It’s Week 7 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project, created by genealogist Amy Johnson Crow. The week is nearly over, but I have not posted before now because this week’s theme has been a tough one for me: Outcast.
I have yet to find any outcasts in my family. But I started thinking about people who in a sense cast themselves out of the mainstream. And that led me to think of priests and nuns. I have several among my ancestors, which is typical for an Italian family. As recently as when I was a child, people would often ask my sisters and me which of us going to be “the nun.” At one point, it was commonly accepted that at least one daughter in an Italian family would be a nun, and at least one son would be a priest.
So, are clergy outcasts? Not in every way. Especially in an Italian village or an Italian immigrant community in the U.S., religious leaders were at the center of the community. They taught the children, performed the marriages, counseled the troubled, baptized the babies, and gave Last Rights. At the same time, they were Other. Taking orders meant agreeing never to marry or have children. It meant living apart from others and occupying a unique role. They weren’t cast out of the community; on the contrary, they were central to it. But they chose to cast themselves out of what others considered a normal life.
I could have chosen to spotlight in this post any of several priests and nuns that I know of in the family. I have picked Giuseppe Farroni, who lived from 1825 to 1906 in Marche, Italy. He was one of five children born to his parents Pasquale and Michelina. Father Giuseppe was a Catholic priest and Augustinian friar who is a distant cousin on my father’s maternal side. But I have to admit that part of the reason I picked him is that I really like this photograph!
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