The Americanization of an Immigrant, the Rev. Magr. Alfredo E. Giovannoni
Utah Historical Quarterly
Vol. 60, 1992, No. 2
The Americanization of an Immigrant, the Rev. Msgr. Alfredo F. Giovannoni
OCCASIONALLY IN AN ORGANIZATION there appears one man whose life seems to sum up an entire era of its history. Such a man was the Rev. Msgr. Alfredo F. Giovannoni (1881-1961), the first priest in the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination. In the 1990s the diocese found in examining Monsignor Giovannoni's pastorate insight into the unfolding drama of the continuing development of the Catholic church in Utah.
His Italian heritage helped shape the role Giovannoni played in the civic and religious life of Utah from 1916 through 1961. He was born in Italy on April 13, 1881, the seventh of eight children of Agostino (d. 1896) and Ancilla (d. 1922) Giovannoni. His father was a land owner who operated a number of small farms and provided his children a stable, almost aristocratic upbringing.
San Ginese di Campito in the city of Lucca in northern Italy was the site of Alfredo's birth. The cathedral in which he was baptized three days later dates back to the sixth century. During the Middle Ages the small Tuscany city-state of Lucca stood second in power only to the great city of Florence, but in later periods it was forced to defend its borders against raiding armies of hostile neighbors. Throughout its history Lucca was also frequently scarred by internal violence. The city bred a spirit of fierce independence in its sons and daughters, some of whom, when later transposed to American shores, were derisively called "hot-headed Italians." Lucca demanded the unflinching loyalty of its citizens, and Alfredo Giovannoni often let it be known from what part of Italy he came.
He attended public schools before entering the Seminario di San Michele in Foro di Lucca in 1896 at age fifteen. His ordination by Bishop Giovanni Volpi took place October 23, 1904, at Chilsa della Rosa in Lucca, and he celebrated mass for the first time one week later at San Ginese di Campito. From 1904 to 1910 he taught postgraduate courses in theology and church history at two seminaries in the Archdiocese of Lucca.
Whether his temperament—enthusiastic, effusive, and jovial —was disposed to a lifelong career exclusively in the classroom was never proven because that phase of his life came abruptly to an end in 1911.
That year his sister Ester Juliani, who had immigrated to the United States without her children, asked her brother to escort them to Kenosha, Wisconsin, for her. Dutifully the young priest set out for America with his two nephews and two nieces, the oldest of whom was age eight. Soon after arriving at Kenosha on June 16, 1911, Giovannoni contacted Archbishop Sebastian Gebhard Messmer of Milwaukee who, though he had a predominately German congregation, welcomed the Italian priest.
Immigration of Italians into the United States reached its height during the years of 1880 to 1920. Motivated by overpopulation and agricultural depression in their homeland, some 2,104,309 Italians arrived on American shores between 1900 and 1910. Archbishop Messmer appointed his new recruit rector of the congregation of St. Mary of Mount Carmel, a community of Italian families in Racine, on November 3, 1911.
This first assignment in the United States formed Father Giovannoni's sensitivity to the insufferable conditions under which many Italian laborers lived. He saw them discriminated against in the workplace where they were hired in unfairly small numbers, in the courts where garnishee laws stripped unwary borrowers of their earnings, and by local governments that ignored deplorable street, lighting, and sanitary conditions in the Italian section of town.
After two years Father Giovannoni left Racine on October 19, 1913, with a letter from Archbishop Messmer verifying that the young prelate had "most faithfully exercised the holy ministry in this Diocese for . . . two years. ... I regret very much to lose his service as he has proved himself a very good, zealous and sacrificing priest. . . ." Giovannoni then took up the cause of Italian Catholics in Beloit. The Beloit Daily News of October 27, 1913, noted that
Italians of Beloit see visions of their own. Yesterday Father Giovannoni . . . enthused them to such a degree that they appointed several of their fellow countrymen to help him in the matter [of constructing a church]. . . . The Catholic priest seems to be the only one who has raised interest in the project. Two other men lately talked here but they were not able to inspire the Italians as did Fr. Giovannoni yesterday.
