Fr. Domenic Roscioli is a storyteller. Whether presenting a mission or delivering a homily, he pulls the heartstrings or tickles the funnybones of his audience with his tales.
After presenting a parish mission last year in Florida, participants wondered if his many stories were available on CD.
They are now – two CDs recorded by the enterprising priest and filled with tales from his many life experiences. For example, he recalls the story of chaperoning a group of seriously ill children to Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ireland one year. Two busloads of kids and camp counselors traveled to a former English military base to swim in their Olympic-sized pool, when jeeps filled with armed soldiers suddenly surrounded the bus. After a rather rude order to the bus driver by a curt soldier, the bus driver left for the military office, while the campers remained on the bus.
A senior priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Fr. Roscioli, one of the camp counselors, was apprehensive about what might transpire. Turns out there had been a bomb threat. Finally, the campers were allowed to swim and get back on the bus, with a quick stop at the commissary for ice cream on a stick.
“The bus driver took a liking to this little frail kid from England – they whispered, and suddenly the kid, with a strong British accent reached his arm out to that redheaded soldier and offered him an ice cream,” explained Fr. Roscioli, who remembers craning his head out the bus window to see if an Irish soldier would receive ice cream from an English kid.
The soldier moved close to the boy’s outstretched arm, moved his gun to the back of his body and accepted the ice cream.
“We all live somewhere between guns and ice cream,” explained 63-year-old Fr. Roscioli, a Kenosha resident. “We have hurt experiences and nurturing experiences like ice cream, and what is most important is to remain on the ice cream side and go from there.”
Reminder that all life is precious
This story and many others are a compilation of personal experiences that the priest shares in parish missions. From growing up Italian Catholic and attending an Irish Catholic school to his work with Newman’s camps, the stories were so popular that he has released his first two CDs in a series designed to reclaim Catholic joy. The first CD is titled “Guns and Ice Cream” and the second is “Smashing Potato Chips.”
“Guns and Ice Cream,” or “Smashing Potato Chips” are available for $15 each through
Andreas Gift Shop
St. Gregory School office
For other Fr. Dom products
“I got the idea after doing a parish mission in Florida last year,” said Fr. Roscioli. “What I do is to run the missions by telling stories. I talk about camp, about growing up Catholic in the ‘50s and growing up Italian Catholic. Some of the stories are funny, some make you laugh and some make you cry. But the premise of the stories is to remind people that all life is precious from womb to tomb and all in between.”
Fr. Roscioli is a familiar name in the Milwaukee Archdiocese and around the country for his charitable efforts to support Next Step, a camp for those over 16, and run similar to Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camps.
Next Step camps are free 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 CDs are a companion fundraising effort to Fr. Dom’s Duck Doo, Holy Spirits Wine, food products, apparel, books, saint cards and gift baskets.
Time to ‘reclaim the joy’
As a separate mission, which Fr. Roscioli calls a parish mission within a mission, a needy family is identified and is the recipient of product sales and raffles after the mission concludes.
“The parish gives us the name of a family struggling with a life-threatening illness and we try to have that part of the mission focus on action, rather than just prayer,” he explained. “Faith calls us to action and we do a giveaway, raffle and offer part of the proceeds from our CD sales to the family. Then we set up all the food items and wines and have people order them, and that becomes more fundraising for that family. My business partner, Jody Becker, came up with this idea and it has been very well received.”
With the sexual abuse crisis plaguing Catholic dioceses world wide, Fr. Roscioli admits that Catholics have been scarred over the past decade. It’s time, he said, to reclaim the joy of the Catholic faith again.
“I try to, in the stories, show people that oftentimes what appears to be the roughest of times leads to the best of times in where the Spirit leads you,” he said. “I often quote the poet Hilaire Belloc, who said, ‘Wherever the Catholic Son doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine.’”
People can make a difference
He tells the story of Richard who had a brain tumor and loved to tell jokes, but his jokes didn’t always have the right ending to them, due to his illness, and if you didn’t already know the ending to the joke, you wouldn’t know to laugh. Richard wanted to take part in the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp talent show, but Fr. Roscioli was nervous that Richard wouldn’t receive the appropriate responses to his jokes.
“So we painted on butcher paper a big sign that said, ‘Please laugh at Richard’s jokes and stood behind him with the sign as he was telling his jokes,’” he explained. “And if you are forcing laughter with 250 people laughing their heads off at jokes that don’t make sense, it is contagious. And then, I tell people to be thankful for the Richards in their lives. I just try to connect each story with those in my audience and try to help them to see that they can each make such a difference in the world.”
Personal stories of faith
The CDs include personal aspects of Fr. Roscioli’s diagnosis of sarcoidosis and cancer, which he explains was a blessing, as it changed the way he preached and prayed.
“When someone comes up to you and asks what you did that God gave you cancer, or wants to know what they did that their child has cancer, we can say it is God’s will, but really, God didn’t do this,” he explained. “Look at the air we are breathing, and what we are drinking. He allowed it to happen, and I believe it is so God’s glory can shine through. When we are threatened, we are at our best. When someone is sick, we worry about them, and their care is focused, and when we get pushed against the wall, our hearts explode with love. When a crowd hears a priest say that it isn’t your fault, the whole thing takes on a sense of freedom.”