Nestled in Chinatown near Dodger Stadium is a thriving parish that is the heart of the local Italian Catholic community. St. Peter’s Italian Catholic Church has Italian parishioners from all over Southern Los Angeles, and serves as a place for families to live out their cultural and religious devotions, feasts and dances.
On Jan. 15, church members gathered in the parish hall for the premiere of a documentary that explores the church’s history — a story that began when Italian immigrants set out to establish a place of worship more than 100 years ago.
“This is a home base, not only for their marriages and their funerals and the anniversaries and all those celebrations; there is a bottom line and that bottom line is love,” said Robert Barbera, president of the Barbera Foundation, who commissioned the documentary.
Barbera said the documentary serves to preserve the memories of the past and ensure the continuing traditions for the next generation.
“It had to be captured,” he explained. “Now we have a video.”
“Processions of Faith: The Story of St. Peter’s Italian Catholic Church, its Parishioners and their Saints” explores the many cultural traditions, processions, devotions and feasts that have brought Italians back to the church every Sunday for decades.
Each Sunday, the parish celebrates an 11 a.m. Mass in Italian, and the patron saints of Italy are honored in elaborate processions through the city streets, followed by a huge feast of pasta, meatballs and other Italian fare.
The parishioners in the documentary shared their love of the country’s saints, especially St. Padre Pio and St. Peter, recounting the many blessings and answered prayers that have come through their intercessions.
Midair Rose Productions produced the hour-long documentary, with writer and director Joe Medeiros and producer Justine Mestichelli.
The film crew began by capturing the church’s celebration for the feast of St. Anthony in June 2015 and ended in March 2016 for the feast of St. Joseph’s Table, a three-day celebration that attracts more than 3,000 people and whose proceeds benefit poor and homeless populations in Los Angeles.
“Faith is part of our culture now and we need to carry with us,” Father Louis Piran, C.S., pastor of St. Peter’s, told the hundreds of people who had gathered for the documentary movie screening. “Make sure that this video stays in your library and show it to people that come to visit you.”
To purchase the DVD, go to www.stpeteritalianchurchla.org.