Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Unexpected magic opens a personal path

October 12, 2012|By Joe Puglia

Bob Hanley and I graduated from Saint Frances of Rome in 1961. After graduation we went our separate ways. It would take 50 years before we’d reconnect in a serendipitous encounter at Penelope’s Cafe.

A few days ago out of the clear blue, I received a note from Bob. “Joe, I am performing at Saint Bede’s for their 61st birthday celebration. Please come.”

Although it would take an act of Congress to rearrange my girls’ involvements, I fired a note back: “I’ll be there!”


Bob has a voice like Frank Sinatra’s and is backed by a 17-piece orchestra. I loved listening to Bob’s New York accent. Once again I was back on the streets of the Bronx, hanging out at Puglia’s Deli on Pitman Avenue.

I arrived at Saint Bede Church smack dab in the middle of the celebration. It’s the big social event of the year, filled with families, games, music and food. I saw the obvious. But the obvious was incidental to the alchemy of the evening. The community was coming together as friends, united in good will and under the banner of heaven. Watching what was happening, I was glad to call La Cañada home.

But there was something about the evening gnawing at my consciousness. Over the years I have struggled with faith and throughout the birthday party I looked with envy at those who readily grasp it.

Moira Arjani, the chair of the celebration, developed the theme, “Fun and Fund,” putting the emphasis of joy on the event; fundraising was auxiliary. Subsequently, the birthday party had a lot of class. Arjani was sensitive to the current economic state; she made everything affordable.

This was a party by parishioners and for parishioners. John Ursini’s Newport Rib Company brought the food and cooked more than 840 dinners. The Gavina family made the cappuccinos. Elser and Alicia Pinto took the pizza oven from the school cafeteria and made more than 300 pizza dinners. Joan Gantus made the root beer floats and Tom Passanisi the gelato. I like the way they did it, together.

The evening was a kaleidoscope of sensation. I met friends and hung out with my buddy Bob and his wife Corine. But the real treasure was meeting Monsignor Antonio Cacciapuoti. His effect on the parish is more than bringing a touch of Italy. I believe he’s perfected the rationale that liturgy, music, and hospitality are the cornerstones of Saint Bede’s.

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