A much-loved statue of Our Lady's Assumption was brought to Perth, Western Australia, recently, bringing much joy to the migrants who had come to Australia from Delianuova, a town in the southern Italian region of Calabria, and the home of the statue of Our Lady's Assumption.
Maria Santissima Assunta (Most Holy Mary of the Assumption) is the patroness of the town of Delianuova, and a source of great inspiration and devotion to its current inhabitants, and those folk who made a new life in other nations, such as Australia. Many sought Our Lady's intercession, not only on their journey to their ultimate destination, but also throughout their time in Australia, as the life of a migrant was one of extreme hardship. Such is the devotion of Deliesi (inhabitants of Delianuova) to Our Lady that many have a picture of the statue hanging in their homes.
Delianuova is a town located in the mountainous Aspromonte district of Calabria. Calabria, like the rest of what forms modern-day Italy, is a region that has been assailed by waves of conquerors. The region has been ruled by the ancient Greeks and Romans; then the Barbarians, Normans, Arabs, Spaniards and French, to name a few, before being brought within a unified Italy.
Further, the region is harsh, prone to various natural disasters, and has seen outbreaks of malaria. droughts and floods. Notwithstanding these calamities of history, Delianuova remains. This can doubtless be attributed to the protection of Our Lady of the Assumption, in whose honour feasts and celebrations have been held for centuries, so as to give thanks to her for the graces granted to the town.
These celebrations are held dear by the people of Delianuova, especially that on the feast of the Assumption, August 15, where each year the statue is carried in procession through the streets of the town The warm summer weather prevailing at that time of year and the ensuing holiday period, provide for a most joyful occasion, not unlike those experienced at New Year's celebrations.
The venture to bring the image to Perth was a joint venture between the Calabrese clubs of Western Australia, most prominently, the Delianouva Social and Sporting Club of WA, and the Comunità di Delianuova (Italy). As this was the first time such a project had occurred, special permission from the Vatican and the Italian Government was needed before the Madonna could begin her pilgrimage to Australia. The statue came with a seven-man delegation, including the Vicar-General of the diocese of Oppido-Palmi (the diocese in which Delianuova is situated), Monsignor Bruno Cocolo, who is also parish priest of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, the church where the statue finds its home.
The wooden statue, which was completed when the Colony of New South Wales was barely established, in 1790, stands 2.8 metres tall. The crown upon Our Lady was added in l802, and is made from gold. The artist is unknown. Monsignor Cocolo said that the Vatican was happy for the statue to make its pilgrimage to Perth, as it is one of the great artistic riches of the Church, and would help strengthen the faith of Deliesi in Australia.
In addition to this, the prayers and feasts that would be held in Our Lady's honour would play a role in the preparation for the celebration of the Great Jubilee in 2000.
The celebrations in honour of Our Lady commenced on Friday, 19 February, with an evening candlelight procession to welcome Our Lady to Sacred Heart Church, Highgate, where the statue found its abode during its 10-day stay. Each day thereafter, rosary and Mass were offered by Msgr Cocolo, assisted by Fr Maurice Toop, the parish priest of Sacred Heart.
During his sermon at the concluding Mass, Msgr Cocolo stated that Our Lady had come to Australia for migrants to give thanks to her for their achievements and graces received in Australia, as well as to comfort them in their afflictions. Further, he exhorted those present to be proud of coming from Delianuova, of being Calabrian and of being Italian.
He urged that those present should hold fast to their traditions, and not fall victim to the secular desire of the contemporary world to modernise at any cost. In addition, he enjoined all present to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church, and to Christ and his Blessed Mother. Such advice is applicable to all Catholics, without doubt and without exception.
From a personal point of view, it was truly a remarkable experience to see the joy in so many people at the sight of the Madonna. It is certain a great number will never have an opportunity to see their beloved image again. For this writer, a first generation Australian whose mother came from Delianuova, the presence of Our Lady of the Assumption demonstrated the richness of our faith, while the happiness on the faces of so many people is a memory that will remain forever.
Rocco Loiacono is in his final year of a Law degree at the University of Western Australia.