5. District Superintendent Del Rosso

ebook: Alfredo Del Rosso (Part 5)

Material for this biography was gathered in Italy in the late 1970s from letters, books, magazine articles, and interviews with many of the principal characters including several American missionaries to Italy, Rev. Del Rosso himself (1890-1985), and members of his family. Most of those interviewed for this biography have since died.

On June 30, 1948, the charter of the first Church of the Nazarene on the continent of Europe was officially opened (although Del Rosso himself didn't join the Church of the Nazarene until the middle of August). Those first members in Florence included the Lagomarsinos and their two daughters--one of whom would become a Nazarene pastor's wife. Others were Mrs. Tarará and her two married daughters, who were the same age as Del Rosso's daughters. Then there was Del Rosso's son Paolo and Paolo's future father-in-law, Foresto Palandri.

Worship services at that time were being held in the Coppini house on Bartolomeo Scala street where the Del Rossos still lived. While most Italians are apartment dwellers, this was actually a single-family dwelling with an iron gate and fence out front. It was complete with a roof-top terrace tower. A weekly meeting was also being held on Sundays across town in the Lagomarsino home. It was in one of those meetings that Del Rosso baptized Olga Lagomarsino by sprinkling.

When Del Rosso returned to Italy in the fall of 1948, he immediately made contact by letter with a chemical refinery worker in Sicily named Angelo Cereda. Cereda and Del Rosso had been introduced to each other by Cereda's father-in-law. Angelo had been converted in the Baptist Church in Catania but had begun conducting independent prayer meetings in his home when the Baptist church became too much of a political club to suit him. From what little Del Rosso knew about Angelo, he thought Angelo might be interested in becoming a Nazarene. And he was.

In less than two years Angelo and his two house churches -- one in Catania and the other in Misterbianco to the north -- became part of the Church of the Nazarene. Thus, the Nazarenes established a beachhead in Sicily, an island with about 4.5 million residents at that time. On this large Italian island lived a population about equal to the population of New Zealand or Jamaica or Panama. And the Nazarenes now had entered it.

It was not to be an easy nor a calm union, this joining of the Sicilians with the work in central Italy. Catania was a long way from Florence -- 600 miles. Given that distance and the difficulty of travel and communication, misunderstandings could and did arise between the new superintendent and the untrained lay pastor. But it is marvelous to think that within two years, God had helped the Church of the Nazarene to plant its witness in the strategic centers of:

After Art Wiens was discharged from the U.S. Army, he enrolled in Wheaton College near Chicago, Illinois to prepare for the full-time ministry. At Christmas time in 1948, he received a card from the Del Rossos. It asked the bold question: "When are you coming back to Italy to serve the Lord?" While Art had enjoyed his fellowship with the Del Rossos and other Christians in the Florence area, up to this point in time he had not considered his call from the Lord to be one that included missionary service in Italy. But he could not shake Del Rosso's question from his mind. So, in February of 1949, Art Wiens finally prayed through on a missions call and settled on Italy as his place of service.

Del Rosso continued to travel extensively both in Italy and throughout the rest of Europe just as he had done in the years 1930-40 when he was an independent evangelist. He enjoyed this itinerant type of ministry and carried a heavy burden for the spiritual welfare of isolated believers. At times Del Rosso's constant traveling evoked criticism from others, but it was his type of ministry. He felt much, much more comfortable in an itinerant evangelist role than he did as an administrator trying to run things from an office. In that aspect, he was like many of the early American Naarne district superintendents.

There is one little episode that illustrates this very clearly. One day Alfredo Del Rosso arrived home in Florence just before noon. He was tired, exhausted, and worn out. "I'm so tired of traveling," he sighed to his wife, "I just can't do this any longer. I've got to call it quits."

But, after he had eaten and had a cup of strong Italian espresso coffee, Del Rosso seemed to catch a second wind. "Niny," he said, looking over the top of his coffee cup, "do you think I can make that three o'clock train? Get my suitcase ready!"

Niny protested. Alfredo had just arrived with a suitcase full of dirty laundry. He had seemed so tired an hour before. Surely he couldn't have been rejuvenated so quickly. But she saw it was useless. He made the three o'clock train.

