from Mary Mintey

When I went to live in the Ananda Community near Assisi, Italy, I fell in love with the city of St. Francis, and everything else about that country. No matter how Italian I felt in my heart, my American tourist visa still ran out every three months and I couldn’t stay permanently.

My maternal grandparents came from Italy [see “Grandpa and the Lady”] and immigrants, I learned, had protected the right of their progeny to return to the “home country” if ever they chose to do so. Because of my grandfather, I might qualify for Recognition of Italian Citizenship.

I went to New York, where I was born and raised, to gather the long list of required documents. Right away I ran into a glitch.

My grandmother lived in an entirely Italian world. Her babies were born at home. Afterwards, a birth certificate was obtained from the City of New York. My mother’s birth certificate was filled out by American authorities who completely misunderstood my grandmother. She, being illiterate, had no idea a mistake had been made.

My mother’s name is “Carmello,” but it was written down with two more syllables and spelled with a “K.” The surname was equally garbled. My mother’s birth certificate was for a person who never existed, and there was no certificate for my mother as she was. Everything that happened afterwards in her childhood was in an Italian-speaking world, and when she became an adult, she spoke English. So that erroneous name never appeared again.

This was critical because it was through her that the link was formed to my grandfather. My mother had died years before, so she couldn’t straighten it out herself. The New York State Department of Records told me I could go to court and legally change her name to match her parents, but that would take years and cost thousands of dollars.

I was bewildered. Ananda Assisi felt like my spiritual home. My desire to live there was no mere whim; it was God-inspired. Why would He give me that desire then make it impossible to fulfill? Still, if this were His will, I prayed for the detachment to accept it—addressing my prayer to my Guru, and also to my grandfather, since it was because of him that this was possible at all.

I awoke suddenly in the middle of the night when an inner voice of divine power declared, “Don’t give up!” Suddenly, I was flooded with ideas of how to get around this difficulty.

It took many weeks and several trips between my home in California, New York City, and Florida (where my father was living), to accumulate everything I needed. My father had held my mother’s birth certificate since the day they were married. Whatever name was written on it, he could swear it was hers. Many of the documents had been originally drawn up in Italian. Each had to be officially translated and marked with a seal. I had to find baptism and communion records in churches that had long since closed or relocated.

No matter what difficulties I encountered, I never lost focus or faith. Negative thoughts found no home in me. Even people who love me would not describe me as a confident, powerful person; but from the moment that voice woke me in the night, I was a version of myself I had never seen before. The command “Don’t give up!” activated within me a force that would not be stopped. Whenever one door closed, immediately I found another door to open.

One Friday afternoon at the New York Department of Records I was told that the only official who could give me the signature I needed had already left for the weekend. I was flying back to California the next day and nothing could be done until this signature was obtained, which meant yet one more trip across country.

As I walked out of the building, I remembered that the clerk had said the official worked “upstairs.” I went back to the lobby and studied the list of offices by the elevator. I didn’t know the man’s name or where he worked. “Third floor” seemed like the right one, so I went there. Faced with a long hall and many choices, I went from office to office trying to sense where I would find him. Finally, one office felt right. I explained to the person behind the desk why I was there. He took the paper and signed it. God had led me right to him.

I had been told that the Italian Consulate was very particular, so when I turned in all the papers, it was encouraging to hear the officer say, “This is very well-documented.” Six months later I received my Italian passport.