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Monday, May 6, 2019 - 9:45am
Dobbs Ferry Campus

Faith is a subject that can be very personal for most. Each individual chooses how he or she approaches their relationship with a higher power.

One Mercy alum will soon discuss how he facilitates and nurtures those relationships within his community.

On Wednesday, May 8, 2019, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., Monsignor David L. Cassato, Ed.M. ’02, will appear at the Italian Charities of America in Elmhurst, Queens, as part of the organization’s Winter/Spring Italian Speaker Series. Cassato’s speech, “Italian-Americans and Faith,” is a subject he is very familiar with, for he is the Pastor at St. Athanasius Parish in Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst neighborhood. St. Athanasius is a part of the Diocese of Brooklyn, which serves Brooklyn and Queens.

Dr. Alan Hartman is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Italian, as well as the Program Director of Modern Foreign Languages, within Mercy College’s School of Liberal Arts. He also serves as First Vice President on Italian Charities of America’s Board of Directors. Hartman explained that the Italian Speaker Series is meant to promote various topics related to Italian and Italian-American Studies.

“We’re trying to promote Italian and Italian-American heritage, history, culture and language,” he said. “This past year we started a cultural events series in which we’ve invited a number of academics and people active in the Italian and the Italian-American community to use our organization as a vehicle to speak about major cultural, linguistic or historical happenings in the Italian and Italian-American worlds.”

Hartman sensed there was a desire in the Italian-American community for a program like the speaker series. According to Hartman, Msgr. Cassato’s focus on Italian-Americans and faith, including its history and the ways it is expressed in the modern world, is a subject “which most Italian-American organizations are not talking about.”

Hartman added: “I am seeking to address a need in the Italian-American community, to have academic level, higher level, cultural activities that would allow us to edify the Italian-American community in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Long island in major areas of cultural importance that are often ignored. The topic of Italian-Americans and faith is one of them.”

He noted that Msgr. Cassato is the second speaker in this series with a connection to Mercy College. Adjunct Professor Christina McGrath, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University who teaches Italian at Mercy’s Bronx Campus, spoke in March about Italy and the Middle Ages, her area of specialty. Other previous speakers include Al Ronzoni, whose lecture centered on his family’s history and business, the Ronzoni Macaroni Company.

Italian Charities of America offers many opportunities for people of all ages for cultural and social enrichment, including Italian and Sicilian language classes, but spiritual enrichment is the purview of Msgr. Cassato. He serves as the Diocesan Coordinator of the Italian Apostolate, a role which takes him throughout the Diocese of Brooklyn, ministering to members of the Italian-American community.

“Italian-Americans are one of the largest ethnic groups in New York City, especially in the Diocese of Brooklyn,” Hartman explained. “Italian-Americans have a number of unique spiritual needs, especially for the large and increasingly aging community of Italian-Americans who maybe depend on a strong Italian-American community or Italian-speaking community to function in society or for the purposes of collegiality or social support. Basically, it’s a way for the Italian-American community to come together in an apostolate and be ministered to by the Diocese of Brooklyn in a way that meets the needs for that particular community, be it culturally, be it spiritually, be it linguistically.”

While Msgr. Cassato may specialize in the spiritual, the Italian Charities of America provides a central location for Italian-Americans to strengthen all the bonds between them. Hartman has a deep sense of pride in what the organization does for its community.

“I think that in promoting Italian Studies in general, it’s important, especially, to educate the Italian-American community about these issues while also doing it in a venue that inherently allows a sense of community to grow,” Hartman said.

Wednesday’s lecture is free to attend and open to the public. Refreshments, including wine and dessert, will be served. Those interested in additional information can visit the event listing on Italian Charities of America’s Facebook page, or the event page on the organization’s own website.