In the small mountain village of Roseto Valfortore, Italy, the Catholic congregation faced a dilemma. The Santa Maria Church where they and their ancestors had worshiped for more than 700 years was deteriorating. The roof leaked badly and rain water had damaged much of the church’s interior. Parish members removed the terracotta tiles from the roof and discovered that the structure beneath had also rotted.
As it turned out, one of the sons of the town folk, Fausto Palumbo, and his wife Margaret from Toronto, Ontario, were visiting their house in Roseto Valfortore. They learned of the community’s predicament and Fausto was asked if he could help raise the funds needed by approaching the Italian community living in Toronto. Though the Palumbo’s wanted to help, they recognized the challenges of such an international effort; however, they did not lack faith.
Visits to the town began and carefully stroked paintings of the village ensued. As the artwork was produced, demand for it increased in Toronto and Roseto Valfortore, as well. 'More and more people living in Toronto asked me to provide paintings of their homes here, too,' says Sister Palumbo. “When I started painting, it snowballed, and in the end we made enough money to restore the church roof. My husband went to Italy with the funds and contacted people who could do the restoration work. He stayed with it until it was done, and he took many photos.”
“Some people from a magazine in Italy interviewed me,” Sister Palumbo says. When she explained that she was a Christian but not a Catholic, the reporter put down her pen. “How can you be a Christian if you are not Catholic?” she asked. “I told her that we both worship the same God and I am helping you to worship God in your church while I worship Him in mine.”
“They asked, ‘Why would you do this for our church?’ I told them, ‘If the Lord gives me a talent, I use it for His glory. He gave me this talent and by rebuilding your church, I am helping you to worship and you should give the thanks to Him. Everything that we have, including the gifts we use are all provided by Him anyway.’”
After the paintings had been produced, when the money from their sales poured into the parish coffers, the doors to the Palumbo’s ancestral records were opened. “They were accepting of me,” says Sister Palumbo, “and they said, ‘you’re one of us now.’ We have since done the temple ordinances for three generations of my husband’s family in Italy.”
In the summer of 2013, Fausto Palumbo's mother, who had been living with the couple in Toronto for 15 years, passed away. The Palumbo’s returned her body to her home town of Roseto Valsatore to be buried. Nearly everyone in the town attended the funeral service that was held in the beautifully restored church of Santa Maria.