Thus encouraged, Giovannoni conducted a census that counted 850 Italians in 120 families within the Beloit city limits. He taught classes in English and in American citizenship at the high school and helped the immigrants fill out their naturalization papers. With his support a mutual benefit society was established on January 5, 1914, to assist Italian families in times of sickness, accident, or death.
Archbishop Messmer approved construction of St. Paul's Church on Pleasant Street in Beloit. Giovannoni himself conducted a choir of twenty-five voices at the church's dedication on October 25, 1914. At a banquet that evening Giovannoni was hailed as "the inspiration for the work and the hero of the day." In the accented English that would always characterize his speech, he reiterated pleas for "the Italians to adopt American ways and to love the American flag."
Within two years, however, the congregation's enthusiasm had waned. Giovannoni reported his difficulties to Archbishop Messmer, noting that "the Italians here, very poor in the majority, do very little for the Church." Despite many meetings and discussions, Giovannoni saw no way "to keep . . . things going."
In November 1916 Father Giovannoni announced his departure for Salt Lake City "where he will be a priest in the cathedral under Archbishop Glass." Bishop Joseph S. Glass (1874-1926) was a Vincentian priest who had been consecrated second bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City in Los Angeles on August 24, 1915, and installed in St. Mary's Cathedral in the Utah capital two weeks later. His arrival in Utah marked the end of the forty-two-year presence of Bishop Lawrence Scanlan, a missionary of heroic stature who had literally wrested the diocese and its cathedral church out of the wilderness.
Bishop Glass first set about the interior renovation of St. Mary's Cathedral (which he later renamed the Cathedral of the Madeleine) and confronted the problem of a shortage of priests. The diocese covered 153,768 square miles—82,190 in Utah and 71,578 in eastern Nevada. The number of priests serving the area grew from eighteen to twenty-six during the decade of Bishop Glass's tenure.
One of his new recruits was Giovannoni, to whom he wrote on November 22, 1916, "I shall be very glad to have you come to help us in the work in this Diocese." References in the Beloit newspaper to Giovannoni's departure for Salt Lake City, "where he will be under the archbishop in the cathedral at the seat of the archbishopric," might have reflected the young immigrant's own limited knowledge about the structure of the Catholic church in the Intermountain West and the subordination of Utah to the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
There could be no doubt of the need for an Italian priest in Utah, particularly in Carbon County. The county's development had begun with the discovery of coal in four main camps: Clear Creek and Winter Quarters in 1882, Castle Gate in 1888, and Sunnyside in 1900. Completion of the Denver & Rio Grande Western narrow-gauge railroad through Castle Gate in Price Canyon in 1883 further stimulated growth. By the early 1900s the area was booming as "thirty mines worked three shifts and five hundred dome-shaped coking ovens burned continuously. . . "
The influx of Italian laborers into Carbon County began in the late 1890s. Greeks, South Slavs, and Italians made up the three largest non- Mormon immigrant groups in Utah. Labor violence and strikes, antiforeign sentiment (nativism), and violations of prohibition laws created tensions in their lives. They also found it frustrating to try to preserve their ethnic customs, foods, language, and religious festivals while at the same time striving for Americanization. The Italians' love of music and musical instruments brought some relief, and an Italian brass band added spirit to celebrations in every community.
Catholic priests, as their numbers allowed, visited the immigrants in scattered mining camps and coal fields. Bishop Scanlan had built a frame church in Castle Gate in 1897, and mass was celebrated there once a month, usually by Father Peter Bulfamonte. When the church was destroyed by fire in 1907 services were moved to the nondenominational chapel constructed in Helper in 1899 by the D&RGW Railroad.
