McQuaid, Hickey, O’Hern, Mooney. Kearney, Sheen, Hogan, Clark.
After eight bishops with Irish surnames and strong Irish roots, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano is the first bishop of Italian descent in the approximately 145-year history of the Diocese of Rochester.
The son of Salvatore and Mary Santaniello Matano, Bishop Matano had paternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents who were born in Italy. His family from both sides have roots in the regions of Abruzzi, Calabria and Campania.
He spoke about his family’s humble, immigrant roots during a Nov. 21 interview with the Catholic Courier.
“Like many people of that time who came to this country, they only came with two suitcases,” Bishop Matano said. “One suitcase was a great love for their family and the other suitcase was a great love for their faith. It’s amazing the magnificent churches that were built by those who came to this country with little or nothing, and how much they sacrificed to build up these churches, which were and are a concrete manifestation of how they loved God. Within the parishes, schools grew up because they were so concerned that their children have an education that they themselves did not have. For them the greatest supports were faith and family.”
“But that’s also very true, I’m sure, of all the ancestors of the eight Irish bishops that have preceded me,” he added.
Diocesan Catholics of Italian ancestry were exuberant at Bishop Matano’s appointment.
While Paolo Saltarello of Auburn said he was excited to hear that the diocese had a new bishop, he danced the tarantella, an Italian dance of celebration, when he heard that the bishop had Italian roots.
“I sent an e-mail to the bishop, to his office, to tell him how excited we were that he would be representing the Italian community,” Saltarello said.
A barber who is originally from the Puglia region of Italy, near Foggia, Saltarello is a member of St. Francis Parish in Auburn and is cochair of the parish council. He said he was proud to hear that Bishop Matano’s father also was a barber, and he said he has extended an open invitation for Bishop Matano to visit his home for a homemade dinner of pasta and vino.
“For all that I can see, all that he has achieved through his priesthood, he is serving the Lord similar to our beloved Papa Francisco,” Saltarello said, referring to Pope Francis.
Deacon Angelo Coccia, who serves at St. Theodore Parish and the privately run St. Padre Pio Chapel, both in Gates, said he also sees similarities between Bishop Matano and Pope Francis.
“Even though his parents are Italian, Pope Francis is from Argentina,” Deacon Coccia said. “Even though our bishop’s (grandparents and great-grandparents) were Italian, he is from the United States. He belongs to all of us. I personally am joyful of this, and I know everybody here at the chapel is joyful.”
Saltarello said he was glad to hear that Bishop Matano’s focus will be on bringing people back to the church.
Deacon Coccia said that those gathered at the chapel have prayed rosaries for Bishop Matano and for the Diocese of Rochester.
“I feel that we are blessed to have a good bishop,” Deacon Coccia said.