- For many older Italians religion and religious practices are very important.
- Most Italians belong to the Roman Catholic faith.
- Italians attend mass on Sundays, visit the cemetary to tend loved one’s graves and will generally pay daily, alone or in a group possibly using the aid of rosary beads.
- Older Italians maight have icons in their homes such as pictures of saints the holy family and statuettes of the Madonna and Jesus.
- Italians will observe holy days on the Italian religious calendar.
- Religion is important as it provides a sense of community and culture.
- Many Italian families would have affiliations with the parish priest and give practical assistance to him when necessary.
In the 2001 Census the majority of Italian born people (93%) stated that catholicism was their religion. Older Italians identify with the Catholic faith and are likely to attend a service called a Mass performed by a priest on Sundays. Many Italians would have attended and still attend a Mass performed by an Italian priest in Italian.
The Scalabrinian fathers, the Benedictine and the Capucin friars were instrumental in assisting migrants with settlement issues and in helping to create a sense of community for Italians. The celebration of certain feast days, and the recreation of regional festivities allowed Italians to feel connected to their historic folkways and to a Catholicism tied to agrarian, peasant culture. This reinforced a certain sense of identity that Italian migrants were fearful of losing. You could say that religion assisted Italian migrants to develop a sense of belonging in a country very different in culture and way of life to the one they knew well.
Many senior Italian social groups in Sydney pray as a group. They also raise money for charities and to support young seminarians in the developing world. The church community provides another element in the fabric of older Italian social networks.
Some older Italians use rosary beads as an aid to prayer. The rosary beads count five groups of ten recited Hail Marys and a Lord’s Prayer. This is done either as a group or individually.
Sometimes Italians might have a devotion to a particular Madonna (each Madonna represents a theme or is identified with a particular town or region) of which there are many. Holy water from Lourdes ( a pilgrimage destination in France for the sick and where St. Bernadette is credited with having seen the Virgin Mary) might also be kept by a devotee. A “scapula” is another item that might be worn by older Italians. This is a type of necklace received at the sacrament of confirmation. Italians often have icons in their homes such as pictures of saints, the holy family and statuettes of the Madonna and Jesus.
Italians do love to celebrate religious and cultural days on the Italian calendar. The main religious days celebrated by most Italians are All Souls and All Saints Days, Palm Sunday, Ascension Thursday, Easter and Lent ( 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday), Christmas and a myriad of saints days depending on what city in Italy they come from. Many older Italians still abstain from eating meat on Fridays.
Providing oportunities for older Italians and their families to celebrate feast days is important. Sourcing an Italian speaking priest is a good idea, so that spiritual guidance can be given and mass can be said as required.
In residential facilities Italian ressidents might appreciate a prayer time in the activities program including an invitation to the rest of the community to join. Certain foods might have to be excluded during Lent according to the client’s wishes. Transporting a client to the cemetary to visit a loved one’s grave might be requested by the client and fitted into their care plan.