Spirits among saints

A holy water font at each door, candles, home altars, crucifixes in every room, statues and magnificent paintings of saints permeated Fr. Dominic Roscioli’s Kenosha home when he was a little boy. Years later, his memories of growing up Catholic are met with reverence and awe, a life tightly tied to the church.

“When I was living in my grandparents’ house and growing up Catholic in the 1950s, it seemed that everywhere in the house, someone was looking back at you,” said Fr. Roscioli. “We had St. Anthony in the hall, St. Rocco in the kitchen, a crucifix in every room, St. Francis of Assisi and Mary were everywhere.”

HolySpirits05

Fr. Dominic Roscioli hopes Holy Spirits wines raise funds for charity and bring the saints back into people’s lives. The labels of Holy Spirits wine feature pictures of saints, and in one case, Jody Becker’s dog appears with St. Rocco, on the bottle of cabernet sauvignon. Becker and Carlo Pedrone are partners with Fr. Roscioli in developing Holy Spirits. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)

With fondness, Fr. Roscioli jokingly admitted he was never quite sure if he lived in this world or the next because angels and saints surrounded him all the time. As generations moved along, Catholic imagery was much less evident in the homes he visited as a young priest.

“I would be with people in their homes and have to look for some sign of a saint, or picture or anything holy,” he said. “When people moved on to the next generation from their old immigrant roots, most of the saints and Catholic symbolism were left behind.”

In an effort to rekindle an interest in the saints, Fr. Roscioli and partners Jody Becker and Carlo Pedone have developed Holy Spirits wine to bridge that connection. The wines, available in stores, online and in select restaurants feature saints matched with wine varietals.

“When I was growing up, I remember the street processions each year at Mt. Carmel Parish, and began to think about the holy spirits. I imagined that they were really a bunch of saints sitting around the table of the Lord,” he explained. “They lost contact with people on the earth and their mission is to march home to our house. I wanted to find a non-threatening way to reach people who may not go to church and thought this might help them connect with their Catholic roots.”

Fr. Roscioli, Becker and Pedone began with three varieties of wine: Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Nick and St. Rocco. Each blend, produced by the Windsor Winery in California, complements the personality and mission of that particular saint. The label explains a bit about the saint’s life as if the saint were speaking directly to the reader.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is Mary, mother of Jesus, talking about choosing a sweet Riesling to reflect the “sweet bouquet of mysteries whispered to me by God’s angels.”

St. Nick, a third century bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, chose a Merlot because the dark blue grape reminds him of the winter sky.

Wealthy, but restless, St. Rocco lived in the Middle Ages, gave everything away and walked to Rome to see if God would talk to him. His journey became his destination as he noticed many people ill and dying due to the black plague.

Information on
Holy Spirits wine
http://www.holyspiritswine.com
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Wine can be purchased at
Tenuta Delicatessen and Liquors, 3203 52nd St., Kenosha
Discount Liquor,
5031 W. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee
Stores interested in carrying Holy Spirits wine, contact
sales promoter:
Mike Meleski,
(414) 329-0964

“He decided to help care for them and pray for them, but ended up getting the plague himself,” said Fr. Roscioli. “He was literally dying in the fields and a dog showed up with a loaf of Italian bread in his teeth and brought the bread to him. He got better and became the patron saint of contagious disease and of dogs.”

St. Rocco “chose” a cabernet sauvignon to reflect his journey.

Fr. Roscioli, well known for his charitable efforts, such as Fr. Dom’s Duck Doo and his 20 years of volunteering for the late Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall camps for children with life threatening illnesses, said sales of Holy Spirits will benefit charities and support Next Step.

Instituted by former Wisconsinite Bill Kubicek, Next Step picks up after children age out of Hole in the Wall.

“Kids began feeling left out when they turned 16, because Hole in the Wall is designed for kids ages 7 through 15,” said Fr. Roscioli, himself a cancer survivor. “This program carries the kids through young adulthood.”

Like Hole in the Wall, the camps are free of charge for teens and young adults suffering from cancer and include weekend retreats and longer adventures such as hiking, canoeing, kayaking and other road trips.

The Holy Spirits mission is to combine fundraising with bringing the saints back into people’s lives, perhaps promoting lively conversations over dinner and a glass of wine.

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Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni

“We have basically set up a for-profit company with a non-profit mission similar to Newman’s Own,” Fr. Roscioli said, referring to the late actor’s line of food products. “A certain percentage of profits go to Next Step and the rest go into growing our company.”

Early feedback on the wines is favorable, according to Fr. Roscioli, who has expanded the line to include wines named for St. Patrick, St. Joseph, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Joan of Arc, St. Anthony and St. Francis of Assisi. Eventually, the 12 apostles will be added to the line.

“Everyone who tasted our wine has loved it,” he said. “We had a wine tasting party and a professional wine taster said that our wine came from a very good winery. We definitely wanted a good product.”

Built into the $14.95 per bottle price is a donation to Next Step. Additionally, groups, individuals and parishes can purchase the wines to benefit their charitable organizations. Fifteen percent of the total profits return to the organization and the remaining profits go to Next Step and the wine company. If no charity is specified, all of the profit percentage benefits Next Step.

“We also plan to offer wine with the parish namesake on it, and then it can be sold by the glass or bottle at a festival and additionally ordered online to be delivered to their homes,” Fr. Roscioli said. “That will give another way to donate to the parish.”

Another facet of the Holy Spirits collection would be the addition of juice boxes for kids, with a similar concept.

“I want the front of the box to be a holy card for the kids to punch out,” he said. “We used to collect baseball cards and now I have a collection of holy cards from funerals, so I thought it would be fun to make collectable holy cards that have the saint on the front and their life on the back. It would be good fundraiser for schools and the kids would learn that we are surrounded by angels and saints.”

While raising funds for charity, Catholic schools and churches is important to Fr. Roscioli, most important is his mission to teach that saints are ordinary people who have responded to God’s grace and did extraordinary things — and that the same is true for people today.

“They can be people who sit next to you at table, and have the same power for good if they respond to God’s message,” he said. “The whole thing has been a lot of fun and inspirational.”

Although he would not admit it, Fr. Roscioli’s efforts to serve others mirror the very saints he places on his bottles of wine. Why does he spend so much time and energy helping others and trying to build the community of saints?

“Sometimes, I feel crazed, moved and carried high into the sky, then dropped into some place new by God’s Holy Spirit,” he admitted. “Surrounded by such love, how can I not do the things I do? I have always felt caught between this world and the next, so I guess what I do is my feeble attempt to bridge the two worlds. There is such a thin line….”

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