Having been a high-ranking army officer, Del Rosso got special reductions on railroad fares. This enabled him to do extensive travel even on a small budget. And he had early learned to make excellent use of those hours on the train, praying, reading, and meditating. Some years ago I sat beside Alfredo Del Rosso on the return flight from a European Nazarene Pastors and Leaders Conference in the British Isles. As our plane took off and headed toward Italy, Alfredo Del Rosso settled himself in his seat and pulled out a well-worn copy of a holiness classic by Andrew Murray.

It wasn't long after he began the Italian Nazarene leader that he began to pray about and make plans for purchasing properties for the two most active and promising groups: those in Florence and in Civitavecchia. To help the fledgling church gain proper legal standing and thus be able to own property in the name of the denomination, they sought the advice and counsel of a lawyer. The lawyer attempted to help them gain acceptance as an incorporated denomination, but they were rejected on the grounds they were too small to be recognized as a denomination (After all, at that time there was only one Nazarene full-time worker and the groups reported as churches owned no properties nor did they have any rented halls with services open to the public.)

Having been turned down there, the lawyer suggested that they incorporate themselves as a small business with the name "The Nazarene Company." This would allow them to hold property and to make business transactions as an organization and not merely as individuals. It seemed to be the best solution available at the time.

So, on October 16, 1951, the Nazarene Company came into existence in Italy. Stockholders were listed as Alfredo Del Rosso, Pio Boccini (Del Rosso's railroad conductor friend from Rome), Ado Lagomarsino (converted as a teenager under his ministry in Montalcino back in 1930), Umberto Ascenzi (a brick mason and plasterer from the Civitavecchia group) and Del Rosso's daughter Lea. With Lea's marriage in 1953 to a Salvation Army officer, Paolo Del Rosso would become a "stockholder" in the Nazarene company.

The company was given a charter by the Italian government. The charter was to be good until April 30, 2000. The company's stated purpose was "the purchase of real estate and the construction of buildings to be used in nonprofit religious work." The stock was capitalized at 15,000 lira. The "stockholders" of this company also played the role of district advisory board until 1961 when the company was dissolved after Bob Cerrato succeeded in getting legal recognition of the Church of the Nazarene as an incorporated denomination.

In those early years after the war, there were many independent groups and workers looking for a place to light, a place to get some financial subsidy to carry on their work. As word got around that Del Rosso had introduced the Church of the Nazarene to Italy, several of these independent workers and groups contacted him to ask about either joining the church or merging their work with the Church of the Nazarene. Most were interested in the Nazarenes, not so much because of doctrinal affinity, but because they were seeking financial support.

From Del Rosso's past experiences and from a great concern to maintain an undiluted holiness witness, he took in almost none of them. He was criticized and second-guessed for those decisions, and perhaps he was too cautious. But, on the other hand, Alfredo Del Rosso was also criticized for being too interested in reporting large statistics back to the U.S. So, perhaps he had found the middle ground after all. Besides, he did not have a large operating budget that would enable him to take on full-time personnel and provide financial subsidies for a bunch of small, struggling groups.

It must be remembered that he was a 60-year-old man struggling to establish the work of a denomination he didn't know all that well. He was attempting to accomplish it without missionary help or without a Bible school to provide trained workers. When missionary help did come in 1952 it was only one couple. So there Alfredo Del Rosso was, trying to plant his newly adopted denomination in a country that stretched nearly a thousand miles in length. He felt he couldn't afford to take in groups or workers he wasn't 100 percent certain about. Given the distances he would have had to travel to supervise them, he felt was just too far away to keep a tight rein on people about whom he may have had some misgivings. As a result, he did tend toward being conservative in organizing churches and inaccepting workers. Sadly, his Waldensian training had not equipped him to be a pioneer church administrator or a church planting specialist. To Del Rosso, the holiness message was the most crucial part of his ministry. If anything had to suffer, it would be the speed of the work. It would not be a clear proclamation of the message of holiness.

In early 1950, Alfredo Del Rosso had gone to Switzerland on a preaching mission. While in a small Swiss town named Frutigen, he asked what Protestant churches might be in the area because he wanted to attend a worship service. A man told him about the various mainline denominations that had congregations there. Del Rosso wasn't particularly interested in any of them. So he asked, "Are these all?"

"Well, there's another group, but I doubt you'd be interested in them. They're a strange sect nicknamed the 'pure hearts.'"

"I think that may be my crowd," replied Del Rosso and got their address. It was the somewhat new Swiss Evangelical Brotherhood Church and it so happened that they were having a special conference at that time.

