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Sister Rina Cappellazzo’s autobiography begins with this proud proclamation: “I am Venetian!” It was “of prime importance,” she went on to explain, for natives of Venice to call themselves Venetian rather than Italian.
And so, it must be noted that both of Rina’s parents, Ernesto and Adele (Mazzaro) Cappellazzo, were born in Venice. Ernesto came to the U.S. twice; the first time, he and the man who would become Rina’s godfather both worked for a time in Kentucky as miners, but eventually they missed their homeland and returned to Venice. Later, the lure of good jobs in America brought Ernesto back, and he found a job as a machinist. He and Adele originally lived in a boarding house in Hamtramck, Michigan, across the street from the General Motors assembly plant there.
The couple had two children: Gino and, five years later on June 26, 1931, Rina. “My mother did not approve of the many American baby names, and because of the length of our surname, I, like my brother, was baptized with [a] short name, Rina,” she wrote.
Italian was the children’s first language. They picked up some English from playing with other children in the neighborhood, including Jeanette Jabour, who would later enter the Congregation. Rina’s autobiography tells of how she pleaded with her mother for a pair of roller skates, only to be repeatedly told no because “it is Depression time.” But one day, Jeanette invited Rina to her house and the two girls each put on one of Jeanette’s skates and took off together down the street.
Read more about Sister Rina (PDF)
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221.
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