Grillo finds strength in ‘welcoming the stranger’


Leading up to the Lumen Gentium Awards banquet, Rhode Island Catholic will feature profiles of the 15 winners in the 10 categories of the diocese’s 2016 Lumen Gentium Awards. The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on May 18. Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will benefit St. Martin de Porres Multi-Purpose Center and Fruit Hill Day Care for Seniors — are asked to register online at For any questions about the event, please call 401-277-2121.

PROVIDENCE — At the end of a busy workday, especially one in which your vocation is serving as a nurturing and dedicated teacher to the children entrusted to your care, the first thing that many might do at the end of the day is to go home and relax.

But for Rosanna I. Grillo, her extended workday is then just beginning.

Grillo, a religion and Spanish teacher for middle schoolers — as well as for those in lower grades at St. Joseph School in West Warwick, also serves as the unpaid executive director of the Scalabrini – Dukcevich Center in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Providence.

“She founded it more than 10 years ago to assist new immigrants,” said Father Peter P. Polo, C.S., the center’s spiritual adviser, in nominating Grillo for a diocesan Lumen Gentium Award for Community Service and Charitable Outreach.

“At this time under her leadership the center assists more than 1,500 families a month through the Women, Infants and Children program,” he said.

After teaching during the day, Grillo spends most evenings overseeing evening classes and activities for migrants at the Scalabrini – Dukcevich Center. Also during the week and also on weekends, she is in charge of religious education at her parish of St. Bartholomew in Providence. The daily communicant is also a supporter and promoter of Relevant Radio.

“She gives strong daily witness to our faith in everything she does and says,” Father Polo said.

For someone who does so much and looks for nothing in return, Grillo is shy about basking in the attention her efforts are receiving.

“I was completely stunned and taken off guard,” she said of being named an honoree for the award.

A native of Montreal, Grillo, 54, came to the U.S. in 1981. In the mid to late 90s, she was part of a group that started a lay Scalabrini movement to help Italian immigrants.

“Our vision has expanded for immigrants, we help anybody who is new here,” she said of the work being done each day by the very dedicated staff at the Scalabrini – Dukcevich Center. “We give them the tools to help enculturate themselves.”

They try to help immigrants establish themselves in this country and offer a variety of programs and classes, including language instruction. Grillo herself speaks four languages.

Although federal grants help to provide the W.I.C. nutrition program for new mothers, and some money is brought in through fundraisers and private donations, the human capital at the center is its lifeblood.

“We volunteer our services. That is how we support ourselves,” she said.

“We have a beautiful group of lay people, advisors and an advisory board,” she said, giving credit to a number of staff she said are equally deserving of the award.

“I am blessed with great staff,” Grillo said. “It really has been a blessing to work here with these people.”

Grillo said she was inspired early on in her faith formation by Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini, the founder of the Scalabrini Congregation, whose commitment is to welcome, watch over and defend every human being.

“He also recognized the value and dignity of each individual created in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, prompted by the words of the Gospel, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me, in Matthew 25:35,” she said.

Grillo said her faith nourishes her with the strength to serve others.

“Communion with God through the sacraments gives me the willingness, understanding and most of all, the love that I need to serve others.”