In 1913 Bishop Scanlan had appointed the Rev. Anthony Petillo pastor of the coal camps in Carbon County and moved his headquarters from Castle Gate to Helper some four miles away. The town of Helper, a railroad center in the midst of the county's coal deposits, had begun its development in the 1890s. According to one historian, "Heterogeneity marked Helper, distinguishing it even from nearby Price, also a service center for Carbon County mines. Fraternal groups, inter- and intragroup rivalries, and the ethnic landscape reflected the town's diversity. Labor activity was turbulent in the county, with immigrants branded as radical." Helper boasted thirty-two different nationalities, and was known in Mormon terminology as a gentile town.
Striving toward better wages and benefits, the miners called a major strike in Carbon County during 1903-4 that resulted in the eviction of some Italians from coal company houses and the arrest of others. The strike affected the Catholic community in several ways: "Some of the dispersed miners returned to Italy, while others took up farming on the Price River or entered into business in the nearby town of Helper. This economic change was instrumental in establishing St. Anthony's Church in Helper, with a predominantly Italian congregation and an Italian pastor, as a new kind of parish for Intermountain mining communities, a stable one."
Thus St. Anthony's, a rustic brick church of English Gothic architecture, rose up in 1914 as a budding center of Catholicism that would reach out not only to Catholics in Helper but also to those in Gold Mountain, Price, Scofield, and Sunnyside in Carbon County and Thistle and Provo in Utah County. In 1916 Rev. John Henry, CM., visiting the diocese, toured the Catholic missions in Carbon County and recorded this impression of Helper:
Nearly all at Helper are Catholic. The Italians are most numerous. There must be between 60 and 70 Catholic children there. There are about 12 American Catholic families and good [active in church?] except two or three families. A good Catholic church at Helper.
Bishop Glass knew exactly where to assign the Italian priest Giovannoni, who arrived in Salt Lake City on the Union Pacific Railroad in December 1916. First, the newcomer relieved Father Michael J. O'Reardon, who was ill, at Sacred Heart Church in Ely, Nevada, over the Christmas holidays. Then on February 3, 1917, Giovannoni drove to Helper to assume the pastorate at St. Anthony's Church.
His new parish turned out to extend far beyond the boundaries of Carbon County, reaching to Vernal on the east and the Arizona border on the south. In his Ford automobile of ancient and not always reliable vintage, he set out to serve a "territorial spread of 40,000 square miles" that included "everything east of Soldier Summit, all of Carbon, Emery, Grand, Wayne, San Juan, Uintah and Duchesne [counties], as well as portions of Wasatch, Summit, Garfield and Kane Counties."
A history of St. Anthony's describes the priest's rounds in the farflung parish:
Until 1925 Father Giovannoni said one Mass on Sundays in Helper, and one Mass in some of the other towns of the area. Included in his Sunday Mass schedule were the towns of Kenilworth, Sunnyside, Hiawatha, Standardville, Storrs, Spring Canyon, Castle Gate and Price. In these mining towns Mass was offered in private homes with the exception of Price, where the basement of the present Price Hotel was used.
Between Sundays, Father Giovannoni extended his activities still further with visits to the towns of Black Hawk, Winter Quarters, Scofield, Clear Creek, Thompson, Sego, Moab, Monticello, LaSal, Vernal and the Uintah Basin, Huntington, Colton, Soldier Summit, Mohrland, Wattis, Latuda and Green River.
Giovannoni himself recorded the story of one such trip made in response to a call from the deathbed of Pat Meehan in LaSal:
I jumped in the car, still hot from another call in one of the mining camps. . . .On a road not worth mentioning, the engine started to knock like a boiler in distress. ... I had to stop. After a few minutes it came to my mind I had to finish my Office [daily prayer of canonical hours]—I started with an improved devotion. . . .1 was through my Office when I saw a team coming and an old man in the wagon. . . .
... So I took my things and [moved] on with the Good Samaritan—sat in the bottom of the old wagon near the front. . . for the next three hours . . . half frozen, stomach empty—[but] we came to LaSal . . . [to] the Powers [family and] a cozy, clean home, altho [sic] of logs.
