: Bristol, CT

Bristol, CT  In 1928 Anthony Barbati moved from Hartford to Bristol and through his testimony many became interested and were saved. Mr. Patrizio visited Bristol for Gospel meetings and others were saved. In April 1929, the assembly gathered for the first time to Remember the Lord. The assembly continued to prosper and built their own  Bristol Gospel Hall, which was opened in September 1944. About 30 were in fellowship in 1946.


1940: New Haven, CT

New Haven, CT  R. Cappiello began the Italian work in New Haven in about 1940. In 1945, some 13 were in fellowship in the  Italian New Haven Assembly.


1933: Poughkeepsie, NY

Poughkeepsie, NY  A. Correnti moved to this city and started to sow the good seed of the Gospel. R. Cappiello and others helped and interest was aroused. In June 1933 the  Italian Assembly of Poughkeepsie was opened.


1933: New Rochelle, NY

New Rochelle, NY  The work in this city was started by two Italian brethren who were in fellowship with the Yonkers, NY assembly. With the cooperation of brethren from the Brooklyn assembly, they started having open-air meetings. In July 1933 the Gospel tent was pitched by Messrs. Patrizio and Rosania, and in September 1933 the  Italian New Rochelle Assembly started.


1934: South Brooklyn, NY

South Brooklyn, NY  Frank Diorio started meetings once a week in the home of V. De Filippis in South Brooklyn. Soon other believers joined with them, and several others were saved and baptized. In March 1934 an assembly was started at 565 5th Avenue. The assembly later purchased their own building at 17 E. 7th Street, Brooklyn. L. Montalvo of Puerto Rico learned to speak the Italian language acceptably and helped various assemblies when he came to the U.S. He was later commended to the Lord’s work among the Spanish speaking population of New York City and Brooklyn by the  South Brooklyn Italian Assembly.


1945: Mechanicville, NY

Mechanicville, NY  The work here started as a result of some servicemen returning from World War II, who had found Christ and were dissatisfied with their former association with the Pentecostal Church. One of the servicemen, Andy Marinello, began a Bible study in his parent’s home. At the same time, an invitation was given to Louis Capeci to come to a series of Gospel meetings led by the Canadian evangelist Mun Hope at the English-speaking  Albany Gospel Hall in March of 1945. Louis Capeci was the first of many Italians who would come to know Christ through Mun Hope’s efforts.

Once saved, Mr. Capeci took carloads of his extended family and friends to the Gospel meetings. These new believers then began to attend the Bible study started by Andy Marinello, which was moved to the home of Giuseppe Laurenzo. A number of Mr. Laurenzo’s adult children came to Christ as a result of Mr. Hope’s work that March.

Mun Hope was asked to return to Mechanicville late in the summer of 1945, which he did, staying for six to eight weeks, helping with the Bible study of 30 to 40 believers, most of whom were newly saved. In these early months, Mechanicville’s Italian believers attended Albany Gospel Hall on Sundays. Seeing so many believers of Italian descent, Mun Hope wrote to Frank Pizzulli and Louis Rosania, asking them to come and take his place in the work at Mechanicville. Before he left, Mun Hope gave F. Pizzulli and L. Rosania all the money he had received from the Italian believers in Mechanicville.

Messrs. Pizzulli and Rosania pitched their tent in Mechanicville in the summer of 1946 and blessings were seen. At first the adversary raged. The Chief of Police together with the local priest ordered the property owner to have the tent removed from his property. When the Lord opened another location for the tent, the Chief of Police ordered that no tracts or leaflets could be distributed. The brethren were not discouraged and patiently went to the State Capital in Albany, and the Attorney General had the de¬cision reversed. Mr. Pizzulli rented the Masonic Temple every Lord’s Day eve¬ning for Gospel meetings, and the believers met in homes for Bible study during the week. Some Broke Bread in Albany and some in Schenectady. In 1946, some 20 Italian believers were in fellowship in the  Albany Gospel Hall. The believers met in assembly capacity for the first time in Mechanicville the first Sunday of December 1946. By January of 1947, there was a group of about 36 in fellowship. The believers started building their own hall in the summer of 1948, and the  Mechanicville Gospel Hall was opened in February 1949.


1945: Bronx, NY

Bronx, NY  Louis Rosania preached twice a week in Italian at the English-speaking  Bronx Gospel Hall on 162nd St. and Teller Avenue in 1945. Frank Pizzulli did door-to-door visitation there in 1946. Mr. Rosania had a baptismal service for some Italian believers in fellowship with the English brethren in the Bronx, but no Italian-speaking assembly was established in the Bronx.


1936: Methuen, MA

Methuen, MA  While gospeling in this city, R. Cappiello came in contact with the Carlo Cavallero family, who had been in the assemblies of Italy but were now associated with a denominational church. After some visitation ground work by Mr. Cappiello, the Cavalleros requested Messrs. Patrizio and Rosania to pitch their Gospel tent in the summer of 1935.  In August 1936 the tent was erected by F. Carboni and G. Johnston. The  Italian Methuen Assembly was opened in January 1937, and a hall was built and opened in March 1942.


