Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'A very dear place in the hearts of Italians'

Holy Rosary Parish in Osborne Village the community's spiritual centre

  • Print

A tidal wave of emigrants left Italy between 1880 and 1920 to escape starvation, malaria and never-ending poverty.

Hundreds of thousands streamed across the ocean. Sailing for several weeks on ships carrying hundreds of passengers herded together like cattle, many became ill from the stormy waters of the Atlantic.

A few were headed for Canada. Smaller numbers still were bound for Winnipeg. But by 1901, 147 people of Italian origin lived in Winnipeg, according to Stanislao Carbone, author of Italians in Winnipeg, and by 1921, 1,311 Italians lived here.

Before 1923, Winnipeg Italians worshipped at St. Mary's Cathedral and other parishes until eventually they found a place they could call their own.

"The most important institution in the early years of Winnipeg Italian history... was the Holy Rosary Church, which opened its doors in October of 1923," notes Carbone.

The former Lutheran church was ideally located in the West End, at Sherbrook and Bannatyne, the original Little Italy where many Italian immigrants first settled.

In the mid-1960s, the Winnipeg Children's Hospital purchased the property, and the parish had to find a new home.

The new site, at 510 River Ave., was closer to the Fort Rouge neighbourhood where many of Winnipeg's estimated 1,200 Italian families were then settling. The church opened in 1967.

Now an oasis of serenity in bustling, trendy Osborne Village, the attractive Tyndall stone structure is the spiritual home to about 800 families.

"October 2013 will be the 90th anniversary of the parish," says Fr. Sam Argenziano, pastor of Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church for 17 years.

W.R. MacDuff of Green, Blankstein, Russell Associates designed the 500-seat church -- which also houses an administration centre, rectory and parish hall -- at a cost of $390,000.

The details of the church reflect the Italian community. In the piazza outside Holy Rosary Church, Argenziano explains the bronze statue of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.

"He was a Franciscan monk who lived in a monastery in the town of San Giovanni Rotundo, noted for his great sanctity and charity towards the poor." The Italian saint was canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II.

High above the piazza, on a tower, is a statue of the Madonna holding the baby Jesus, sculpted by Italian artist George Barone.

Parishioners come from the surrounding area as well as the north and south of the city, says Argenziano, whom many simply know as Father Sam.

"Most are Italian-born and of Italian ancestry," and they range in age "from cradle to crypt."

The parish serves the Italian community primarily, he says, but "the ethnicity is changing with the arrival of new immigrants from Africa and Asia who live downtown and close by."

There's been no new immigration from Italy in recent years. Looking to the future, Argenziano says, "Even though Italian immigration is finished, I would like to see the children and grandchildren make this their spiritual home and also to be a welcoming parish to all immigrants and refugees."

Every Sunday, he adds, Holy Rosary has a second collection called the Least Coin collection. About $25,000 is raised each year. "That money then goes to Hospitality House, which works with the Canadian government to sponsor refugee families."

The parish also belongs to the Nassau Street Refugee Committee, which sponsors a refugee family.

Argenziano estimates about 15,000 Italians live in Winnipeg now.

"This is their parish. If they go to another parish but wish to come here for baptisms, weddings, etc., they are more than welcome," he says.

The 64-year-old priest -- whom one Winnipegger describes as "a lovely man, everyone likes him" -- conducts all four masses on Sunday. "Three in English and one in Italian," he says.

Born and raised in Staten Island, N.Y., Argenziano learned to speak Italian only after coming to Holy Rosary in 1995. Though his grandparents emigrated from Italy to find work in New York, the language did not get passed along.

"My parents were born in New York and Italy was at war with North America... My parents had to prove themselves to be more American than the Americans.

Learning the language at 47, he says, "was a chore of love and pride."

Argenziano knew he wanted to be a priest in the second grade. He studied theology at the University of Toronto in the 1970s, then friends invited him to look at the Archdiocese of Winnipeg. Accepted by Archbishop George Flahiff in 1977, he finished his studies and was ordained on a bitterly cold February day in 1979 at St. Edward the Confessor on Arlington Street.

"When I came, the people were wonderful, hospitable and welcoming... but the winter of '79 was the worst winter in 50 years. On Feb. 15, 1979, it was 42 degrees below zero and only God knows what the windchill was."

It has not deterred him; he's stayed for 34 years.

Every year, says Argenziano, Holy Rosary holds an annual procession on their Feast Day in August. Special masses are held and statues of saints are carried in a colourful procession.

"It's very much a part of Italian culture to celebrate the patron saints and area of origin," he says.

"It (Holy Rosary) holds a very dear place in the hearts of Italians. We celebrate here the most important parts of our lives."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2012 j15


Updated on Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 10:25 AM CDT: adds photos

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Winnipeg police address homicides targeting homeless community

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young goose   reaches for long strands of grass Friday night near McGillvary Blvd-See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 19 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Jia Ping Lu practices tai chi in Assiniboine Park at the duck pond Thursday morning under the eye of a Canada goose  - See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge Day 13- May 17, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

  • Africa edition

    Africa is one complex and gloriously unmanageable 'theme' to choose to kick off our 2012 series, Our City Our World, which is why it took up the whole newspaper on Jan. 18.

  • China edition

    Hard-working Chinese immigrants, once banned, have risen to the highest echelons of Manitoba.

  • Germany edition

    German immigrants have played a surprisingly large role in the development of the province.

  • Iceland edition

    Arriving in Manitoba in the 1870s unprepared for a brutal winter, Icelandic settlers and their descendants have left their mark on our province.

  • Italy edition

    Industrious Italians rose from peasant roots and adapted to Canadian society by mastering L’art d’arrangiarsi (the art of getting by).

  • Latin America edition

    It used to be the only time Prairie folks met Spanish-speaking people was when they vacationed down south. More often now, they're the people next door.

  • Middle East edition

    When the first Middle East families immigrated to Manitoba, mosques were unheard of and even yogurt was exotic. But now all that has changed.

  • Philippines edition

    A booming Filipino community nearly 60,000 strong has transformed Manitoba.

  • South Asian edition

    As the city's Indo-Canadian population experiences dramatic growth, its pioneers recall their warm Winnipeg welcome.

  • Ukraine edition

    Scarred by Holodomor, the Ukrainian community helped shape Winnipeg's cultural mosaic.

  • United Kingdom edition

    Manitoba's history is built on a foundation provided by settlers from the U.K., who came here seeking better lives.


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google