. . .We all sat at the supper table. . . [and later] after a little chat and, feeling like a million dollars, I was escorted to my sleeping quarters. . . I did not look for any second invitation. Of course I said my evening prayers. . . . About 7:30 in the morning I was taken to the place of my destination—Lying on a cot, which I better not describe, was the sick [man]. . . I heard the old [man's] 25 years' confession, gave him Holy Communion, Extreme Unction and all the blessings of Holy Mother Church. I was with him over an hour. ... I went back to the Powers, arranged my things, thanked them and back to the car. The young Powers had done a little work on it. I left and do not know how I was able to reach Moab [47 miles]....
Left Moab at 4 a.m. Between Price and Sunnyside [45 miles] was caught in a ground storm and there I was, in a wash out. ... I had to sleep sitting up. . . there till morning came. Someone coming from the opposite direction pulled me out.
With a new ray of joy continued for home. . . . Put something in my stomach at a lunch counter; went to my own bed and for 11 hours did dream of the happiness the sacraments and the holy religion had given to Pat Meehan of the sage brushes.
Among the families in Helper whose lives Giovannoni touched during this era was that of Francis B. Pellegrino who would be ordained May 13, 1951, as the first native priest from St. Anthony's and the fourteenth native of Utah to be ordained in the diocese.
In 1918 Bishop Glass transferred the parish seat from Helper to Price where Father Giovannoni moved on May 6, 1918. 36 There being no church or rectory, he had to find a place to stay. The James Flynn family offered him the use of a cot at the rear of their mortuary. When the flu epidemic of 1918 struck the priest's cot became surrounded by an ever-increasing number of corpses. Then a baker let him sleep in his storeroom.
Donations toward construction of a church during the era of World War I came largely from French immigrants who chose the name Notre Dame de Lourdes for the parish. Giovannoni moved his living quarters to the basement of the new building as its construction slowly proceeded. The church was finally ready to be dedicated by Bishop Glass on June 20, 1923.
The Italian priest came to embody the spirit of Catholicism and brought it to life throughout the community. He became active in the Italian lodge Stella D'America, founded in Castle Gate on January 15, 1898, to help immigrants achieve accommodation with other Utahns; and he assisted in the organization of the Italian Americanization Club of Carbon County in 1920. Imagine his delight on October 12, 1919, as he watched Bishop Glass participate in the parade celebrating Columbus Day as a legal state holiday for the first time in the history of Utah. Active also in the civic life of Price, Giovannoni was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, Red Cross Executive Committee, Country Club, and Elks Lodge No. 1550.
When Ku Klux Klan activities escalated in Carbon County, Giovannoni enlisted the aid of Victor E. Litizzette and William C. Reid to organize Carbon Council No. 2611 of the Knights of Columbus in Price on June 27, 1926. All nationalities united against the Klan and it was eventually forced underground. Years later Council 2611 of the Knights of Columbus moved its headquarters to Helper where it became known as St. Anthony Council 2611. When "another unit was formed subsequently in Price ... it honored Monsignor Giovannoni by taking his name." He served as state chaplain of the Knights of Columbus in 1927 and 1928.
In 1923 Giovannoni purchased a five-room house south of the church for use as a rectory. It was "considered one of the showplaces of the town of 3,500," and its cost of $7,000 was "quite a sum" at that time.
In 1925 his niece Irene, one of the ten children of his brother Adolph in North Dakota, came to serve as his housekeeper. Within months she fell critically ill. Her uncle rushed her to a hospital in Salt Lake City, but she died there of appendicitis. Following her funeral in Bismarck, Giovannoni brought back with him to Price two of her sisters, Josephine and Ancilla. While attending school the girls served as cook and housekeeper in the rectory. Later, for a time, Josephine drove the school bus. They would remain with their uncle as part of his parish family until they married, Josephine in 1933 to A. James Caputo and Ancilla in 1953 to Paul E. Carrico. In the Caputo home Monsignor Giovannoni, in retirement, would spend his final days.