Del Rosso enjoyed his time with them very much. While there, he met a young Swiss railroad communications worker named Fritz Liechti. The two men had their picture taken together. Later at Bern, he met a Mr. Schlacter who knew quite a bit about the Evangelical Brotherhood Church. Schlacter talked with Del Rosso quite freely and fully about their theological stance. It seemed to Del Rosso that this group was pretty close to where he and the Nazarenes were theologically. So he wrote to the group's founder, Fritz Berger. Berger died about the same time and the new president of the church followed up on the correspondence, sending Del Rosso a couple of books written by Berger along with an invitation to attend their conference later in May of 1950.

Del Rosso went to that conference and became a regular feature of that group's meetings in the spring at Moutier, in the summer at Steffisburg, and in the autumn in Zurich. In those first years, Del Rosso also helped them hold services for Italian immigrant workers in Switzerland. He began to hope that a merger could take place between the Brotherhood Church and the Church of the Nazarene -- but it never came to pass.

In 1950 Del Rosso's friend Cavazzuti, the elderly Methodist pastor who lived across the street, died at the age of 95. It was also in the fall of 1950 that Art Wiens arrived back in Italy, fresh out of Wheaton College. He had come back as a single missionary under the sponsorship of the Gospel Missionary Union, the missionary arm of the "Back to the Bible" broadcast. It was a decision that Art says was due almost totally to the speaking of the Holy Spirit through Alfredo Del Rosso.

Wiens said, "Del Rosso was happy in the Lord's work and he wanted other young men to discover the joy of being involved too."

When Art arrived in Florence, the Del Rossos took him into their home as though he were their own son. For the first month, Art Wiens ate all of his meals with the Del Rossos. He became an active participant in the Friday night meetings held in the Del Rosso home. After three months in Italy, he met his future bride in the Del Rosso home. A young single Canadian named Irma arrived as a missionary, and the Del Rossos helped her get settled too. She and Art began dating some (which usually meant attending the meetings in the Del Rosso home together). Then, in September of 1951, they were married in a ceremony in which Del Rosso preached the main message (in Italian-style weddings there's always a sermon). During the three years the Wiens spent in Florence in language study and acculturation, Del Rosso warned them that the road ahead would not be easy, but he assured them that the Lord would walk it with them.

The Wiens went on to direct one of the major evangelical publishing houses in Italy and operated one of the more extensive Italian language radio ministries of anybody. They also planted a flourishing church in Modena that is affiliated with the Plymouth Brethren denomination.

It is thus clear that while Del Rosso had a mind single to the message of holiness, he was not denominational in a narrow-minded way. He had lived far too long as an independent evangelist to believe that the Nazarenes could single-handedly evangelize the world -- or even just Italy.

The following year, 1951, Del Rosso's son Paolo married. About the same time that young Swiss railroad worker from Frutigen, Fritz Liechti, showed up at the Del Rosso home in Florence. Fritz had gone for a ride on his motorcycle in the Swiss mountains. As he rode along, he began to think more and more about that Italian named Del Rosso, whose photograph he carried in his pocket. Taken by a whim of the moment, Liechti decided to go visit Del Rosso. Before he knew it, Fritz Liechti found himself crossing the Italian border on his cycle, headed south to Florence.

Arriving in the city, he managed to find his way to the Del Rosso apartment. Fritz Liechti didn't know a word of Italian, and when he arrived at the Del Rosso home, he discovered that while Alfredo was multi-lingual, Niny was not. Alfredo was gone and his wife spoke only Italian. Finally, in his fruitless attempts at communicating who he was, Fritz pulled the photograph of Alfredo Del Rosso out of his pocket.

"The instant I did," he said, "She opened her arms and hugged me like a son."

This contact bore fruit in 1952 when Rev. Bob Cerrato brought this same young Swiss down to Florence as an associate missionary to help in pastoring the Florence congregation. The Liechti family had applied through their Swiss church to be missionaries to Papua New Guinea but had been turned down. The opportunity offered to the Liechti family by Cerrato gave them a chance to fulfill what they felt was a missionary call from God. Eventually, the Liechti family wound up serving with a Swiss evangelistic mission that distributed 60,000 daily meditation calendars annually in Italian plus thousands of records, cassette tapes, and other evangelistic materials. And it all developed out of a seed planted by Del Rosso.

