About Us

The San Silverio Shrine of Dover Plains is a not for profit catholic organization built by the immigrants from the island of Ponza, Italy as a way of preserving a piece of our Italian heritage in the United States, and showing our devotion to our patron saint from the Island of Ponza, Saint Silverio. Every year people of Italian ancestry come from all over the United States, Canada, and Italy to enjoy the festivals that are held at the Shrine. The largest, of course, is the Festival of Saint Silverio in June, which attracts well over 1,000 people each year. It is the focal point of Ponzese culture, and continues to grow every year.

Saint Silverio, a pope and martyr from sixth century Europe, is the patron saint of the island of Ponza and of fishermen. He was born in 480 in what is now Frosinone, Italy. His father, Saint. Hormistas (Pope 514-523) was married before his ordination. He was ordained pope in June of 536 during a very turbulent time in Rome. Armies of the Emperor Justinian, under General Belisarius, were battling the barbarian Goths for control of Rome. St. Silverio's predecessor, Pope Agapetus, had excommunicated and deposed Anthimus, the Patriarch of Constantinople, for supporting the Monophysite heresy. Soon after his ordination, emissaries of the Empress Theodora, wife of Justinian and a supporter of the Monophysites, to reinstate her friend Anthimus, approached St. Silverio. He refused her request. When Belisarius army marched into Rome in December 536, Theodora seized the opportunity to eliminate St. Silverio, and replace him with a pope sympathetic to her cause. She conspired with Antonina, Belisarius' wife, to produce forged evidence that convinced Belisarius that St. Silverio had conspired to surrender Rome the armies of the Goths. In March 537, St. Silverio was quickly convicted, deposed, exiled to Lycia in Asia Minor, and placed in the custody of the Bishop of Patara. Vigilius, a friend of Theodora, was ordained pope. The Bishop of Patara didn't believe the charges, and brought St. Silverio's appeal to Justinian personally. After meeting with him, Justinian ordered that St. Silverio be taken back to Rome, and ordered Belisarius to investigate the possibility that the incriminating documents were forged. Theodora, however, was not to be denied her victory. She had St. Silverio's transport seized and diverted to Parmarola, an island in the Gulf of Gaeta, where he would eventually die of starvation in November of 537.

While San Silverio died largely unlamented by his contemporaries, the citizens of the neighboring island of Ponza would not forget the virtuous man that would briefly touch their lives. Through the years the Ponzese have remembered and revered St. Silverio, and have carried their devotion with them wherever they settled in the world. Many of the Ponzese would come to New York in the early to mid-twentieth century and settled in the Morris Avenue section of the South Bronx. Centered at Our Lady of Pity Church on 151st Street and Morris Avenue, they would continue to celebrate the Festival of San Silverio just as they had for hundreds of years on their native island of Ponza.

In 1954, the Ponzese donated a small shrine to the Our Lady of Pity church. As the Ponzese prospered in the United States, a group led by Ercito Mazzella believed it was time to build a more inspiring monument dedicated to Saint Silverio. He facilitated the purchase of an 81-acre tract of land in Dover Plains, New York, and through the donations of many people, the San Silverio Shrine of Dover Plains was born. In 1962, the first annual San Silverio Dinner and Dance was held to help support the construction of the Shrine. On November 18, 1963 the San Silverio Shrine was officially incorporated. With Ercito Mazzella as acting president, a provisional Board of Directors was picked to organize the membership and hold an election. In June 1964, the mass and festival of San Silverio was celebrated for the first time in Dover Plains. On October 4, 1964, the first official general membership meeting was held. The corporation's by-laws were read and adopted, followed by nominations for the first board elections. The first election was held on November 1, 1964.

The newly elected board was sworn on December 6, before their first official meeting under new president, Dr. Luigi Mazzella. In 1965, the mass of St. Silverio was celebrated for the first time at the newly completed chapel. The Shrine continued to grow and change to meet the needs of the growing society, and in the 1970's the picnic ground shelter and playground were added. The shelter can accommodate up to 1,500 people. The Stations of the Cross walkway was added in the early 1980's, followed by the pool and tennis courts. The Luigi Zecca Memorial Pavilion was completed in 1993, and in 2001, a baseball field, was completed. In 2011, the Shrine developed the Padre Pio Sanctuary & Walkway. Finally in 2012 and 50th Anniversary year, new restrooms were constructed at the Shrine for the convenience of our Members. Other annual events celebrated at the Shrine include: Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, St Joseph’s Day, Feast of San Silverio, Membership Day, Feast of Assumption, and the Feast of St. Padre Pio. The Shrine is also available for private events for members and other religious organizations who wish to enjoy the Shrine.

The Shrine has been blessed with so many volunteers who continue to beautify the gorgeous property! The organization is supported by over six hundred members across the United States and Canada.

 

The San Silverio Shrine of Dover Plains is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization and donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. View IRS charitable designation.

Updated on February 1st, 2014 | §Permalink



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