Parish Office

2154 61st Street

Brooklyn, NY 11204

(718) 236-0124

Italian Speaking Community


Since 1913, Saint Athanasius church has always had an affluent congregation of Italian-speaking emigrants predominately from Southern Italy.  Due to their strong faith that followed them from their birth town to the U.S., they attended Mass, every Sunday even though they were not able to either understand or participate by responding to the Mass.  When the Italian speaking community increased, due to the massive immigration from Italy of the 50s and 60s, Monsignor Purick realized the necessity of starting a weekly Mass celebrated in Italian.  In May1967, the first Italian Mass was celebrated here at Saint Athanasius and this Italian community was ecstatic about the possibility of attending Mass every Sunday celebrated in their native language.



If we had to summarize the Italian Mass today in one sentence we can simply say, Same time, same place.  Almost four decades later, the Italian Mass is still being celebrated every Sunday at 11:30am in the lower church.  Even though this Mass began for the many parishioners who did not speak English, today many English speaking parishoners also attend this Mass because they enjoy listening to God's Word in Italian.  The priests, the Italian choir, the Eucharistic Ministers, and the altar servers form a welcoming community always ready to greet all the faithful.  Due to the popularity of this Mass, when a priest from Italy is visiting our community, the lower church at 11:30am on Sunday usually is a major part of his itinerary.  Every one is extremely grateful to the priests who regularly celebrate this Mass.  To assist our celebrant there are eight Eucharistic Ministers: Ferdinando Felleti, Maria Perniciaro and her daughter Diana,  Rosa Loverde, Fina Parsasole, Anita De Mattia, Petronilla Ruggiero, and Maria Vicenzino.  Of course the Mass would not be complete without the wonderful work of our altar servers and Deacon. The dedication of these young people is commendable since they are always eager to serve. So, please remember, the Italian Mass is celebrated at 11:30am on Sunday in the lower church.  We hope to see you there.


Soon after the beginning of the Italian Mass in 1967, Mr. Tony Vigilante, our Italian Music Director started the Italian Choir.  After all, what would a Mass be without singing since we all know that ancient proverb that says, One who sings well prays twice?  Today Mr. Vigilante is still directing the choir.  With his extensive knowledge of Italian hymns and his expertise in music he leads of one of the most acclaimed Italian Choirs in the diocese of Brooklyn.  This choir consists of several men and women who with their great voices not only sing to the Lord, but also inspire all faithful to join.  It must be their burgundy robes that they wear that makes them sing so well! The Italian community is proud of this choir.  Their hard work and dedication is an inspiration to us all.  Most of the members of the choir are also commissioned Eucharistic Ministers who, during the week, visit homebound parishioners to pray and to celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist.  As far as Maestro Vigilante is concerned, people often wonder how he was able to do so many years of volunteer service in our church and never complain about all the time that he dedicates to the Italian choir.  He never lets anything interfere with the 11:30am Mass in the lower church.  May God bless Mr. Vigilanti and all the dedicated members of the Italian Choir.


 (The Nativity Scene)

Mr. Tony Vigilanti not only directs our Italian choir but also is also very helpful with any carpentry work required in the church.  He is the artist of the beautiful Presepe. Every Advent the Presepe attracts people from other parishes who come to Saint Athansius to admire this beautiful work of art. Not only has this Presepe been nominated as the best nativity scene in the tri-state area, newspaper articles have been written about the beauty and artistry of this gorgeous nativity scene.  In an interview given to The Tablet in December 1991, Mr. Vigilante said that his beautiful nativity scene was first created in the 60s on a small table in the back of the lower church.  Encourage by the pastor and the parishioners, the little Presepe every year grew larger and larger.  And today after endless hours of transforming boxes and cardboard into houses and grottos, it is a beautiful village on the left side of the altar.  This is its permanent place since it would be difficult to disassemble such a big creation.  At the end of the Christmas season Mr. Vigilante seals the Presepe with panels looking forward to reopening the following Christmas season.  Have you seen this Presepe yet?  If not, please visit the lower church during the Christmas season.


(Gruppo Italiano SantAtanasio)

At the suggestion of Father Raymond Kelly, the first celebrant of the Italian Mass here at St. Athanasius, a cultural and social group was created for the Italian-speaking parishioners soon after the beginning of the Italian Mass in 1967.  The organization is still active today, and the executive board is always planning new religious and social events for all the members of G.I.S.A. and guests. The executive board, headed by the president Ferdinando Felleti meets the first Tuesday of the every month.  Joining Mr. Felleti at this meeting are: Secretary, Pasqua Gaudioso; Vice secretary, Serafina Galati; Treasure, Maria Perniciaro; Vice treasure, Maria Porcu, and the counselors Lina Milano, Nicoletta Lorusso, Anna Di Giacomo, Santo Di Giacomo,  Franco Battista and Amalia Anzalone.  On the third Sunday of each month at 4:30pm everyone gathers in our school auditorium to take part in a general meeting followed by different events.  Our present moderator, Monsignor David L. Cassato always joins this monthly gathering to pray with the group.  Among the many events, a major celebration is organized every year on March 19, in honor of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of G.I.S.A.  On this day, a Mass in Italian is celebrated with bread and taralli donated by our Pugliese friends.  Once the bread and taralli are blessed, are distributed to all parishioners attending the Mass.  Also in honor of Saint Joseph, a dinner dance is organized for the enjoyment of all.  Another long lasting tradition of G.I.S.A.  is its annual retreat to the Don Bosco Shrine in West Havestraw, NY.  This retreat, by tradition takes place the last Sunday in May and is always attended by many Italian parishioners who are devoted to Don Bosco, a saint highly loved by the Italian people.  For more information on G.I.S.A., please visit The Parish Societies & Organizations Page.