The Church of St. Peter, according to Diocesan historians, began in 1890 when diocesan authorities realized Italian immigrants needed a church where their native tongue was spoken. The diocese requested the Apostolic delegate in Washington, D.C. send a priest to provide spiritual ledership to Italian immigrants. At the invitation of Bishop Patrick Ludden, Father Nicola Mennella, St. Peter’s first pastor, established a congregation that first celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of the Syracuse Diocese ( St. John the Evangelist Church). Bishop John Baptist Scalabrini founded the Pious Society of St. Charles, presently called the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles, in 1887 to serve the spiritual needs of Italian immigrants throughout the world. With bishop Ludden’s approval, Bishop Scalabrini assigned Father Francesco Beccherini to succeed Fr. Mennella at St. Pater’s. Thus, the Scalabrinians’ mission was established at St. Peter’s Church and continued unti 2001.
On June 24, 1895, a bank loan for $12,000 was secured to purchase a former German Lutheran Church at the corner of State and Burnet Sts. Bishop Ludden dedicated the church that would be known as "the first Italian church of Syracuse" on October 6, 1895. A succession of Scalabrini priests followed Fr. Beccherini: Reverends Gaetano Orlando, Vittorio Sovilla, Eugenio Ostino, Francesco Morassi, and Giovanni Cunneo.
Father Pio Parolin, ordained by Bishop Scalabrini, became pastor in October 1914. Fr. Paroli's legacy includes beautifying the church, ceremoniously burning the original mortgage in 1916 and organizing "The Passion Play." At the request of Bishop John Grimes, he worked with other diocesan settlements helping to establish Our Lady of Pompei Church, Syracuse; St. Batholomew's Church in Norwich and St. Joeseph's, Oswego. Succeeding Fr. Parolin were Father V. Rossi, pastor in 1923, and Father Agostino Lazzarin, pastor in 1924.
The brilliant, intellectual Father Angelo Strazzoni, began his 26 year-tenure as pastor of St. Pater's in 1924. A priest who emulated parental concern and humility, Fr. Angelo's achievements included expanding the church societies, organizing boys' sports and extensively renotating the church; and rectory. Fr.Angelo responded decisively to a destructive fire in 1937, with damage estimated at $17,000, by quickly restoring furniture and ceilings and purchasing a new organ to replace the one destroyed. When trains, running on the newly bulit "Elevation" located close to St. Peter's shook both church and rectory, it was time to find a new home for St. Peter's. Fr. Angelo's fundraising campaign raised $55,251, of which $20,000 was used to purchase land at James, Catherine and East Willow Sts. When he left the parish to assume his duties as chaplain at the former St. Mary's Hospital, the Church of St. Peters had land on which to bulid a new church and $173,824 in capital funds.
Father Louis Riello entered St. Peter's Rectory in April 1951, quickly earning the congregation's affection and loyalty through his saintly piety and humility, his genial manner and his sense of humor. His selfless devotion, leadership skills, and ability to get things done resulted in a successful building campaign that produced our current-day Romanesque church. Dedicated on September 18, 1955, the magnificent structure features exquisite stained glass windows, side shrines, mosaic Stations of the Cross and wainscoting, marble tile, a Botticcino marble pulpit, a mural depicting Mary's assumption into heaven and statues and paintings of many church saints. His failing health forced Fr. Riello to leave St. Peter's in 1960 to undergo extensive medical treatment. With characteristic unselfishness, he continued as an associate pastor in several parishes almost until his passing. In death, Fr. Riello returned to his parishioners and friends at Peter's, wher grieving young men had devotedly served as altar boys escorted his body in his funeral procession.
Succeeding Fr. Riello as pastor was Father Alexander Rinaldo, who founded the Women's Society and actively participated in all parish organizations and activities. Fr. Rinaldo also acquired land on East Willow St., intending to build a parish school but a shortage of teaching nuns made this plan impossible. The property evetually became the site of the Villa Scalabrini, a housing facility for senior citizens.
Associate Pastor Father Louis Pisano, a dynamic, humble, effective and beloved leader who followed Fr. Rinaldo as Pastor in 1970, spearheaded the building of the Villa Scalabrini, a nine-story apartment building on East Willow St. Additionally, he aquired the parish center on East Willow St. and founde a human development program, a senior citizens' organization, and an Italian radio program. When Fr. Pisano died unexpectedly in 1981, Associate Pastor Joseph Moffo became Pastor and continued his predecessor's programs, giving special attention to those affecting the elderly and young alike.
Father Ralph A. Bove succeeded Fr. Moffo in 1985. Using his condierable determination and energy, Fr. Ralph expanded the parish office and facilities, building a children's day care center and a convent for the Franciscan nuns. He oversaw many other projects, including a major renovation of the sanctuary, the installation of a new statue of St. Peter and air conditioning in the church, the restoration of the stained glass windows, the repainting of walls and ceilings and realigning the pews. Fr. Ralph's inspiring homily messages and his commitment to God and St. Peter's church are also fondly remembered.
