Sparta Squires help Italian earthquake victims

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  • The Basilica of St. Benedict suffered major damage during the quake Photos courtesy of St. Kateri Squires

  • Recent press conference at Palazzo Seneca hotel in Norcia where donations were presented. From left: Federico Bianconi, St. Kateri Knight Nick Cutrone, Father Benedict Nivakoff, and Vincenzo Bianconi

  • St. Kateri Squires collecting donations in front of the Sparta parish

  • From left, Carlo Bianconi, Norcia Mayor Nicola Alemanno and Nick Cutrone.

SPARTA — The St. Kateri Squires Circle #5177 from Sparta have built a strong legacy of helping the needy in our area. In recent months, that effort has extended all the way to Norcia, Italy. In October of last year, St. Kateri Knight and Squires Chief Counselor Nick Cutrone and his wife Mary traveled to Italy on a religious tour. On that trip, they visited the medieval Umbrian city of Norcia, which is also the birthplace of Saint Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine Monks. Only 3 weeks following this visit, Norcia was struck by a devastating earthquake. While there were no casualties or major injuries, there was significant structural damage and the city was placed into “Zona Rossa” or Red Zone. Over 14,000 residents were forced out of their homes and hundreds of businesses were forced to shut down for nearly 6 months.

After learning of this devastation, Saint Kateri Squire officers Jack Lubertazzi and John Hunter Zoetjes organized a fundraising effort at the Sparta parish. Over $1,400 was raised plus an additional $600 in on-line pledges. Rather than simply wire the money to local relief agencies, Cutrone was invited by Norcia business owners Federico and Vincenzo Bianconi to attend the grand re-opening of the city at a press conference held at Palazzo Seneca hotel. At this press conference, Cutrone presented checks to the Benedictine Monks of Norcia and the “I Love Norcia” non-profit relief agency. Norcia Mayor Nicola Alemanno, Father Benedict Nivakoff (head prior of the monks), and many other dignitaries in attendance were so grateful that a group of young men from Sparta, New Jersey would extend help from over 4,200 miles away.

Cutrone noted: “We are so proud of our Squires for their consistent leadership in helping those in need. Jack and John Hunter put together a great plan and many of our Squires stepped up to ensure this fundraiser was a success.”

Lubertazzi who previously traveled to the Umbrian region in 2012 said: “The historical and religious significance of this city are so important that we felt the need to do what we could to help out.”

Zoetjes said: “Earlier last year, our fellow Squire Sebastian Gomez led a similar effort to help the earthquake victims in Ecuador. As Italian-Americans, Jack and I felt a personal obligation to help those in Norcia as well.”

Cutrone also noted from his visit that the rebuilding efforts have been slow and there is still a massive financial need to help the relief efforts. So the Kateri Squires will continue this fundraiser throughout the summer months. Donations can be sent to: St. Kateri Squires, Norcia Earthquake Relief, 427 Stanhope Road, Sparta, NJ 07871. Please make checks payable to the “Saint Kateri Squires” and mark “Norcia Earthquake Relief” in the memo field.

The Squires are the youth leadership branch of the Knights of Columbus for young men ages 10-17. Saint Kateri’s circle is the top ranked in the state of New Jersey based on membership growth and overall volunteer service hours.

For more information on the St. Kateri Squires, please contact

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