by MARIA L. IERFINO-ADORNATO
This year marks the centennial milestone of the founding of the Order Sons of Italy (SOI) in Montreal. “The Order Sons of Italy has always aimed at preserving, promoting and developing through various aspects, the Italian culture in the ambit of its community. Even today as we celebrate this milestone, that is the centennial of its founding, we continue to honour its founders and pioneers with a multitude of initiatives and activities thanks to the generous commitment of its volunteers and various collaborators,” explains Montreal Lodge president since 2009, Giuseppe Fratino.
Sam D’Onofrio and several of his colleagues formed the Loggia Piave No 919 to create the Order Sons of Italy in Montreal in 1919. They were inspired by Father J.P. Martinez, who started the first Lodge in Canada in Sault Ste. Marie and who proposed the affiliation with Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro of New York, the founder of the original Order Sons of Italy in the United States. According to the Canadian Museum of History, it is estimated that there were 960 Lodges in the Americas between 1910 and 1916.
After two historic waves of immigration, countless sacrifices of our forefathers and their overall entrepreneurial success, Italian-Canadians have become an integral part of the nation’s mosaic. The SOI has evolved with the times, and today there are over 15 lodges across Canada connected to a nationwide network, recently celebrating 100 years at different intervals. They are proud of their heritage and are dedicated, like those who came before them, to philanthropic or benevolent missions.
Among those lodges are: the Garibaldi Lodge in Winnipeg, the Galileo Lodge in Kelowna, as well as the Loggia Gabriele d’Annunzio No 2 and the Fiorente-Patronato Lodge in Toronto. There is a Maria Pia di Savona Lodge in Niagara Falls and in Hamilton there is the Trieste Lodge No 4, where the leaders started bringing their daughters to the Order to keep the tradition going. “It is with the participation of the younger generation that we will ensure the future of our association,” says Fratino. “In addition, the Order has been re-branded to Order Sons and Daughters of Italy.”
“Since 1936, the Order Sons of Italy have had their offices in the Casa d’Italia building, where they acted as a welcoming centre. La Casa d’Italia became the meeting premises where the venerable of the era were busy supporting the members in finding work and also helping them integrate into Canadian society.”
The objective was certainly to greet or unite Italian immigrants in the new land and to serve as a mutual benefit society, providing financial and moral support to them. To this day, the SOI has been the heart and soul of the Italian community in Montreal. It has promoted the culture, the traditions and the legacy of its members, as well as their contributions to Canadian society in numerous events.
Fratino highlighted, “With the closing of Belmont Park, the SOI organized the Giornata dell’Amicizia Etnica, an event encouraging all ethnic groups to join in on the festivities in the spirit of fraternity, which is still celebrated to this day.”
Honouring the past is Fratino’s contribution to the future of Italian culture in Canada, saying of the original Italian pioneers: “They heroically carried the torch of a strong, unwavering legacy to all of us who now expand their original vision into the next century. And so, we are inspired by our fearless leaders to solemnly move the SOI forward to new heights and destinations.”