The Fr. John Papallo Lodge # 2684 of the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) was granted its charter on November 5, 1994. The lodge encompasses the Hamlets of Kings Park, San Remo and Fort Salonga. Membership is open to men and women.
John Misso, Palma Reda and Salvatore Banchitta are the lodge founders. They were friends who had the vision and pride in their heritage to turn an idea into a reality. It was their desire to invite the Italian-American community to celebrate the culture, customs and traditions of their ancestors who helped to build our great country. Finding the right person after whom they would name the new lodge was a challenging task. It was important that they find someone who was truly worthy of such an honor. That someone was Fr. John Papallo, a spiritual advisor at the Kings Park Psychiatric facility and a frequent celebrant at St. Joseph’s Church.
Fr. Papallo’s ancestors came from Martone, Reggio Calabria and Amalfi, Italy. He was one of five children born to Nicholas and Florence Papallo in Meriden Connecticut. As a young man, John Papallo seriously considered two vocations; the priesthood and a career as a classical singer. It was while preparing for an audition with the Metropolitan Opera Workshop that John met Fr. Modestus Papi, Director of the Shrine of the Holy House in Loreto, Italy, who encouraged him to join the Capuchin Order. After his ordination, Fr. John served as spiritual advisor and counselor to the incarcerated and the mentally ill. In 1984, he was appointed Chaplain to the Kings Park Psychiatric Center where he helped post-psychiatric patients reenter society. Throughout his ministry, Fr, John also exhibited a special resolve to help the homeless, terminally ill and people struggling with addictions. He is remembered as an inspirational force to all who knew him in his commitment to serve others and to help them to reach their fullest human and spiritual potential. Fr. John Papallo’s life ended tragically in an automobile accident on May 1, 1989. Indeed, the lodge founders felt fortunate and privileged to have found such a humble, reverent and honorable man after whom to name their new lodge. John Misso was the first president of the Fr. John Papallo Lodge and served for four years. Other past presidents include Enrico J. Annichiarico (1999-2001) and Maria Misso (2001-2003). All contributed to make the lodge a vital entity in the community and in the Order Sons of Italy in America. The current president, Anthony J. DiChiara, continues that commitment.
The lodge maintains a strong presence in the Kings Park community by working cooperatively with the School District, Chamber of Commerce, Library, Veterans’ Organizations and the Kings Park Heritage Museum. Through fund-raisers such as its Annual Scholarship Dinner Dance Journal, Pasta Night, Craft Fairs and the Fr. John Papallo Memorial Golf Outing, the lodge awards scholarships to graduating high school students, provides financial support to the Kings Park Student Activities Fund and contributes generously to local charities and civic initiatives.
The Fr. John Papallo Lodge prides itself in its promotion of Italian language and culture. In cooperation with the Kings Park School District, it implemented programs such as Ciao Italiano for grades 3-4 and Aurora for grades 5-6. These after school programs achieved great popularity and stimulated interest among students to continue the study of Italian. In response to that interest, the lodge appealed to the school district to include Italian in its foreign language offerings. The school board approved the request and the district started an Italian program in the middle school. The first classes were comprised mostly of Aurora graduates. Since its inception, the school district’s Italian language program has expanded and it continues to maintain strong student enrollment.
The lodge provides a busy social and cultural calendar that begins in February with its annual Mass and breakfast to celebrate Fr. John Papallo’s birthday. During the year, members and friends enjoy trips to various places of cultural and recreational interest such as the Opera, Ellis Island, Arthur Avenue, Radio City Music Hall and Atlantic City. The Lodge sponsors Italian classes for adults and frequently invites guest speakers to its general meetings. In October, it presents a cultural night for the community and sets up a month long cultural display in the Kings Park Heritage Museum to commemorate Italian Cultural Month. Other social and fraternal activities include; pasta night, dine arounds, parades, lodge picnic, dinner dance and Christmas party.
The lodge participates in many of the functions and activities sponsored by the New York State Grand Lodge of the Order Sons of Italy in America and contributes to a number of its charities. It also supports cultural programs conducted at Hofstra University, Suffolk County Community College, SUNY at Farmingdale, Center for Italian Studies at SUNY Stony Brook, Association of Italian American Educators and the Italian American Writers’ Association.
Membership is at a high of well over 200 brothers and sisters who are supportive of the lodge’s financial, social and fraternal goals. Without question, the success and growth of the Fr. John Papallo Lodge are attributed to the Italian hearts and busy hands of its members. Inspired by the life and legacy of Father John, they have worked diligently to make it a respected fraternal organization with a reputation for generosity and service to the community. It is through their loyalty and solidarity that the lodge remains firm in its commitment to participate in all aspects of the Order Sons of Italy in America. Indeed, their dedication and commitment have enabled the lodge to create, by service and example, a positive image of Italian Americans.