by Trafford R. Cole
The church in Italy began in 1965 when Italy became part of the Swiss mission. Some elders were sent to teach and baptize referrals that had gathered over the years of people interested in the church. In 1967 it became a separate mission with the mission home in Florence. Several cities were opened and soon after the first branches began to appear. My wife Fernanda first heard the missionaries and started to attend church in 1969, and there were already several members baptized at that time.
One of the first members at Padova was a lady named Alba who exemplifies the church in Italy. She and her husband are Sicilian, born and raised near Catania in the 1920’s. At that time in Sicily marriages were arranged by the families. As she explains young women and young men were not allowed to date to be with each other and even after engagement there had to be a chaperon with them at all times. In their small village to meet with the opposite sex they girls in the evening would walk around the piazza in one direction with their eyes downcast, and the boys would walk in opposite circles and they would eye each other. This was the only sight she had of her husband until the day they married. The woman’s role was absolute obedience and subjugation to her husband. They moved to Padova with their three children due to his work with the Italian railroad system. At that time Alba rarely left home. Her place was at home taking care of the children. Her husband would do the shopping and controlled all the money, because he didn’t believe it proper for her to meet other people and be seen without her husband. One day her oldest son met the missionaries and was impressed by their message. He invited them home and Alba was almost immediately converted. She and her son were baptized and from that point on nothing could stop Alba.
Not only did her husband disapprove but he tried to coerce her mentally and physically to obey and stay at home. She would have none of it. From the submissive wife who never left home she became a dynamo of energy for the Lord. She never missed a meeting, she became Relief Society president and she would take her daughter’s bicycle and ride all over the city visiting with the sisters. She developed her musical talents and became music director, director of the branch choir and later of the stake choir. She would sing in all the branch talent shows. She was a constant support of the missionaries and called every day to make sure they were all right. When I was a missionary and there was a postal strike that lasted more than a month and we were without any money she organized lunch and dinner for the missionaries among the sisters, so that I eat at her house almost every night for a month. When I fell in love with my wife the first person I went to was Alba who rejoiced with me.
Her whole family joined the church. Her husband eventually became branch president and spent most of his time in retirement supervising the missionary apartments in Northern Italy and her youngest son is now stake president in the Alessandria stake. She taught all three of my children in primary and I can’t think of a time that she didn’t have at least three or four callings. She was still riding her bicycle into her seventies, and has been the backbone of the Padova branch for 40 years. Now, as her health wanes her spirit never wavers.