Thirty-One Days of Italians
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Father Michael Accolti, S.J. (1807-1878) One of the first Italian Jesuits to work as a missionary in the Pacific northwest, Father Michael (or Michele) Accolti, arrived in Oregon in 1844. He went to San Francisco in 1849 to help educate new settlers during the Gold Rush, and established the Jesuit Province in California.


Father Accolti was born in Conversano, Province of Bari, Puglia. The ancient city, known as the City of Art for its paintings and buildings, is also the home of the Lipizzaner breed, Conversano. Father Accolti joined the Jesuits when he was 25, and in 1844 traveled to Oregon to work with Native Americans. In 1849, he was called to San Francisco – along with Father Giovanni Nobili – to minister in the Gold Rush town and to start a school. Father Accolti was called back to Oregon, and in 1851 the crumbing Mission Santa Clara was offered to Father Nobili to begin a college and parish.


During this time, Italy was going through political turmoil with regions banding together in seeking independence from foreign rule, and many Jesuits traveled to California to continue their studies. Father Accolti traveled back to Italy and then to other places in America. He established the California Province of Jesuits, helped start St. Ignatius College (that later became San Francisco University), and in 1856, became prefect of studies at Santa Clara College and parish priest at the Church of Santa Clara. In 1867, Father Accolti returned to St. Ignatius College, and stayed there until his death in 1878. He is buried in the cemetery at Santa Clara Mission.

The Jesuit Model of Education


Mission Santa Clara (Photo)


Brokers of Culture (Stanford University Press)


Father Joseph Cataldo, S.J. (1837-1928) Worked with the Couer d'Alene, Spokane, and Nez Percé tribes in the late 1800s. His desire to educate led him to open the first Catholic school and church in Spokane. Plans for a college followed and in 1887, he established Gonzaga University.

Born in Terresini, Sicily, Joseph M. Cataldo was 15 years old when he joined the Society of Jesus, Sicily Province, in Palermo. In 1860, during the uprising of Garibaldi's forces in Sicily, Cataldo was sent to Rome. Two years later, he requested an assignment to the Rocky Mountain Mission in northwest America.

In 1865, he arrived in northwest Idaho, first ministering to the Couer d'Alenes, and then traveled to Spokane, Washington to establish a mission there. In Spokane, Father Cataldo founded some of the first Catholic churches. He became proficient in speaking and writing many of the native languages, and wrote a bible for the Nez Percé. In 1877, during a battle between the Nez Percé and the American government, he helped mediate peace between neighboring tribes. The same year, he was named Superior of the Rocky Mountain Mission.

Father Cataldo wanted to create a Catholic school and in 1881 purchased 320 acres for under $1,000. Gonzaga College, named after St. Aloysius Gonzaga, protector of children, opened six years later as a college for white boys. The college became a university in 1912 and allowed women in 1948. In 1893, Father Cataldo left his post at the Rocky Mountain Mission to return to missionary field work, traveling among several missionaries until his death in 1928.

About Gonzaga

Guide to the Joseph Cataldo, S.J. Papers

Cataldo Mission Interesting Facts

The Town of Cataldo


John N. LaCorte (1910-1991) Born in America and raised in Sicily, John N. LaCorte was proud to be an American and understood the difficulties Italian immigrants faced in America. To educate others about the accomplishments of those of Italian heritage, he established the Italian Historical Society of America. LaCorte was responsible for the installation of several monuments of notable Italians in Brooklyn, brought to attention that Italian American Charles J. Bonaparte was in charge of developing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and LaCorte was the driving force behind the naming of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (The official name of the bridge is spelled differently than the explorer’s name, spelled Verrazzano.)

After his return to New York in 1929, LaCorte became a successful businessman selling life insurance. With a majority of his clientele Italian immigrants, LaCorte was aware of the cultural differences that the immigrants faced in America. He was particularly concerned about the negative Italian stereotypes and the harmful effects caused by prejudice. LaCorte knew that many Italians had a positive impact on America, but the role of Italians and Italian Americans in history was not known. He was determined to publicize those accomplishments.


In 1949, LaCorte founded the Italian Historical Society of America with a goal of “popularizing the lives of the many Italians who have made significant contributions to Western Civilization.” Through his efforts, a monument of Antonio Meucci – the original inventor of the telephone – was erected in Brooklyn, and a statue of Columbus was moved to downtown Brooklyn. LaCorte brought the accomplishments of Constantino Brumidi, the Michelangelo of the Capitol, and Charles J. Bonaparte to the American public. His greatest accomplishment, though, was the naming of the Verrazzano Bridge.


When LaCorte learned of the bridge that would connect Staten Island to Brooklyn, he started a campaign to name it after Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first explorer to navigate the New York Harbor. After many years and numerous obstacles, LaCorte succeeded. In 2004, a monument at the base of the Verrazzano Bridge in Brooklyn’s John Paul Jones Park, was dedicated to John N. LaCorte for his work in naming the bridge and for his accomplishments as an Italian American.


Italian Historical Society of America


John N. LaCorte, Champion of Italians (New York Times)


John Paul Jones Park – Inspiration Through Example (Article)


John Paul Jones Park - John N. LaCorte Commemorative Sculpture


The LaCorte Monument in Brooklyn


New York Architecture: Verrazano-Narrows Bridge



Maria Montessori, MD (1870-1952) A medical doctor with experience in psychiatry, philosophy, and anthropology, Dr. Montessori combined her fields to focus on educating children. She developed an educational method based on her belief in treating a child with respect and assisting, rather than teaching, which allows the child to develop fully in all aspects of his or her life.

Maria Montessori was born in the town of Chiaravalle, in the region of Le Marche. Determined and confident, she showed an early interest in education and leadership. She planned a career as an engineer and studied at Regio Instituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci; but upon graduating she decided to become a medical doctor. She enrolled in the University of Rome and graduated in 1896; the first female doctor in Italy. That same year she represented Italy in a conference on women’s rights and spoke about equal wages for women.


She was appointed a surgical assistant at the Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome, and in her duty of visiting the asylums for the mentally disabled, Dr. Montessori took an interest in the reactions of the children who lived there. She began to develop ways to educate children through developing their senses. During this time she accepted a position as a lecturer of anthropology at the University of Rome, but after several years, she left to pursue her interests in the field of educating children. In 1907, she established Casa dei Bambini (Children's House), teaching children of working families. Her methods were so successful, she offered a training course that was attended by teachers throughout the world, and became the basis for the Montessori Method. A 2007 celebration marked the 100th anniversary of Dr. Montessori’s teachings.

Women’s Contributions: Maria Montessori

Montessori: The International Montessori Index

The Montessori Method (Full text translated from Italian.)

Centenary of the Montessori Movement

Association Montessori Internationale


Maria Montessori: Her Life and Legacy (YouTube)


Marche Voyager



Giovanni Pietro Antonio Nobili, S.J. [Father John Nobili] (1812-1856) Arrived in Washington state in 1844 and traveled north to British Columbia, Canada, as one of the first missionaries to work with many Native American Tribes. Sent to California with Michael Accolti and established Santa Clara College, the first college in California.

Giovanni (John) Nobili

Pere John Nobili

Biography from University of Toronto

Papers of John Nobili, S.J.

California Jesuit Archives

Jesuits Celebrate California Province Centennial


Copyright 2007-2016 Janice Therese Mancuso
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission except when published with this credit: Excerpt from Thirty-One Days of Italians, ©2015 Janice Therese Mancuso.