The function was the Consecration of Santa Maria di Porto Salvo, which I attended last Saturday. It began during the day with a church service at St Martha's Church in Strathfield where a beautiful statue of Santa Maria was installed in the church. That was followed by a celebratory dinner at the Mediterranean House in Five Dock. The event was hosted by the Associazione Bagnara Calabra. A special mention must go to the president of the association, Salvatore Bagnato, for all of the hard work he put into making this event a reality.
Bagnara Calabra is a province of Reggio Calabria, Southern Italy. Coincidentally that is my mother's birthplace. This area of Italy is well known for its swordfish and many people from this area are fishermen. The Devotion of Maria, Our Lady of Porto Salvo, has been a valued tradition in Calabria for a long time. Fishermen adopted her as their protector and patron saint. This is who fishermen prayed to when a ferocious storm hit and before they went out for a fishing session in hope of a good catch. Many Italians immigrated from Bagnara Calabra to Australia and have brought their traditional values of hard work and strong family values with them. It is not unusual for fishermen to be at sea for long periods. The only thing treasured more than the hard work they did on the boat was the love and adoration they would receive from their family and community on their return.
My electorate office manager, Joseph Del Duca, has family from Pellegrina in Bagnara Calabra. Many of these family members still work as fishermen and have done so since they left school. To this day they still turn to Santa Maria di Porto Salvo when out at sea, which is testament to how valued this consecration is to both the Italian community in Strathfield and surrounding electorates, as well as to fishermen from all over New South Wales. I thank the following people who attended the event: St Martha's parish priest, Father Chris Flattery; Bishop Terry Brady; Father Antonio Fregolent; the member for Drummoyne, John Sidoti; the member for Reid, John Murphy; the managing director of the Sydney Fish Markets, Grahame Turk; and the Italian consul general, Dr Sergio Martes. To conclude I will quote from the speech of Associazione Bagnara Calabra president, Salvatore Bagnato. His comments are not only true of those from the Italian fishing community but to all who have come to Australia from other lands:
Most of us born in another land are proud of our cultural heritage and are equally proud to share it with our new neighbours, our new mates, the people who we know and enrich our new land with. We do this from our hearts and we ask that our Madonna, the most Sainted Maria of Porto Salvo protect us and our families and pray for all of us.
I could not have said it better myself.