This activity was first discussed over a year ago when the Church requested that each branch or ward prepare an activity to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the coming of the Saints to the Utah valley. We discussed at great length what we could do, but the consensus was that it was more The Padova Branch Anniversary Festa important for us to celebrate, and remember how we and the Italian saints have been pioneers.
Since the Padova branch was organized in 1967, we decided to celebrate our 30th anniversary, and have a homecoming for all the members of the Padova branch who have moved to other parts of Italy and the rest of the world. Then Fernanda, who by default became the principle organizer of this activity, had the idea to contact all the old missionaries. Then all the inactive and old members who had left the church were contacted, and from a small acorn a mammoth project was born.
The evening of November 22nd finally came, and the activity was a stunning success and an emotional and spiritual experience for all the participants. About a 120 members, investigators and ex-missionaries attended. Many ex-missionaries wrote that they desired to be there and sent letters with their testimony and photographs. Two missionaries from 25 years ago, Chris Meacham and Jim Davies came from San Diego, California for the week-end just to be there and see the members and share the spirit. To top off the evening Dan Jorgensen, the first mission president of North Italy from 1971 to 1974, and later the regional representative for Italy, walked in and participated. He had flown in from Utah to spend a few hours with the Saints of Padova.
Members from Mestre, Bologna, Brescia and Vicenza who had been baptized at Padova were there to share old memories, and several members who had left the church and hadn't been back in over twenty years, came just for that evening - it was truly a success!
The evening began with a short presentation from Bro. Trafford Cole about the purpose of the activity, then a hymn directed by Alba Bellomo (who else?), and the opening prayer by Sister Antonietta Pase. Then there were short talks by all the branch presidents of the Padova branch who were able to attend, and some letters by some who weren't. As each gave his talk, slides or photographs were shown by Pietro Fusato, and the children had to guess who they were - (Trafford when he was young and skinny, Tullio Marchione with his beard etc.). Although he was the first BP of Padova, Bro. Vittorio Migliorini was unable to attend, so the evening began with a letter from Anz. Phil Townsend who was BP in 1971. Then Tommaso Tanca talked, giving his testimony that nowhere is there the truth found in this Church. Renato Marini then reminisced about his long hair and inexperience when BP.
Trafford then talked about the change in the branch from Via S. Fermo to a horrible apartment in Via Calatafimi, and the foundation of the Italy Padova Mission and Pres. Grinceri. To make sure that none of the presidents dragged on too long Fernanda set a timer and gave each 4 minutes!
We had a fun break as Renato sang accompanied by Alba (who else?) some verses he had made up years ago about different members of the branch. Then a letter from ex-president Doug Rosborough was read by Trafford, and Nicola Micozzi, who had traveled from Pescara to be with us, bore his testimony.
Tullio Marchione, who was next, proudly pointed out that from the message of the elders to his house those many years ago there are now three families united in the gospel, his, that of his daughter Laura, her husband that she converted, Stefano Donato and there three children, and his daughter Silvia, and her husband, that she converted, Pres. Marco Pagnin, and their two children. Mauro Negrinotti, on a lighter note, explained that he was the construction president, as the then new chapel was built under his supervision, and his work, since he was part of the construction crew.
We had another interval with a hymn from Alba (who else?), and a game for the children. Finally, the last group of presidents presented their memories. Fedele Pinna who was called from the Vicenza branch to be president of Padova, shared his love for the saints of Padova, and Pietro Fusato who was president for seven years captured the audience with his memories. He told of how strange the members seemed when he was a young investigator, and of the water fights between the sisters and elders every time the baptismal font had to be emptied. Trafford gave him extra time with the timer. Carmelo Bellomo who should have talked chickened out and didn't appear, so the last president to talk was Marco Pagnin, who has now been president for over five years. He seemed a little overwhelmed by all the history that preceded him.
It was time for another break. Then the talks ended with the testimonies of Chris Meacham, who surprised himself by remembering enough Italian to communicate, and Jim Davies who talked of his family and his testimony. Dan Jorgensen recounted some of the history of the church in Italy. He spoke of when he first came to Italy before 1965 and there was no mission, then when there was an Italian mission, he became first counselor to the first two mission presidents, before being called as a president himself. Finally Pres. Dibble the present Padova mission president talked about the missionary work.
At this point many other things had been organized, but everyone was hungry, so the meeting was closed with a final hymn "Fino al giorno in cui ci rivedrem" and Silvia Marini gave the closing prayer and blessed the food.
At this point like any good Italian festa we ate! Fernanda and Sister Dibble had prepared chili for two hundred people, and there were all sorts of cold plates, cakes and sweets. Then everyone milled around for the next two hours and just chatted and reminisced together and caught up on old news and family events. The Nicotras came from Monza to be there, Lucia Luise, who is married with three children was there from Bologna, and Nicola Micozzi we hadn't seen for years as he had been first in Sicily and then at :Pescara. The Finotto family from Mestre, who were originally baptized at Padova came and renewed their friendship with the Tancas that they hadn't seen in years. As a special treat Maria Rosa Cuccuru, who hadn't seen many members in years, came with her husband and two girls.
It was with great reluctance that we left each other, and many had tears in their eyes. We all felt that the Spirit of the Lord had participated with us, and that the ties of love that bind us had been strengthened. (D&C 130:2)
Trafford and Fernanda Cole