The Church of St. Peter's last Scalabrinian pastors were Father Michael Tarro and Father Tarcisio Begatin. On Sunday, September 9, 2001, parish members gathered for a Mass and a special dinner following at LeMoyne Manor to pay tribute to the Scalabrini order that provided spiritual leadership and service to St. Peter's parishioners and Syracuse's Italian-American Community for 110 years.
Father Paul Angeliccio, the present pastor of the newly combined St. Peter's and Our Lady of Pompei churches, followed Fr. Joesph Scardella, St. Peter's first diocesan pastor. St. Peter's history would not be complete without remembering Assistant Pastors Father James McCloskey, Father Carmen Negro, and Father Henry Gentile as well as Msgr. Paul Brigandi and Parochial Vicar Father Thomas Carlesimo who provided devoted and spiritual service. Also noteworthy are the vital contributions made to the parish throughout the years by the Sisters of St. Francis and by Sister John Anthony in particular, remembered fondly for working so tirelessly and unselfishly in every church ministry and event before her well-deserved retirement.
On April 19, 1924 twelve hundred families of Italian ancestry were organized to form Our Lady of Pompei parish. They immediatelly began raising money to build their church. These were hardworking people and their dedication and enthusiasm helped to form the solid foundation of the parish. Some of these same families are still hardworking parishoners even now and their dedication and enthusiasm remain.
The first Mass was held on March 29, 1925 even though the building was not complete. The original pastor was Rev. John Robotti who then resigned in order to return to Italy. Msgr. Howard McDowell served briefly as parish administrator and was replaced by Rev. Filomeno Geremia who became pastor. Rev. William L. Walsh became the third pastor in 1932.
This began a new era in the life of the parish. Despite his Irish ancestry he immediately "became one of us". He spoke fluent Italian and was always sympathetic and understanding to the parishioners which instilled in them a sense of pride in the parish. As the people became more prosperous, so did the church. In 1943 a campaign was begun to pay off the mortgage. Two years later this became a reality and a dinner was held on November 14, 1945. Over 1500 parishioners and friends attended.
In 1945 a new rectory was purchased accross the street from the church to replace the old one which was destroyed by fire. The parishioners embarked on a plan to get pledges to build a new church along with holding raffles, dinners and Field days to raise money. One September 10, 1950 Bishop Walter A. Foery broke ground for the new church and on May 4, 1952 our new church was dedicated.
There were many organizations formed during these years. They helped the parish financially and the parishioners benefited spiritually and socially. Of course everyone knows of the Pompeian Players that were started inn the early years of the church and grew under the leadership of Rev. Charles Borgognoni. Besides this active group for young people, Father Charles started the Young Catholic Workers for high school age students and the Discussion Club for the young people once they graduated from high school. When we were growing up our church was not just our place of worship but our social life as well.
We were blessed with many priest sons of the parish: Rev. Alexander C. Pilla, Rev. Eugene M. Yennock, Rev. P. Carl Pilla, Rev. Msgr. Paul A. Brigandi, Rev. Paul Guerra, Rev. Nicholas R. Maio, Rev. V. James Laudaucci, Rev. Msgr. Ronald C. Bill, Rev. Frederick Mannara, Rev. Francis Gangemi, Rev. Louis Canino, Rev. Charles S. Vavonese, Rev. James Cesta and Rev. Clarence Rumble.
Msgr. William L. Walsh retired on 7/31/79. He passed away on July 22, 1980.
Msgr. Paul Brigandi, a priest son of our parish, became pastor in August of 1978. One of the many accomplishments of Msgr. Brigandi was to install a new organ in our church. After a very successful fundraising drive a new pipe organ was installed in 1984. This is one of the largest pipe organs in a Catholic Church in our diocese. On 10/16/89 Msgr. Brigandi left Our Lady of Pompei and went to St. Augustine's in Baldwinsville. He was replaced by Rev. Vincent Mirabito who was pastor from 11/15/89 until 1/19/93.
On 2/5/93 Rev. Joseph Scardella took over as pastor. He held town meetings to get a feel for what the parishioners were thinking. Renovations began in the church through the generous giving of time and talent of many men in our parish. Beautiful terrazzo floors were installed, painting of the walls, statues cleaned and the baptismal font placed in the right side of the church. Father Scardella enriched our Liturgy during his years at Our Lady of Pompei. He left our parish on 7/31/2003.
On November 1, 2003 Rev. Paul Angelicchio became pastor of both Our Lady of Pompei and St. Peter's churches. His goal is to install a sense of faith and community in the parishioners of both parishes. Father Paul arrived with much enthusiasm and energy to keep our church vibrant and strong. We are currently in the midst of a fundraiser to upgrade our church properties.
As a parish family, our goal is to keep Jesus at the center of our lives.
The Church of St. Peter and Our Lady of Pompei parish joined as one church on July 1, 2008.