Saint Anthony’s church is silent in the way that only a church can be. Sunlight filters in through exquisite stained glass windows, spilling over the long pews and giving the spacious room a muted glow. A statue no bigger than a child stands in an alcove off to the side of the alter; a woman wearing a flowing dress with crosses around her heart known as the Madonna of Sorrows, Mother Mary.
The Madonna of Sorrows used to be seen outside the church, but over time, rain, snow, and ice took its toll on the statue, leaving her badly damaged and in a sorry state. This is where Bambino Silvaroli comes in. An Italian immigrant, Silvaroli is an electrician by trade but an artist at heart. He volunteered to take the concrete statue from Saint Anthony’s Church and restore it; it took him a week to completely repair all the damage. This is not the first statue he had worked on either, an enormous statue in the Italian nursing home Villa Marconi is courtesy of his hard work and passion.
Silvaroli is originally from the town of Oratino in the region of Molise in the province of Campobosse, Italy. He moved to Canada in 1960 to follow his fiancée, who had followed her sister to the country a year before. Silvaroli arrived on May 9th of 1960 and married his fiancée on the 22nd of October of that same year in Saint Anthony’s Church. He was an electrician in Italy and worked as a laborer in his first few months in Canada until he was able to be tested and certified as an electrician here. After his certification, Silvaroli was fortunate to find many jobs; he worked mostly for the government, doing electrical work at Rideau Hall, the National Library, 24 Sussex Drive while Mulroney was Prime Minister, and even had a three year contract with the National Defence Department. “My life is made of hard work and I’m still doing it, I’ll never stop, I hope,” he says.
On November 3rd of 2013, the restored Madonna of Sorrows was unveiled at Saint Anthony’s Church in front of the community and Silvaroli was there to present his hard work for everyone to see. After the ceremony, the statue now sits inside the church where it will be protected from the elements. It will be a lasting reminder of the value of benevolence, how helping someone else, even with something small, can make a huge difference. Silvaroli believes that this is very important, because even though he’s retired he says that if someone calls him, he’d offer his help for free.
As an Italian-Canadian, Silvaroli balances his love of Italy and Canada in his life; he volunteers his time and expertise for the Italian community in Ottawa for festivals like Italian Week and at the Villa Marconi, but he also travels back to Italy once every year to a house he built himself using materials only from Canada. But even when he’s out of Canada, he’s still working; restoring and building statues for churches in Italy. “I have a passion for churches and I help,” he admits with a smile. It’s clear that the church and his work are both very important to him, and no surprise that he spends a lot of time and money on each.