In 1925, upon recommendation of Bishop Glass, Pope Pius XI named Giovannoni Cameriere Segreto with the title of very reverend monsignor. During his European tour the previous year Bishop Glass had visited Giovannoni's home town of Lucca, dispatching several postcards from the city to its native son in Utah. On December 15, 1924, the Bishop wrote simply, "Salute di Lucca"; and on another, undated, T met your teacher Canon Andrewcetti who remembered you . . . ." A ceremony of investiture for the new monsignor was held December 30, 1925, at Notre Dame de Lourdes Church, followed by a banquet at the restaurant of Nicola Rinetti and Clemente Capitolo in Price.
The homage paid the priest was not without its detractors. A common perception was that he had sided with management during the miners' strike of 1922, thus alienating some Italians, particularly those from southern Italy. Such first-generation immigrants, unaccustomed to financially supporting church services they took for granted in their homeland, also resented his setting expectations for stipends at baptisms and funerals. There was occasional grumbling about his extravagant lifestyle and his association with men of influence and wealth. Critics cited his preference for the best cars—a late model Studebaker or a Buick, his reputation as a fast driver, his wearing knickers, and even his habit of smoking—he always kept an Italian stogie nearby. Yet he was very much a part of the lives of his people. He stood by them during times of crisis, such as occurred on March 28, 1924, when an explosion in Castle Gate Mine Number 2 killed 171 men. And no one denied that in Carbon County Monsignor Giovannoni "overrode south Italian, north Italian, and Irish dissensions to form a cohesive church body."
Throughout his career his skills as an educator were often called upon. In an account of Catholic education in Utah during the century 1875-1975, Archbishop Robert J. Dwyer wrote that "The building of Notre Dame School in Price was sparked by a dynamic pastor, Monsignor Alfredo Giovannoni, who prevailed on the Sisters . . . then in charge of the Cathedral School in Salt Lake City, to take over instruction in this new area in 1927." The idea of a parochial school in Carbon County had developed over the years, especially after these sisters, known as the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, D.C, came from Salt Lake City to conduct summer school for some 300 children in Price during 1924 and 1925. In these summer months the pastor moved out of his rectory to make it available to the sisters.
Monsignor invited the sisters, through Sister Eugenia Fealy, visitatrix of Normandy, Missouri, to open elementary classes in eight grades. School commenced in the basement of the church in September 1927 with Sisters Vincent, Severina, Mildred, Gertrude, Alix, Theresa, Frederica, and Zoe as the staff. On the first day a violent cloudburst poured water into the basement and school had to be dismissed. Classes opened in the new but unfinished school building on January 9, 1928, with 180 children in attendance. Formal opening of the school took place on April 15, 1928. Despite a decline in numbers of students in 1929 and subsequent years, the school survived and continues to operate today as Notre Dame Regional, the only private Catholic school in all of southern Utah.
Giovannoni took a personal interest in the children's education and visited the classrooms regularly. He bought a bus to transport boys and girls throughout Carbon County to the school and for a time drove the bus himself over a thirty-mile circuit daily. The bus became a colorful symbol of the school. "We all envied the people on the bus," recalled Father Henry J. Piacitelli who grew up in Price.
Boys from the school acted as altar servers. Monsignor seemed to glory in having numerous servers in the altar area, particularly for special occasions like midnight mass on Christmas Eve, though he could sometimes be heard correcting them audibly. "We had a healthy respect for him," Father Piacitelli noted; "he had a volatile temper."
On a Sunday in January each year Giovannoni read the annual financial report of the parish from the pulpit. He often indicated the condition of a particular account with his familiar "in da red." To some, the school, in the heart of a mining district with its proverbial cycle of boom and bust, seemed a drain on tightening parish resources. The people's support of their pastor, further threatened by the effects of the 1929 depression, was partially augmented by the Catholic Church Extension Society which traditionally provided impoverished priests in pioneer localities with small monthly subsidies, generally $25 per month.
