(Mar. 24, 1878-June 11, 1946). Founding pastor of Holy Rosary Catholic Parish, Marino Priori was born at Montefalcone Appennino in the Marches province of Italy. Priori became a Franciscan and was ordained in 1901 at age 17. In 1908, he immigrated to the United States and served Italian quarry workers in Bedford, Indiana. Shortly afterward, Protestant proselytization among Indianapolis Italians resulted in his transfer to the Hoosier capital.

Holy Rosary Church congregants, October 1933
© Digital Image 2009 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.

Holy Rosary was organized in 1909 and, for a quarter-century, Priori served a largely Italian community of parishioners (see Catholics). He registered them for the draft and helped organize relief efforts for Italian war victims during World War I. He became an American citizen in 1922 and was formally accepted as a priest in the Indianapolis Diocese in 1931. Under Bishop Joseph Chartrand, he constructed the present church, adjoining convent, and grade school in 1923-1925. Priori also published Eternal Light, a local religious magazine, and amassed a small collection of religious art.

Priori’s parishioners did not respond well to his financial appeals, for traditionally the state or wealthy landlords supported the Church in Italy. When the Great Depression further reduced parish income despite his best efforts, Chartrand’s successor, Bishop Joseph E. Ritter, transferred Priori to Troy, Indiana, in 1934.

Priori received several honors for his activities among Indianapolis Italians. Pope Pius XI created him a monsignor (1933) and awarded him Pro Ecclesia et Fontifice, for distinguished service to the Catholic church (1924), and the Benemerenti medal, originally established to recognize soldiers in the papal army. King Victor Emmanuel III made him a knight of the Royal Crown of Italy (1932). Retiring in 1941, Priori helped bolster Indianapolis Italians’ support for the United States during World War II. He died in Louisville, Kentucky, and was buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Indianapolis.

Revised February 2021

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