Pilgrim recalled at Italian Mass

When Paul Whitney sang the hymn “Evviva Maria,” at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs on Sunday, he w

When Paul Whitney sang the hymn “Evviva Maria,” at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs on Sunday, he was reminded of what longtime worshiper Maria Valentino DeMatteo of Schenectady once said.

“She was always talking about the Blessed Mother. Every time I did a Mass here, she would stop me and say ‘do a song for the Blessed Mother,’ ” said Whitney, who does music ministry for the shrine.

DeMatteo, who lived in Schenectady on Foster Avenue, would sing the hymns with Whitney accompanying him on guitar at the yearly Italian Mass until she died last December at the age of 81. On Sunday, Whitney dedicated that song to her memory.

“She had a beautiful voice,” he said. “She always sang wonderfully. She was dedicated to this shrine.”

DeMatteo was a kind-hearted person, Whitney said, who was sincerely devoted to the Virgin Mary. DeMatteo would even invite people to pray the Rosary with her following the 4 p.m. service.

“She really tried to inspire in people good morals,” he said.

DeMatteo spoke mostly in Italian, according to fellow churchgoer Marian Sarchet of Charleston, but was always able to get her point across using body language. That always included a smile, according to those who knew her.

“She always knew how to communicate,” Sarchet said.

Sister Antonietta Paniccia teared up at the thought of her sister, who she said loved coming to the shrine.

“Forty years ago, this church was so beautiful,” she said. “She was coming for the healing.”

Connie Giannetto of Albany also recalled DeMatteo fondly.

“She was like a mother to me,” she said. “I miss her so much.”

The yearly Italian “pilgrimage” is a tradition at the shrine, according to the Rev. Richard Carlino, pastor at St. John the Evangelist and St. Anthony’s in Schenectady, who presided at the service.

The readings and prayers were in Italian with a brief homily by Carlino and a couple of songs in English.

People of Italian heritage came from all over the Capital Region and beyond to attend the service because they enjoy hearing the Mass in their native language, according to Carlino.

Those worshippers included Phyllis Dimeo of Rotterdam, who attended with her mother, Anna Parillo.

“She doesn’t speak English too much,” Dimeo said.

The family came to the United States from Italy in 1973 when Dimeo was 14. “It’s hard for a 14-year-old girl leaving friends and places she knew all her life. I learned the language. I adjusted.”

Guy Cappuccio of Amsterdam also enjoyed listening to the service.

“It’s something they should do a little bit more,” he said. “They don’t have enough of it.”

This Sunday, at 2 p.m., there will be the Polish Pilgrimage in the Coliseum of the Shrine.

On Sept. 4 at 11 a.m., there will be the Mohawk Pilgrimage and the Filipino Pilgrimage will take place on Sept. 10 at 11 a.m.

Categories: Schenectady County

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