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Luigi's labour of love


When the porch at St Ignatius Church, Norwood, needed to be retiled recently, there was no way 83-year-old Luigi Masciantonio was going to let anyone else do the work.

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Despite retiring as a tiler a decade ago, the affable Norwood parishioner dusted off his tools and set about creating a beautiful mosaic design in the entrance way.

For a few hours each day, he used his saw to make a total of 2600 cuts, creating 75 identical patterns and a border in the colours of black, red, blue and cream.

The job, which took three weeks to complete, wasn’t without its challenges.

Luigi was the tiler who laid the previous quarry tiles half a century ago and soon discovered that he had done such a good job affixing them he was unable to remove them with a jackhammer. Unperturbed, he went to ‘plan B’, applying a screed and then laying the new tiles on top.

During the work, Luigi also managed to leave his ‘mark’ by scratching his name on one of the tiles, and the name of Archbishop O’Regan on another.

“You can’t really tell they are there as it’s only a scratch on the tile and they are located in the corners of the porch, but they will be there for posterity,” he said.

Dora and Luigi Masciantonio

Parish priest Fr Chris Jenkins SJ said the finished product was stunning and the talented tiler’s work had been admired by parishioners in recent weeks. He added that Luigi and his wife Dora were much-loved and long-standing members of the parish community.

In addition to Luigi offering his services as a tiler for various projects over the years, Dora is a member of the social committee and an extraordinary minister, taking communion to five elderly parishioners in their homes each week.

The couple’s four daughters – now adults with their own children – all attended St Joseph’s Memorial School and Loreto College, so strong friendships were made with the Josephite Sisters and the Jesuit priests over the years.

“We’ve got eight grandchildren and seven of them also went to St Joseph’s Memorial,” Dora said proudly. “Luigi and I go to Mass regularly and we love the community at the church and we have made lots of friends there.”

Their journey to Norwood started in Italy, with Dora’s family immigrating when she was 11 and Luigi arriving at the age 19 with his parents.

“Dad was a prisoner of war in South Australia from 1940-47 and he always wanted to come back,” Luigi explained.

“I remember we arrived in Adelaide on January 12 1961 at 9 o’clock and by 11 o’clock there was a man there waiting to employ me…so I went to work on the same day I arrived.

“My father was very happy to be here but I was a bit disappointed when I came as there was not enough tiling to do.”

Luigi said back then most of the houses in Adelaide had wood floors, terrazzo or marble, and there were only small tiling jobs.

“Usually there was one row of tiles over the kitchen sink, one row over the bath and shower and I wondered what am I doing here,” he laughed. “But gradually more tiles were included in the houses and after a year and a half I started working for myself.”

He undertook several projects in the Archdiocese, including at St Raphael’s Church and hall in Parkside, a bathroom at Archbishop’s House on West Terrace, and tiling the pool at St Aloysius College.

Known as a hard worker, Luigi was always happy to ‘give back’ to the Church. He said his strong Catholic faith had been nurtured as a child and he recalled being involved in the YCW when he arrived in Adelaide, meeting Dora at one of the dances they held.

The couple was married in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral by Fr (later Archbishop) Leonard Faulkner in 1966 and then moved to a home in Maylands where they started attending St Ignatius Church. Relocating to live in Norwood a couple of decades ago means they are now within walking distance of the church and community that has been such an important part of their lives.


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