Our Lady of the Neighborhood

Uncover the profound accounts of Our Mother's work within an Italian-American neighborhood. 

In the Catholic church there seems to be as many names for Mary as there are days in the year. For example, there’s Our Lady of Good Help, Our Lady of Consolation, and of course, Our Lady of Mount Carmel–which is the name of our parish and school. But I prefer to think of her as our Lady of the Neighborhood, because she was always there watching over us.

When I think back on it, there were lots of examples of how Our Lady interceded for her many children on a daily basis. I like to call them everyday miracles, and I’ve written about some of them in my blog.

In addition to the everyday miracles, there were times when the miracles were so incredible we could hardly believe our eyes or ears. They were truly a result of divine intervention, and in our neighborhood there seemed to be one every decade for as far back as I can remember.

This article first appeared in La Nostra Voce, ISDA’s monthly newspaper that chronicles Italian life, culture and traditions. Subscribe today.

As children we often played in the street in front of our tightly packed houses. Since not many people had cars in those days, most of the traffic was limited to the semi trucks making their way to the factory at the bottom of the street. One day, Carmen, who was about 7 years old, had dashed out between two parked cars without checking for oncoming traffic.

He didn’t see the semi heading right for him. But my grandmother did. We all did. Powerless to do anything, she cried instinctively for help to the Mother of God as she exclaimed, “Santa Maria! Holy Mary!” Our Lady heard her because the truck stopped within inches of my brother. His life was spared thanks to Our Lady of the Semis.

The 1940s was a time of great hardship for everyone. I’m referring to the Second World War, and all of the men and women we lost overseas in the fighting. Service Flags, bearing a star, hung in nearly all of the windows in the neighborhood. So many men and women were killed, taken as prisoners of war or just missing in action.

My husband Jimmy’s cousin was one of the missing. His aunt had a rose bush on the side of the house that failed to bloom the summer her son went missing. And every year after that, while her garden was a riot of flowers, the rose bush refused to bloom.

Until a year after the War ended suddenly, one summer it bloomed much to everyone’s surprise. That was the year Jim’s cousin came home. That was thanks to our Lady of the Roses.

Our son, Vito, was also a little miracle. He was born with a congenital heart defect that was not easily treated in the 1960s with surgery. In fact, there wasn’t much medicine could do at the time. But that didn’t stop his Aunt Mary Catherine, who thanks to her great faith and persistence, went every morning to 6:30 mass and communion where she prayed away for a miracle, which  was granted by Our Lady, the Queen of Hearts. The hole in his heart closed without any medical intervention. To this day, the doctors cannot explain why.

In the 1970s, a young man from the neighborhood, Jimmy C., undertook a very dangerous mission to smuggle bibles and catechisms into communist Romania. His life was in danger every moment he was there. He fought for religious and political freedoms we took for granted. Our Lady was watching over him too. Jimmy returned home safely and was able to tell his amazing story thanks to the protection of Our Lady of the Warriors.

In the 1980s, my husband ran for public office. And he lost. And I can’t say I was unhappy about that. His heart was in the right place, but at the end of the day, he was too plainspoken to be a good politician. And just between you and me, we had Our Lady of Unanswered Prayers to thank for that one.

In the last few decades, it may have looked like all was lost and that our little Italian neighborhood was on the decline. It might have even looked like Our Lady of the Neighborhood was busy elsewhere. But she wasn’t. She was there, quietly working behind the scenes. And just when you thought all was lost, a rose finally blooms and there’s an answer to a prayer.

All it took was a little parish of great faith, a parish priest with some foresight, and a dedicated civic association, the Vets Club, all of whom had faith in Our Lady of the Neighborhood who also had faith in us.

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