Fritz marveled at the ability of Del Rosso to communicate well in several different cultures and languages. He noted that Del Rosso is one of the few people he has ever known who seemed equally at ease with boisterous American Nazarenes or with staid Swiss Evangelical Brotherhood people.

In 1951, G. B. Williamson, in his first quadrennium as a General Superintendent, visited Italy. Before the summer of 1952 General Superintendent Hardy Powers came and brought with him Rev. and Mrs. Leslie Parrott. Les Parrott wrote of his memories of that trip: "I remember going to Civitavecchia and holding services there in a home with a large number of people present. I remember one of the ladies had to walk the long way around because a Catholic landowner would not allow her to walk across his pasture if she was coming to our service. . . . We ate at a restaurant down close to the Mediterranean and the owner sent out for violinists and singers who came in to entertain us while we were eating. We rode in an open horse-drawn carriage from the restaurant up to the house where we were going to hold services. Also on that trip, we visited the city of Florence where a piece of property was shown to Dr. Powers. I remember then talking considerably about the fact that the building would be constructed like an apartment to get a permit but the partitions would be left out of a large area on the first floor to make a sanctuary."

The property had been purchased in a section of Florence where there were no other evangelical groups operating. Finding such an area wasn't really all that difficult. Even today, this city of 400,000 people has only 8-10 Protestant churches.

After his visit to Italy, Williamson returned to the U.S. to raise money for the new Florence "training school" building. His first tour was on the Northwest Indiana district where Del Rosso's elder's orders had been recognized and where he still held his membership. In two zone rallies in which Williamson spoke, over $4,000 was pledged toward the construction.

In January of 1952, the Nazarene General Board did some re-thinking of the Italian situation. At the urging of Del Rosso himself, Italy was moved administratively from Roy Smee's leadership in the Department of Home Missions and Evangelism to the Department of Foreign Missions effective May 1, 1952. Following that move, the Department of Foreign Missions appointed a young seminary graduate of Italian ancestry, Earl Morgan and his wife, Thelma, to Italy. At the time the Morgans were pastoring in Marshall, Missouri. It was hoped that Earl Morgan's seminary training would equip him to set up the Italian Nazarene Bible School in Florence.

The new missionaries were to work under the direct supervision of District Superintendent Del Rosso. For the early 1950s, having a national leader supervise an American missionary was an unusual experiment, even though Del Rosso did have what amounted to missionary status and salary. Italy proved to be a good testing ground for innovations in Nazarene missions strategy. Lessons learned in this experiment have shaped the strategy where joint missionary-national leadership is involved in the Church of the Nazarene.

In June of 1952, Del Rosso returned to the U.S. on board the liner "Queen Elizabeth." He was headed for the quadrennial Nazarene General Assembly being held in Kansas City. On his way across the U.S., Del Rosso briefly visited the Northwest Indiana district. Once again, at the General Assembly, Alfredo Del Rosso was on the program of the Sunday afternoon missionary rally.

Those were exciting days for Nazarene world outreach. In the seven years since the close of World War II, the number of missionaries serving under the Church of the Nazarene had more than doubled. There, at that afternoon victory rally on June 22, Del Rosso was given four minutes to speak. Directly in front of him was the new class of outgoing missionary appointees -- including the Earl Morgans heading to Italy. It was an electrifying four minutes. Edward Lawlor, who would eventually become the responsible General Superintendent for Italy, said, "I shall never forget the sight of him standing in front of the General Assembly pleading for men and money to bring the message of holiness to Italy."

It was also a memorable occasion for the Morgans. Earl Morgan recounted it this way: "As he (Del Rosso) told about preaching holiness one block from the Vatican, he had 10,000 people on their feet shouting."

By this time Del Rosso was counting five groups or preaching points in Italy, none of them actually organized properly as churches (although he was reporting membership statistics for each of them). The five were Rome, Florence, Montalcino, Catania and Misterbianco. Civitavecchia was not mentioned so perhaps the work there had gone temporarily dormant. Without stable internal organization, groups could appear and dissolve quickly without leaving traces since everything depended upon a preacher being able to conduct a service in someone's front room.

Because Nazarene work in Italy was being started on the idea that it would be financially self-supporting from the start, Del Rosso was the only worker for whom finances were included in the subsidy being sent from Nazarene headquarters. Niny would be pressed into service as pastor of the Florence congregation off and on during the next several years. Later, she would also fulfill a lot of the pastoral duties in the Civitavecchia church. However, she would do all of this without ever even applying for a local preacher's license.