A major turning point in Giovannoni's life came in 1930 when Bishop John J. Mitty transferred him from Price to Salt Lake City as pastor of St. Patrick's Parish. Located on the city's west side, the parish had been founded by Bishop Scanlan in 1892 and comprised parishioners of varied ethnic heritages. Though he would always remain what he had become in Helper and Price—the beloved advocate of the ethnic Catholic in Utah—this appointment extended Giovannoni's influence throughout diocesan life.
He would remain active during the tenures of five bishops, including the early years of Joseph Lennox Federal (who, prior to becoming sixth bishop of the diocese in 1960, had served as auxiliary to Bishop Hunt from 1951 to 1958 and coadjutor from 1958 to 1960). In 1923 Bishop Glass had named Giovannoni a diocesan consul tor; and in 1926 Mitty, third bishop of the diocese, had appointed him rural dean for eastern Utah. Bishop James E. Kearney, successor to Mitty, took Giovannoni with him to meet Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) when the cardinal visited Salt Lake City briefly in 1936. Duane G. Hunt, fifth bishop of Salt Lake, reappointed Monsignor Giovannoni as diocesan consultor in 1937 and noted in 1939 that "for some years he [Giovannoni] has had charge of the monthly Day of Recollection for the Priests." At the 1939 dedication of Sacred Heart Chapel in Sunnyside by Bishop Hunt, Monsignor Giovannoni addressed his former parishioners, standing beside the altar they had built out of stone salvaged from abandoned coke ovens.
As Giovannoni settled in at Salt Lake City, his nieces Ancilla and Josephine moved to the rectory at St. Patrick's with him. At that time parishioners were struggling with the effects of the depression. Monsignor "sent a lady to our home to see if we needed anything," one man reminisced. Mrs. Peter (Rose) Chiodo recalled how the priest clarified civic issues for his parishioners and, on election days, helped them understand the ballots and cast their votes. Frances Fuoco remembered cooking the annual spaghetti dinners initiated by Monsignor Giovannoni and held in the parish for many years.
During 1932 men of the parish repaired the walls and roof of the church. They had nearly completed the repainting of the interior when, on Christmas Eve, fire struck, gutting the inside of the church. By the following November repairs had been completed and the new St. Patrick's was blessed by Bishop Kearney. The fire had destroyed the Christmas crib, and Leo Italasano recalled that it was Monsignor Giovannoni who bought the creche that has been used by the parish ever since. Giovannoni also organized St. Anthony Lodge which raised $400 to purchase the statue of St. Patrick that has since watched over the parish from varied locations in the sanctuary, at the entrance, and in the cry room.
Invested with the honor of domestic prelate by Bishop Hunt on January 14, 1940, Monsignor received a special assignment three years later. In a letter to Amleto G. Cicognani, the apostolic delegate to the United States, on May 11, 1943, Bishop Hunt noted:
Some months ago when I learned that Italian prisoners of war were to be sent here, I asked Monsignor Giovannoni to step aside from parish work and take the Chaplaincy of our girls' College so that he would have more free time. The prisoners came [to the camp at Ogden] a week before Easter. During Holy Week the Monsignor visited the camp and heard Confessions. He said Mass for them on Easter; and has said Mass for them every Sunday since then. . . .
We are collecting a few musical instruments for them, including a piano, which I gave.
Giovannoni served as an auxiliary chaplain at five Italian prisoner-ofwar camps in Utah until an armed forces chaplain could be sent by the Military Ordinariate in New York. Bishop Hunt arranged for an official army car to call for Monsignor at St. Mary of the Wasatch each Sunday morning to take him to and from the Ogden camp where 1,800 Italians were interned. On a visit to the camp in May 1943 Giovannoni delivered a $100 radio purchased by the apostolic delegate as a gift to the prisoners from Pope Pius XII, and Archbishop Cicognani expressed his personal thanks to Hunt for Giovannoni's work with the prisoners.
Monsignor Giovannoni celebrated his first mass on Sunday in the college and then traveled to Fort Douglas for a 10 o'clock mass, before which he heard confessions and during which he delivered a sermon in Italian. After lunch at the college, he left for camps in Tooele, where he celebrated mass in the afternoon, again with confessions and sermon. On the first Sunday of each month his routine varied, with the first mass at Fort Douglas, the second in Deseret near St. John about twenty-five miles south of Tooele, and the third in the Tooele prison camp.
