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Dedication of Scalabrini Center-- Remarks by Francesco Isgro

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

My name is Francesco Isgro and I am the President of the Italian American Museum of Washington DC. I am very honored to have been asked to give some remarks. I would like to welcome our distinguished guest, his Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre, and the representatives from the Embassy of Italy. Benvenuti a Casa Italiana!

Three years ago, our community celebrated an historic day, when we opened our Italian American Museum. A museum that tells the stories, memories of our Italian immigrant community and the contribution that they have made to our Nation’s capital. Holy Rosary Church was founded for Italian immigrants, and for more than a century has served the Italian and Italian American community not only by offering mass in Italian every Sunday but also by serving as a cultural center for the community, offering Italian language classes, Italian cultural events and by publishing Voce Italiana a bilingual newspaper.

Today is equally an historic day because we are blessed to have had the privilege to dedicate our new building to Saint John Baptist Scalabrini, the Father of Migrants. The mission, and the work that Saint Scalabrini carried out in serving migrants who were emigrating from Italy to North and South America is as important today as it was during his life time. The United Nations estimates that at least 103 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes and among them are nearly 32.5 million refugees. These are the migrants who are the most vulnerable and in need of the most protection. They are the ones who risk their lives traveling hundreds of miles, crossing multiple national borders, to find a safe haven; they are the ones who sail across the Mediterranean seas in rickety boats to find refuge in a European country.

I often remind our visitors to our museum, that when St. Scalabrini visited the White House in 1901, during the time of massive Italian immigration to the United States, he reminded President Theodore Roosevelt that immigration should be seen as “an extraordinary resource, a great gift for a country.” That message is equally as important today to be told to our political leaders in Washington as it was in 1901. And if St Scalabrini were here today, he would have given the same advice to the political leaders in Europe, including Italy.

Our Italian American museum shows how Italian immigrants in Washington, although smaller in number than in other cities in the United States, became an “extraordinary resource.” Many of them were parishioners of Holy Rosary Church. They beautified our Nation’s Capital, and they rose to prominence in all fields of endeavors. We became, in the words of Saint Scalabrini, “a gift to this country.”

And today, by the dedication of our new church building to Saint Scalabrini, a building that is located just blocks away from the U.S. Congress and the White House, it will become a constant reminder that the work that Saint Scalabrini started is unfinished, that human migration will continue, and that our political leaders in Washington and across state houses, should not use migrants as a political football.

And we, as Italian Americans who made this country successful, and at the same time became successful, must not blind ourselves into thinking that the new migrants are different from our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents who crossed the Atlantic. They too seek a better future for their children and families, they are people of faith, the majority being Catholics, they bring their own traditions and cultures and they too will help build a better, more inclusive America.


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