Australian Dictionary of Biography

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La Rosa, Giuseppe (1915–1990)

by Anthony S. Cappello

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Giuseppe La Rosa (1915-1990), Catholic priest, was born on 24 October 1915 at Terranova Sappo Minulio, Reggio Calabria, Italy, son of Domenico La Rosa and his wife Concetta, née Galimi.  At the age of 9, he entered the diocesan seminary at Oppido Mamertina.  From 1930, at the Pope Pius X Theological Seminary at Catanzaro, he completed his secondary education and trained for the priesthood.  He was ordained on 31 July 1938.

Next year La Rosa came to Australia to visit his family at Griffith, New South Wales.  He was then 5 ft 6 ins (168 cm) tall, of slight build, with dark hair and brown eyes.  Because of World War II he was unable to return to Italy.  From 1939 to 1943 he served as an Italian-speaking secretary in the office of the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop John Panico, in Sydney.  He also worked with (Archbishop) Thomas Cahill in its bureau of information, where his duties included receiving radio messages from the Vatican about the welfare of relatives of Italian internees and prisoners of war in Australia.

Appointed Italian migrant chaplain in 1942 by Archbishop (Cardinal Sir) Norman Gilroy, La Rosa compiled a large religious manual for internees, The Prisoner’s Friend, which was distributed in 1943.  He worked with the Italian community to establish in 1945 the San Francesco Italian Cultural Association, to intensify the Christian life and maintain their cultural traditions, and the Italian Social Secretariat to offer material assistance to those in need.  Both bodies cared for local internees and supported the Australian Relief to Italy Fund, of which La Rosa was a member.

In the mid-1940s La Rosa worried about the increasing hold of communism on Italian migrants in New South Wales.  With the assistance of the anti-communist priest Fr Paddy (Patrick) Ryan, La Rosa initiated a program to combat its influence.  His plan included a place of worship in Sydney for the Italian community, a rigorous education in the Catholic faith and an Italian-Australian newspaper.

Following La Rosa’s efforts to obtain ecclesiastical and government approval for a newspaper, a limited company was set up to bear the financial burden.  La Rosa prepared material and managed the paper; the first issue of La Fiamma (The Flame) appeared in April 1947.  Its publication was to contribute to the eventual demise in 1957 of the pro-communist paper Il Risveglio (The Awakening).  La Rosa withdrew from La Fiamma at the end of 1947.  The Capuchin Franciscan friars at Leichhardt took over this work as they had the San Francesco Association.  La Rosa served as the Italian migrant chaplain until 1946 and at the end of 1948 he requested that the Italian Social Secretariat be wound up.

After La Rosa returned to Italy in 1949 he wrote a doctoral dissertation (Pontificium Athenaeum Lateranense, 1955) published as Le Organizzazione Professionali in Australia (1955).  His insights into the Australian labour movement were praised in a Melbourne Catholic paper, the Advocate, on 16 February 1956.  In Rome he worked (1954-85) for the Secretariat of State of the Vatican.  He visited Australia in 1973 for the Fortieth International Eucharistic Congress in Melbourne and again in 1976 and 1988.

The Australian government had given La Rosa a citation of honour in 1945 for his success in raising funds for the third Victory Loan for the Australian war effort.  In 1965 he was appointed a commander of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy for his work in Australia.  His autobiographical account of his time in Australia was serialised by La Fiamma in October 1989 and later published as L’Apostolato di P. Giuseppe La Rosa in Australia (1995), edited by his brother Domenico.  On 6 February 1990 Giuseppe La Rosa died in Rome and was buried in the family chapel at Terranova Sappo Minulio.  La Fiamma and the San Francesco Association thrived and became his memorial in Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • SP11/2, item ITALIAN/LA ROSA GIUSEPPE (National Archives of Australia)
  • La Rosa papers (State Library of New South Wales)

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Anthony S. Cappello, 'La Rosa, Giuseppe (1915–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/la-rosa-giuseppe-14846/text26031, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 20 June 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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