When Bishop Hunt received word that a permanent army chaplain had been assigned by the Military Ordinariate in October 1943, Monsignor continued his teaching at St. Mary of the Wasatch. On June 24, 1947, Bishop Hunt wrote to the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee regarding Giovannoni who
has asked for and has been granted a leave of absence for one year. The reasons are that he has many relatives in the Middle West, some of whom need his attention and spiritual ministrations. He wishes to spend some time in your Diocese, as in other nearby Dioceses. . . .
Monsignor, sixty-seven years old, spent this period visiting various family members, but Utah seemed home to him now and he returned to Salt Lake City in June 1948. He replaced Father Joseph G. Delaire at St. Anne's for several months; then Bishop Hunt named him pastor of St. Patrick's Parish in Eureka. He used the vacant convent as his rectory and referred to the building with its twenty-nine rooms as his "castle."
Alexander Blight, superintendent of schools in Eureka for twentyfive years, remembered his friendship with "Father Joe." Blight had been stationed at Leghorn in Italy around 1945 and
we used to talk a great deal about that. ... I had schools out on the desert. He'd go out and visit the schools with me. He was very much a part of our community affairs and was especially active in the Kiwanis Club.
He got tickets for a number of us to go to the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the club in Salt Lake City. Monsignor drove in my car with my wife and me and George Forsey and his wife. We were all amused at our ecumenical mix: I was a Mason and my wife an Eastern Star; Forsey was bishop of the LDS Ward at the time, and his wife was head of the Relief Society in Eureka. Monsignor would razz George Forsey about praying too long.
The Kiwanis went to various homes and when he had us to his house Ancilla cooked us a real Italian dinner. Delicious breads. She kept saying go easy on that, don't eat so much; but it was so good. Everyone was full of spaghetti and bread by the time Ancilla brought out the fried chicken.
Monsignor Giovannoni, ca. 1954, as he neared his fiftieth anniversary as a priest Monsignor would drive fast. Even the kids would say, "Be careful" but we all knew that the angels would take care of "Father Joe."
During his years in Eureka, Giovannoni often enjoyed Sunday dinner at the family home of Walter Fitch, Sr., who had been named a Knight of the Order of Pope Pius IX in 1925. Anne Fitch Quigley recalled a lacetablecloth in her possession that Monsignor brought her mother from Italy after a trip to his homeland during this period. In 1958 Giovannoni parked his car on a hill in Eureka and was getting out when, unexpectedly, the brakes gave way. As the car rolled downward the door hit him in the chest. Father Rudolph A. Daz filled in for him at St. Patrick's in the months that followed and would eventually replace him as pastor. In November 1958 Giovannoni wrote to Bishop Hunt:
Since my doctors give me little hope that I will ever be so completely active as to accept either a parish or a chaplaincy, it is with great reluctance that I feel that I should present you my resignation.
After all, I am 77. ... I have my small Social Security and my retirement from the Priests' Mutual Benefit Society.
Giovannoni moved into the Caputo home, located on extensive acreage on the outskirts of Salt Lake City and alive with the activity of a growing family. A chapel was fitted for his celebration of mass each morning. As the day wore on he rested in the living room in a recliner that is still associated with his presence or outside in the gardens, seeking, in varied views of the mountains beyond, the pathways of his boyhood home in Lucca.
Monsignor Giovannoni died on October 5, 1961, midway in his eightieth year. Ham Park, in his "Senator from Sandpit" column in the Salt Lake Tribune, expressed the feelings of many people when he wrote "No man of my acquaintance had a more sympathetic understanding of the frailties of human nature, and greater love for his fellowmen." Monsignor lies buried beside fellow priests in the circle surrounding the altar at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Salt Lake City. The story of his fifty years as a priest survives today to chart the course of events during a significant period of Catholic church history in Utah.
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