1939: East Boston, MA

East Boston, MA  While R. Cappiello was visiting villages in the vicinity of Boston he met Frank Procopio Sr. who was interested in seeing a work develop among the Italians of East Boston. Some from the Methuen assembly assisted. In the early part of 1939, they started to have meetings in a home. In July, F. Pizzulli and F. Carboni visited East Boston and pitched their Gospel tent, and did so again the next summer. An Italian assembly was established in May 1941. They built their own  East Boston Gospel Hall, which was opened in December 1945; an addition was built in 1964.


1938: Worcester, MA

Worcester, MA  R. Cappiello moved to this city so that he could better reach the people and started his usual house-to-house visitation. In July 1938, the  Italian Worcester Assembly was opened.


1937: Springfield, MA

Springfield, MA  Various brethren had visited Springfield since 1937. In the summer of 1939, C. Patrizio and L. Rosania pitched their tent there. In November 1942, the  Italian Springfield Assembly was established.


1931: Detroit, MI

Detroit, MI  H.A. Cameron moved to Detroit after laboring among the Italians with Cesare Patrizio in Waterbury. A few Italians were in fellowship at  Central Gospel Hall in Detroit. Mr. Cameron invited Messrs. Patrizio and Rosania to come, and they pitched their tent on Grandy Avenue in 1931. A store was rented nearby and in November an Italian-speaking assembly was formed. The store became inadequate and in 1938 the assembly purchased a cottage which was converted into a hall into which they moved in Septem¬ber 1938. The assembly continued at that location until 1949, when they purchased the old  East Side Gospel Hall in Detroit. After that  another building was built at Pinewood Avenue and Schoenherr Road. Most of the Italian believers later scattered to various English-speaking assemblies throughout the city.


1937: Toronto, Ontario

Toronto, Ontario, Canada  Many Italian immigrants came to Toronto, necessitating a more definite work among them. In 1937 F. Carboni and G. G. Johnston pitched a tent there. C. Patrizio labored there from house to house for several years. The  Italian Toronto Assembly eventually purchased their own hall. Mr. Johnston learned the Italian language and labored acceptably for many years among the Italians with blessings.


1927: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada  Some Italians were received into the English assembly as early as 1927. In 1934, L. Rosania had special gospel meetings for two months. Carboni also visited in 1937 for special meetings. The Italian believers continued to fellowship with the English assembly.


1912: Vancouver, BC

Vancouver, BC, Canada  A British businessman, William S. Hall, arrived from Italy at the close of 1912. Being fluent in Italian, he contacted Italians in Vancouver and various places in the Fraser Valley. In 1917, two Zarelli brothers were converted in Vancouver. In 1919 the witness spread to Victoria, BC where there was a group of about 20  Italian Victoria Assembly believers by 1925. The  Italian Vancouver Assembly met for the first time in Vancouver in 1933. In 1952, the assembly there consisted of about 30 members. The assembly sent many thousands of dollars to Italy for the Lord’s work and supplied hundreds of thousands of tracts, hundreds of Bibles, New Testaments, and various booklets. Supplied with an old press, an Italian brother in Vancouver ran off tracts in Italian after his day’s work, many of them written by Hall.


Hall commenced an aggressive itinerate witness in 1925, covering Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and part of Northern California. A partial coverage was also made of Ontario and Quebec. In a few places the number of Italian converts was large. As Italians were saved, cottage meetings were begun in homes.


1932: Portland, OR

By 1932, through the visits by Hall, many in the Portland area had been saved, including three families at Linnton, a suburb. The Corkums devoted their efforts to shepherding the little Italian assembly begun that summer. Cheered by Will Hall’s steadfast example, the  Linnton Gospel Hall stubbornly weathered difficult years. It became for the most part an English-speaking assembly with a flourishing Sunday school. Linnton well demonstrated the feasibility of a gradual development of an Italian assembly into an English-speaking assembly where there is little new immigration of those speaking only Italian.


1933: Monterey, CA

Monterey, CA  A few Italian believers met together in Monterey in 1933. The next year the group became established as an assembly, and in the following year three of the members built the  Monterey Gospel Hall. In the 1930s the salvation message was broadcast in Italian from radio stations at Monterey and Oakland in California; Portland, Oregon; Tacoma, and Seattle in Washington; Vancouver and Trail in British Columbia; Lethbridge, Calgary, and Edmonton in Alberta; and Winnipeg, Manitoba.


1958: Disunity

A work so evidently of the Lord is the special target of Satan. The end of the Italian work as a united effort came in 1958 when some of the leaders of the Italian work, along with some of the assemblies, broke fellowship with one another.


In 1968, the  Albany Gospel Hall,  Mechanicville Gospel Hall, and  Becker Street Gospel Chapel in Schenectady, all in the same general area, joined to become the English-speaking  Northway Bible Chapel in Clifton Park, NY.


Sources:

  • La Voce Nel Deserto (The Voice in the Wilderness), October 1965, p. 10, by M. Rannelli
  • Letters of Interest, November 1945, p. 15; March 1946, p. 20; November 1946, p. 19; July 1952, p.18