Marines, Sailors Beautify Catania Church

Marines, Sailors Beautify Catania Church

LCpl Louis Bardel, a mortarman with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis-Response, Detachment A dusts a chandelier inside the Church of San Nicolo in Catania, Italy, Jan. 31. More than 20 Marines and Sailors assigned to SPMAGTF-CR-AF travelled from Naval Air Station Sigonella to Catania to help beautify the nearly 1,000-year-old church. Photo by LCpl Lucas J. Hopkins.

CATANIA, Italy (Feb. 3, 2015) – More than 50 Marines and Sailors from Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis-Response, Detachment A, and Sailors assigned to Naval Air Station Sigonella, helped beautify the Church of San Nicolo in the Piazza Dante in Catania, Italy, Jan. 31. 

In an attempt to further solidify the relationship between NAS Sigonella service members and the Sicilian community, the Marines and Sailors travelled to the nearly 1,000-year-old church, where they helped move more than 100 cases of relics, dusted the chorus area, and carried slabs of marble and granite. The cleanup was in preparation for the Festival of Sant'Agata, which is scheduled for Feb. 3rd through the 5th.

"It was an important moment to become a part of the cultural fabric of the city that's hosting us," said Dana M. Rains, a management analyst at Naval Supply Systems Command, who helped coordinate the cleanup and translated for the participants. 

The community of Catania was the benefactor of the service member's efforts, which previous Special-Purpose MAGTF's have accomplished in other areas as well. For the Marines and Sailors, it was an opportunity to give back and see a new part of the world.

"[Our work] creates a stronger relationship between the two different communities, not only between [NAS Sigonella] and Sicily, but the United States and Italy in general," said LCpl Louis J. Bardel, a mortarman with SPMAGTF-CR-AF. "Even though it's a small effort, I think it sets the tone for us being here."

While the service members were sprucing up the church, they were paid a visit by Archbishop of Catania Salvatore Gristina. The Marines and Sailors took a break from cleaning, as Gristina spoke, posed for pictures, and blessed the service members.

I admire the generosity of these young service members, who are already committed to very difficult work," said Gristina. "Coming here and helping out, it's important to appreciate their work. We can see the results of their great volunteer effort."

The Marines and Sailors of SPMAGTF-CR-AF arrived in Italy earlier in the week. With six months left in the rotational cycle, Rains is looking forward to working with this group again.

"I think we all worked well together, and I think we were highly successful. Once again we sealed our bond of friendship with the community, which is what we always set out to do," said Rains.

The Marines and Sailors of SPMAGTF-CR-AF strive to be good shepherds in their local communities, all while conducting theater security cooperation and military-to-military engagements with partner nations in Africa. is the official website of the United States Marine Corps and is maintained by the Marine Corps' Division of Public Affairs.