Community goes virtual to outwit COVID

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I’m ceaselessly amazed by the ingenuity and tenacity we show in the face of adversity. A half year ago, the coronavirus had us against the ropes, sending us scurrying for shelter and forcing us to cancel every blessed event we were so blithely planning. Yet here we are today, with COVID-19 still bearing down on us, back in the middle of the ring bobbing and weaving as we find ways to celebrate community and culture while keeping the pandemic at bay.

For the past 16 years, a cavalcade of authors and scores of enthusiasts have gathered in the Florentine Room at the Italian Cultural Center for IA Literati. This year, the literary symposium was held online, making it possible for New York-based keynote speaker Fred Gardaphe to log in from home, along with all the other participants.

“Our volunteers put together a great program and overcame all the technical difficulties,” cultural center librarian Dominic Candeloro says. “The best thing is that those who missed the event and those who want to revisit it can do so via YouTube.”

To view the seminar, click here.

The Feast of Maria SS. Lauretana has survived the razing of its home parish and several subsequent changes of venue in its 120-year history. Despite these vicissitudes, the iconic event has continued to attract upward of a thousand attendees to its Mass and a sea of devotees to its spectacular Flight of the Angels.

The heavenly choir may have been grounded for this year’s virtual incarnation, but two girls in gossamer garb still sang their song of devotion to the Blessed Mother. Absent were the crowds, concerts, carnival rides, games and colorful processions. But the irrepressible power of faith was very much present among the mask-wearing assemblage seated at safe distances during a Mass streamed live from the Lauretana society’s chapel.

To view the Mass, click here.

The current issue of Fra Noi offers ample evidence of this same adaptability and determination.

After being reduced to pale shadows of their former selves, our calendar and local news sections have battled back as meetings and events have morphed in response to the new normal.

The National Italian American Foundation has replaced its 45th Anniversary Gala with a virtual version celebrating the life and accomplishments of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Pre-show entertainment will be followed by a live-streamed main event during which a host of celebrities will offer words of praise for the legendary infectious disease specialist. For details, click here.

Masks, social distancing and mandatory reservations will be the order of the day at the Veterans Day Mass hosted by the Italian American War Veterans at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii. The same goes for the vocal scholarship competition at Casa Italia, with contributors allowed to participate both in person and online. For details, click here.

And how is it that the Italian American Executives of Transportation can host a full-blown dinner dance in these challenging times? By seating attendees in four separate rooms, in compliance with state guidelines, with audiovisual magic uniting them during the program. For details, click here.

Our calendar reveals that the Chicagoland Italian American Professionals are hosting weekly online networking breakfasts, the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii has gone virtual with its fall spirituality series, I Ciceroni is conducting its conversational Italian dinners both at the table and via Zoom, and the Arcolian Dental Arts Society is easing into masked-face-to-masked-face meetings.

The Giacomo Leopardi poem that Peter D’Epiro so evocatively analyzes on page 39 offers up a surprisingly modern metaphor, despite the centuries that divide the poet’s time from ours. In “La ginestra, o Il fiore del deserto,” Leopardi praises the hardy broom bush, which rises from the volcanic ash after each eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. “The scented golden broom plant, humble but sturdy, that manages to grow on the lunar slopes of the volcano becomes an apt symbol of our own resilience and striving,” D’Epiro writes.

So it was and so it ever shall be.

The above appears in the November 2020 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.

About Paul Basile

Paul Basile has been the editor of Fra Noi for a quarter of a century. Over that period, he and his dedicated family of staff members and correspondents have transformed a quaint little community newspaper into a gorgeous glossy magazine that is read and admired across the nation. They also maintain a cluster of national and local websites and are helping other major metropolitan areas launch their own versions of Fra Noi.

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One comment

  1. Paul, I look forward to to each issue. Keep up the good work. Thanks 😊

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