The Morgans arrived in Italy in August after the General Assembly. Almost immediately they were put to work with the youth and music program of the Florence church. The two preachers -- Del Rosso and Morgan -- began sizing each other up. Said Morgan, "Del Rosso had a hearty, explosive laugh. He could be very kind; he could be very tough. He could be very friendly; he could be very hard. He could be very diplomatic . . . We had quite a time!"

The following year, in 1953, a hall was opened in Civitavecchia, and construction was begun on the building in Florence by a relative of Niny Del Rosso. The design of the building was such that it would allow for easy conversion into a Bible school classroom and dormitory building (an idea which never materialized so the building was left with a rather strange configuration). The Del Rossos moved in upstairs in the Bible school area that made a large 7-room apartment while the Morgan family took the smaller 3-room parsonage downstairs, which opened onto the sanctuary.

The Florence property purchase was criticized by many Italians because it was on the edge of town. More than sixty years later that building is surrounded by tall apartment houses as Florence has grown to engulf the fields around and beyond it.

In 1953 Del Rosso's daughter Lea married a Salvation Army officer. In that same year, General Superintendent and Mrs. D. I. Vanderpool paid Del Rosso a visit. They were on a trip that included visits to the work in the Middle East and the oversight of the division of the British Isles work into two districts. Arriving back home, Vanderpool wrote a small travelogue about his trip. Titled In Their Steps, it was published as a Nazarene mission book in 1956. Of Italy, Vanderpool wrote, "Our great need in this field is trained workers. An excellent training school property has been secured and an adequate building erected. We have a fine group of students now in training . . . I feel certain that every dollar of General Budget (now World Evangelism Fund) money which we have invested in Italy will bring back wonderful returns." Vanderpool also came away greatly moved by his visits to the Coliseum and St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. In his chapter on Italy, Vanderpool included a short biography of the life of Del Rosso.

A monthly mimeographed magazine was launched to help bind the churches together. Then Del Rosso set himself to work on a translation of the first part of the Nazarene Manual. It contained the historical statement, the church constitution and special rules, and part of the section on local church government. Published in Florence in 1954, this small extract was the only Manual in print in Italian for more than 25 years.

Mario Cianchi, who had pastoral stints at several of the Nazarene churches in Italy, was converted that year in the Florence church. An outspoken young communist, Mario had gone to one of the services in the newly constructed building to try to persuade his mother to leave. But the Holy Spirit began to work on his heart, and before long, he was converted and became a real worker in the church. One of Mario Cianchi's biggest struggles after his conversion was giving up smoking. But the Del Rossos kept preaching and prodding, and one day, in the furnace room of the Florence church building, Mario finally surrendered his cigarettes to the Lord.

Mario remembered Del Rosso and his strong commitment to the Church of the Nazarene, its doctrine, and polity. "When he spoke of Kansas City (and the church's headquarters)," said Mario, "I almost had visions of a Nazarene Vatican."

The Sunday night services at the church became very special events. Often, Del Rosso's nephew would drive all the way to Florence from Empoli just to be in the service even though he was not a Christian. A florist on the nearby busy street would close up early Sunday evening to come and listen to the music.

Del Rosso began to look toward opening work in Naples. He and Earl Morgan discussed the possibility of asking Nazarene leaders for another missionary couple to send to Naples. Some contacts were begun with a young fellow living in Naples who had been with Del Rosso when Del Rosso was helping organize the Apostolic church.

Morgan continued to remind Del Rosso that he had been sent with the responsibility of starting a Bible school. Del Rosso's response was, "The Lord will provide the workers." Del Rosso was a strongly motivated self-starter, and he looked for the same kind of person. He also knew that his own Bible school training had not really equipped him to be a holiness evangelist and church planter. He thus had trouble envisioning a Bible school that could adequately do such a job. But Morgan kept talking, and finally, after a couple of years, Del Rosso acquiesced. Evening classes were begun in Florence for some of the local young people. It was to these evening classes that Vanderpool referred when he talked about the Florence Nazarene training school in In Their Steps.

In 1954 the Italian Nazarenes published a hymnal with tunes from the Nazarene English hymnal Glorious Gospel Hymns using either Del Rosso's translations of the English words or entirely new lyrics composed by him. Del Rosso would often write the words to a song in one sitting. With his accordion on his lap to try out each phrase as he went, he would read the English words and dictate to Niny the Italian lyrics. Hymn writing, as well as articles for the little magazine, was done on his trips between Civitavecchia, Rome, and Florence. Sermon preparation, on the other hand, was usually done during early morning walks. His preaching normally had a vein of subtle humor running through it.

