By Chaplain (Lieut. Col.) David DeppmeierAugust 6, 2013
Fifty-one years ago, a Southern European Task Force (SETAF), helicopter crew conducted an inspired mission in service to the people of Italy. Lead by helicopter commander, Maj. William De Loach, the aviation crew air-lifted the statue, Madonna della Sisilla, to its present-day location atop Sisilla mountain in the Italian Dolomites.
The Madonna was a creation of then-19-year-old Odilla Lissa Dal Pra, and has become a famous pilgrimage site where miracles are said to occur. To this day, the Madonna watches over millions of hikers and visitors who travel to the Dolomites each year.
The statue continues to serve as a symbol of unity between Italy and the United States.
Each year hundreds of Italians meet at the base of the Sisilla Mountain to join in a Mass and ceremony. This year, Chaplain (Col.) Charlie Reynolds, U.S. Army Africa Command Chaplain, and Italian Army Sgt. Maj. Massimiliano Ortolan represented SETAF at the Mass, which took place on July 5th and was conducted by the Bishop of Vicenza, Bishop Beniamino Pizziol.
The gathering included dignitaries, as well as the statue's creator, Odilla Lissa Dal Pra, who expressed her appreciation that a U.S. Army chaplain was among those representing SETAF this year.
Following the events, the dignitaries and guests gathered for lunch. During the meal, Chaplain Reynolds had the honor of sitting beside Odilla Lissa Dal Pra, who told the story of Madonna della Sisilla's creation.
Along with the Mass and ceremony, Italian Sgt. Maj. Ortolan arranged for a professional mountain guide to lead the group on the steep climb up the mountain to where the statue stands.