There were several mighty milestones celebrated Sunday inside Our Lady of Grace Church in Johnston.
First and foremost, the Pannese Society – which dates back to 1909 and was founded on Providence’s Federal Hill by an Italian immigrant named Giuseppe Anzevino – held its annual Mass and Breakfast Buffet in honor of La Madonna del Bosco, the patroness saint of Panni, Italy.
Anzevino, as Italian lore has it, left his the tiny village of Panni back in 1894 to escape poverty and, after a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, arrived in the United State and later set up residency in Johnston.
So Sunday, in what Pannese secretary Lou Mansolillo called “a special gathering,” over 80 Pannese Society members observed the Feast Day of the Blessed Mother, which originated in the Panni woods.
While Sunday’s 10:30 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Grace was celebrated by the Rev. Peter J. Gower, Mansolillo also wanted it known that “this is also an extraordinary event today since we recognize the 125th anniversary year of the Coronation of the La Madonna del Bosco that is concurrently underway in Panni today.”
Coincidentally, Monsignor Montecalvo – the former pastor at Our Lady of Grace who is of Pannese ancestry – could not be present Sunday because he was a special guest in Panni, where he celebrated a solemn anniversary Mass there on Feast Day.
Mansolillo explained that Pannese people from all over the world have descended upon the small hilltop village located in the Puglia region of Italy for a week of festivities in honor of the 125th anniversary of the Coronation of La Madonna del Bosco.
Sunday in Johnston, Pannese people came from nearby Cape Cod and Connecticut and as far away as Pompano Beach, Florida, to show their dedication for what Mansolillo called “our important organization and Italian heritage.”
One family, though, was visiting from Panni, Italy.
“They’re my namesake but not relatives,” Mansolillo said while he and Pannese Society vice president David Venditelli – as well as Gower – chatted with Ronnie Mansolillo and Antonella Diamaro after Sunday’s Mass while also offering special greetings to Simone and Noemi Mansolillo. “As I said, this is an extraordinary event.”
For the Pannese Society of Rhode Island, 2019 marks the 110th year of the Italian organization that will hold a gala celebration in December at Spirito’s Restaurant, located at the Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post 2812 on the Cranston-Johnston line.
“The Pannese Society is dedicated to its mission which is that we strive to promote the cultural, social, spiritual and educational heritage from our grandparents and great-grandparents,” Pannese Society president Joseph Spremilli said. “We do this by committing to record and preserve our ancestry for future generations under the protection of our patroness, La Madonna Del Bosco."