Together with his daughter Maria, Del Rosso helped Earl Morgan put out a mimeographed booklet titled Sanctification by Faith. A Biblical study of holiness, it was a series of messages that Morgan had preached in the Florence church. It's a little booklet that was revised and re-printed 25 years later.

In January of 1955, the now 65-year-old Del Rosso wrote to the three main leaders of the group in Rome, reminding them that they were Nazarenes and that they must be in full knowledge of and in full agreement with the Manual (however, they did only have his short abridgment to study). He wrote, "You must clearly teach the baptism of the Holy Spirit." He reminded them that the Church of the Nazarene uses the biblical principle of tithing to finance the Lord's work. One of these men, Pio Boccini, became one of the strongest givers percentage-wise in the Italian Nazarene movement, quite often fasting in order to be able to give more to the church.

Del Rosso urged these men not to get mixed up with the Pentecostals because, he told them, "sooner or later, the doctrine of tongues will disturb the souls, forcing them away from genuine sanctification."

Del Rosso would be severely criticized for not having led the Italian Nazarenes into stronger financial self-support. But that probably stemmed not so much from a lack of desire on his part as it did from the fact that what he had at this point were not really organized churches. They were basically only preaching points using homes, a rented hall in Civitavecchia, and a one-room church in Florence. That Del Rosso did not view self-support as an impossibility (as some have accused him) can be seen in what he wrote in a May, 1955 letter to Nazarene General Superintendent Benner. In that letter, Del Rosso wrote: "The Italian Nazarenes are like anyone else -- when they have got the spiritual blessing, they are glad to give the material."

Construction on a combination parsonage-sanctuary was begun in Civitavecchia in 1955. It cost more than Del Rosso had projected (not an unusual happening in any Italian building project!) and he wound up having to use $6,000 of Alabaster money which had been earmarked for Catania. It was a decision that aroused some long-lasting hard feelings among the Sicilians. He also had to use some money that had been earmarked for Naples. The Civitavecchia building was a good investment, though, and constructing it now looks like a wise move. For years, the Civitavecchia church was the strongest Nazarene church in Italy organizationally, numerically, and financially.

Nazarene work in Naples opened in 1956 under the leadership of a lay preacher who had formerly been with the Apostolic Church. By 1959, the work in this large metropolitan area (it has a population comparable to that of Houston, TX) had grown to four preaching points. It was a year of change in the Florence area. A baby was born to Thelma and Earl Morgan and Maria Del Rosso married and moved to Rome. Even with her move, Maria continued to serve as editor of the mimeographed Nazarene magazine while a young man in the Florence congregation, Vincenzo Izzo, took over the periodical's production and distribution. Vincenzo was active in the evening Bible school classes run by Earl Morgan. Later, he would marry one of Ado Lagomarsino's daughters and become a pastor in the Naples area.

Even up until this point in time, the Nazarene work was not without opposition from the government. A 1931 law promulgated by Mussolini's fascist government required evangelicals to obtain police permission for every service they conducted -- whether inside or outside of the church building. That law had remained in effect even after the fall of fascism, and thus allowed zealous and bigoted Catholic public officials to continue to persecute evangelicals. In fact, in 1952 Del Rosso had written in the Other Sheep, "The authorities are Catholic, and they do many things to hinder people from coming to the services." Finally, however, in a victory for Italian evangelicals this law requiring permission for every evangelical church service was struck down as unconstitutional by the Italian Supreme Court on March 19, 1957.

Within days of that court decision Del Rosso had written to some of his co-workers, "Beginning now, we can meet whenever and wherever we want, and no authority can stop us!"

In the same year, Del Rosso completed 50 years as a born-again Christian. Reminiscing on that anniversary Del Rosso wrote, "The Devil has tried in these fifty years to kill my soul and body in many different ways. But today I can say I have fought a good fight . . . I have kept the faith."

It was also in 1957 that Del Rosso had to go to Montalcino to conduct the funeral of his old friend and Sunday school teacher from Siena, Carlo Padeletti. Not long. afterward, the preaching point that had been functioning in the Padeletti private chapel since 1930 was closed down.

