Fr. Anthony Ravalli S.J., of Ferrara Italy, arrived at St. Mary's Mission in 1845. He was never to return to his homeland. During his 39 year tenure he left an indelible mark on the history of the Bitterroot Valley, territories of the northwest and what was to become the State of Montana. His remarkable skills as an artist, carpenter and sculptor are still visible today as one visits the buildings at Historic St. Mary's. His soft-spoken manner and loving heart endeared him to whites and Indians alike. As physician he treated the ills of those for miles around and dispensed medicine from the "ride up window" in his pharmacy/cabin.
August 20, 2005 witnessed the arrival of yet another Ravalli to Montana. Carlo Ravalli and his wife Cristina traveled from Ferrara, Italy to visit the place where Fr. Anthony Ravalli had traveled 160 years ago. Five generations down the genealogical chart, Carlo, whose family has roots back to the 15th century feels lineage is important and he says, "Fr. Antonio Ravalli was an important branch," in the Ravalli family tree, "and I am one of the smallest leaves,".
Their journey has left an imprint as well. On Sunday, August 21, 2005 Historic St. Mary's Mission held a dinner to welcome the Ravalli's. Presentations, speeches, laughter and good food were shared by the many who attended the dinner. Having a Ravalli once again on the grounds of "dear Old St. Mary's" was truly a memorable and historic moment. None who were fortunate enough to meet Carlo and Cristina were left untouched by their warm and genuine spirits. Colleen Meyer, Director of Historic St. Mary's Mission said of their visit, "It is a highlight of my career to have met and shared incredible moments with family members of the beloved Fr. Anthony Ravalli."
Mass was celebrated in the Old Mission Chapel in honor of Carlo and Cristina's visit. It was an emotional moment as Carlo rang the 1879 bell in the bell tower that was designed and built by his ancestor. The historic pump organ in the choir loft softly played "Amazing Grace" for a standing room only group who were deeply moved as another man named Ravalli approached the elegantly hand carved Altar, lovingly crafted by Fr. Anthony Ravalli.
It is with heartfelt gratitude that we say "Thank You", to Carlo and Cristina, for having made this journey and shared of themselves with our Community whose history is so deeply tied to their ancestor, Fr. Anthony Ravalli.
P.O. Box 211
West End of 4th Street
Stevensville, MT 59870
The journey for Carlo and Cristina was enlightening as well as emotional. Seeing the Ravalli name emblazoned on businesses and the "Entering Ravalli County" sign gave them insight into the important role their ancestor had played in the history of the area. They were deeply touched to stand in the cabin where Fr. Ravalli treated the ill, studied, prayed and died. The couple were in awe at the magnificent 8-foot cross handmade by Father Ravalli, the furniture, shaped by simple hand tools and the incredible statues carved and painted by their ancestor. Strolling the lush green Mission grounds Carlo said, "There is a spirit present at St. Mary's, like none I have felt before."
Five generations later another Ravalli enters the Valley and signs the guestbook at Historic St. Mary's Mission.
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Last Update: 9/2/2015
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