By Lt. Andrew Staley
On December 26, 2018 at 3:19 AM, a 4.8 magnitude earthquake shook the local municipalities around Mount Etna. This unfortunately caused substantial damage to many buildings in the greater Catania region.
As a forward-deployed squadron at Naval Air Station Sigonnella in Sicily, Patrol Squadron 46 (VP-46) Grey Knights had the distinct pleasure of assisting two local community churches: Santuario di Maria SS Ritornata and Chiesa Maria SS del Carmelo e Sant'Emidio.
The Grey Knights assisted Santuario di Maria SS Ritornata with repairs to the church including, sanding and painting of the church fence. Through the combined support of a dozen Sailors, the Grey Knights worked tirelessly to bring the fence and metal arches back to condition that reflect the true beauty of the church.
Father Giovanni Cavallaro expressed his sincere gratitude to the Grey Knights for helping the church and the community in such trying times.
“I’d like to thank the Sailors for their support,” said Cavallaro. “This was a great, intercultural exchange. It was great to share food with our community volunteers from America.”
The Grey Knights also served the parish of Pennisi at Chiesa Maria SS del Carmelo e Sant'Emidio church. The 2018 earthquake absolutely devastated the church, multiple walls and buildings collapsed, prompting the congregation to move into an auxiliary building while awaiting equipment required to remodel the main sanctuary.
VP-46 Sailors painted the doors and fence of the auxiliary building to make it feel more welcoming to the citizens of the parish. One of Chiesa Maria SS del Carmelo e Sant'Emidio’s spiritual leaders, Father Samson, said that they were excited when they heard a squadron from the U.S. Navy had volunteered to help.
“We are very gracious for the wonderful service and generosity for the people of this community who are much in need after such a devastating natural disaster,” said Samson.
Samson said that the entire community got together weeks in advance to prepare supplies and refreshments for our volunteers.
“We look forward to working with you all again,” said Samson.
VP-46 is currently forward-deployed to the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations and is assigned to Commander, Task Force 67, responsible for tactical control of deployed maritime patrol and reconnaissance squadrons throughout Europe and Africa.