In August of 1957, the Morgans returned to the U.S. for a home assignment year. They had completed five years of service in Italy and were due for a year of home assignment to get reacquainted with families and to hold deputation services. Their departure, however, wound up leaving the field without a missionary for the next three years. Earl had just written a Nazarene mission book entitled They of Italy Salute You. Published in the spring of 1958, the book gave an overview of the Italian Nazarene work centered on the lives of several Italian workers.

To fill the gap left in Florence by the Morgans' departure, Del Rosso got Elio Milazzo to join the church and named him the pastor in Florence. A former medical student who felt a call to preach, Milazzo had been working with both the Nazarenes and the Salvation Army. He was the first full-time addition to the pastoral staff the Nazarenes had made in their 10 years of work in Italy. The relationship between him and Del Rosso would be a stormy one because both men were strong-willed. Furthermore, Milazzo's tendency to come off as somewhat harsh grated on Niny.

In 1959 General Superintendent Powers made a visit to Italy. Thelma Morgan had just been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. That, coupled with some visa problems the Morgans were having, led the Nazarene Department of Foreign Missions to re-assign them to Lebanon.

In the Del Rosso study one day, Dr. Powers was discussing the implications of this with the only two full-time Nazarene workers: Del Rosso and Milazzo. The conversation turned to Del Rosso's age and his upcoming mandatory retirement as district superintendent. Del Rosso asked, "But who will be superintendent if I step down?"

"What about him?" said Dr. Powers, motioning to Milazzo, this young, new Nazarene who had just so recently become pastor of Florence.

"Why, he's not even ordained," objected Del Rosso.

The already-strained relationship between the two of them did not take long to break. In January of 1960, Milazzo resigned as the Florence pastor and, within three months, had been taken in by the Mennonite Church as director of their radio ministry. With no missionary around and no one in sight to pick up the reins from Del Rosso, Milazzo had become convinced that Nazarene work in Italy would fold with Del Rosso's retirement. Kansas City seemed just too far away. Milazzo later realized he had misjudged the Nazarenes and their commitment to world evangelism. As he watched Nazarene work from the outside, Elio Milazzo came to marvel at "the gift of the general superintendency. Those men could arrive on a plane and within a few hours grasp the situation perfectly."

Del Rosso's days as district superintendent were drawing to a close. He was seventy years old, and the Nazarene polity clearly said in the Manual: "No superintendent shall serve beyond the District Assembly following his seventieth birthday."

Alfredo Del Rosso may not have been all that the church could have hoped for in a model pioneer district superintendent. Still, in 12 years Del Rosso helped plant the Nazarene witness in central and southern Italy. He had published a hymnal filled with lyrics he had written or translated. He had translated and published two books. He had inspired several young men to enter the ministry. He had overseen the construction of two buildings and got the Nazarenes to begin focusing their attention on Europe. For example, in 1958, two years previous to Del Rosso's retirement, Jerry Johnson was sent to Germany to start the work there.

Del Rosso may not have succeeded totally in getting the Italian work on its feet organizationally, but he had planted the Nazarene flag in key Italian cities and had insisted that wherever the name Nazarene was carried, the message of holiness would be preached. All in all, that's not a bad legacy for a man to leave. . . . [ continue reading ]

  Page:   ←Prev  |    1: Introduction  |    2: If this  be Pentecostalism  |    3: Out under the sta rs  |    4: The Nazarenes have landed and the  situation is well in hand  |   5: Superintendent Del Rosso  |    6: Retirement? Not quite  |    7: Retirement? Finally  |   Next→  

Retirement? Not quite

Next chapterBefore the arrival of the Cerratos, Del Rosso said that he could not see himself retiring. He felt the work was too important to flounder while an American (even if he did have Italian blood) attempted to learn the language and to acculturate himself. And besides, it was not all that abnormal for a man approaching retirement age to become very protective of the organization he has founded. . . . [ more ]

Material for this biography was gathered in Italy in the late 1970s from letters, books, magazine articles, and interviews with many of the principal characters including several missionaries to Italy, Alfredo Del Rosso himself (1890-1985), and members of his family. Many of those interviewed for this biography have since died.

Printed resources include In Their Steps by D. I. Vanderpool (Beacon Hill Press, 1956) and They of Italy Salute You by Earl Morgan (Nazarene Publishing House, 1958)

The manuscript of this book is in the Wesleyan Holiness Digital Library

    -- Howard Culbertson,

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