This past week, Toronto-based St. Joseph Communications celebrated its 50th Anniversary.
What began in 1956 as a basement letterpress operation is now the largest privately owned communications company in Canada, a leading provider of totally integrated communications solutions in content, print, documents and media. This modern success story is about the tireless efforts, vision and faith of an Italian immigrant named Gaetano Gagliano.
Gaetano's story is how someone from the small farming town of Cattolica Eraclea in Sicily, with a Grade 5 education, goes on to become the recipient of several honorary doctorates and the Order of Canada in his 80s!
In an age when marriage and family life are in crisis, the Gagliano story is about two people's love for 61 solid years resulting in 10 children, 35 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. There have also been many sacrifices.
Gaetano served in World War II and after the war returned to his Italian hometown to get married. Farming life was very difficult, especially in southern Italy after the war.
When Giuseppina was pregnant with her fifth child, the Gaglianos sold all their worldly possessions and moved to Canada. The day after he arrived in Canada, Gaetano was lucky to find work laying down tracks for CP Rail. In the beginning he laid tracks for the railroad. But in reality he was laying tracks and blazing trails for something totally bold and new. At night he printed invitations on a small press in his basement.
I recall the advice of the famous American architect Daniel Burnham to Chicago city planners a century ago: "Make no small plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood."
Gaetano had a grand vision and plan: From a little printing shop in his house, he would found a media corporation that would spread across this country. From Day 1, he named the company "St. Joseph" in honour of the foster father of Jesus, the patron saint of workers and of Canada.
But the best part came later on -- when in 2003, at 86 years of age, Gaetano founded yet another means of communication: The Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, Canada's first national, Catholic 24-hour-a day digital cable television network (saltandlighttv.org), born on the wings of World Youth Day 2002.
'HOW IS THE BABY?'
Every time Gaetano Gagliano visits us now at the new broadcast centre in downtown Toronto, he asks us, "How is the baby?" meaning, "How is Salt and Light Television?"
In less than three years, the digital cable network is now available to more than 100,000 viewers across the country on Bell ExpressVu, Videotron, Cogeco and Rogers. It's still growing!
Gaetano Gagliano's secret is very innovative yet quite simple. It involves responsibility to the community, decency, respect, integrity and lived Christian faith in God and in humanity. He succeeded in achieving balance that has made his life and business so fruitful because he learned early on about serving others and giving back to society. He stuck to his principles, no matter how successful he became.
More than 50 years ago, Gaetano Gagliano made no small plans for his communications dream. Thank God for people like Gaetano and Giuseppina who didn't need a fancy education and lots of titles to teach the world such a powerful lesson.
They have left us a legacy of outstanding family values and Gaetano has given Canadian society some sterling business practices of honesty, decency and generosity.
The Gaglianos understood what it meant to be sponsored as poor, Italian immigrants in a very uncertain time. They have taught us an important lesson about authentic sponsorship in our day.