Fr. Michael Della Penna with the children

Welcome o The Valley Of The Angels

Fr. Michael Della Penna with childrenTHIS PAGE IS DEDICATED TO FATHER ROCCO FAMIGLIETTI, OFM. What could be a more fitting tribute than to publish his own words. The following is a letter from Father Rocco describing his own dream come true.


"In the forty years or more that I, Fr. Rocco Famiglietti, OFM have been living in Guatemala as a Franciscan Missionary, I have labored in varied and diverse environments in this beautiful country from a centrally located parish in the heart of Guatemala City (Iglesia San Agustin) to remote and often inaccessible Aldeas and Pueblos (Asuncion Mita, Jutiapa) preaching the message of the Gospel and administering the sacraments.


In this span of ministerial service I was mostly involved with working with the poorest of the poor in these remote aldeas and pueblos. I have witnessed the suffering and poverty of these children of God. What impressed me was how these people humbly accepted these deprivations with dignity and joy, with peaceful resignation to the will of God, as they would say. They had nothing but yet possessed an enviable tranquillity. What a Christian lesson to be learned from them. What concerned me the most were not so much the adults and the elderly, but the children who seemed inevitably doomed to a perpetuation of this vicious lifestyle of unending poverty. This troubled me deeply.


Often I would think and ask myself what can I do to change this. This was the seed that would eventually develop into a dream to some day build a home where the poor children could be sheltered, cared for and educated to prepare them with the necessary educational, spiritual and social skills to assure a meaningful place in society. After all, it is the children of today who will be the hope of the future development of our Church and Country. We look forward to them becoming the responsible leaders, the productive workers and the exemplary citizens of our Community and Country.


The seeds of this dream germinated in my mind soon after my arrival in Guatemala in 1952 and continued to flourish until some ten years ago when I discussed this dream with a very dear Guatemalan friend, Mr. Rene Abularach. Many an hour Rene and yours truly, Fr. Rocco Famiglietti, spent in discussion about the apostolate for the poor children in Guatemala and in particular for the neglected and abandoned orphans.


Rene, as an admirer of St. Francis of Assisi, shared the Franciscan Ideals to which I had committed my life service. He is a native Guatemalan and I as a long time Franciscan Missionary in Guatemala were both troubled by and concerned with the fate of the orphan children of Guatemala. The disturbing question always confronting us was, "what can we do to help the children, to improve their situation, to bring hope for the future."


This mutual motivation was the first step in the fulfillment of this dream. In 1987 Rene Abularach donated to me and I in turn deeded to our Juridical Person in Guatemala, Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate Conception Province of New York City, New York, 30 acres of land in a beautiful fertile valley some 15 kilometers from Guatemala City. This was the land on which we would build this dream home for the neglected and abandoned children of Guatemala. Rene donated the land and I would go out to beg and plead for future funds to build beginning to bear fruit. This development would have a special Franciscan significance. We decided to dedicate the land and the Project to "Our Lady of The Angels" and naming it "Valley of The Angels." "Valle de Los Angeles," since these children are in truth the Angels of God.


Our first religious act on the property, "Valley of The Angels," was the celebration of an outdoor Mass in November 1988, attended by friends, benefactors and neighboring villagers. To commemorate this historic event a permanent cross was planted on this site as living testimony that we have begun this project under Divine guidance and blessing.


My appeals to family, friends and benefactors, both through the mail and by personal contact, brought generous responses beyond my greatest expectations. This encouraged me to contact the Guatemalan Architectural and Engineering Firm of Iturbide-Toruno, long time Guatemalan friends, to discuss our needs and goals. After initial planning, drawings and studies, the final blueprints were completed to begin actual construction. We could now see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The dream of yesterday would soon be the living reality of the immediate future.


Fr. Rocco with childrenBefore actual construction could begin, it was necessary to locate a water source on the property. This was a vital necessity. Without water, the entire project would have to be scrapped. Many prayers were offered for this intention. And many anxious days, weeks and months were experienced by all of us concerned. Our Faith told us that we would find water. In April 1989 drilling began by the Daho Water Drilling Company to locate a water supply. Six anxious months later a water source was successfully tapped some 1000 feet below ground level. In November 1989 at a Mass of Thanksgiving to God for giving us this water supply, a switch connected to a submersed water pump was thrown to activate the pump and the first gush of water sprouted into the air greeted by the tearful cheers of all present. This was another sign of God's approval and blessing upon our endeavors. The water was soon tested and found to be excellent quality.


With this major hurdle cleared, the construction could now go on. It was decided that the initial building program would include four separate buildings: a Friary, a Sister's Convent, the Children's Dormitory and a Multi-Functional Building that would be used as an Auditorium, Kitchen, Dining Room and Classrooms. All these buildings are designed to be earthquake proof and built with brick and reinforced concrete. Future buildings in our plans will include a School and Administration Building.


The official ground breaking was held in December 1989. Another step in unfolding the dream of 40 years ago to the reality of today. A new generation of Guatemalan children will soon be trained and educated for a future filled with hope and promise.


Prior to the excavation it was necessary to build a special roadway from the property site and neighboring village, San Jose El Manzano, to the main road leading to Guatemala City. This would allow all building equipment and supplies to be delivered to the project plus this new roadway would give Bus service to and from the Capitol, Guatemala City for the villagers of San Jose El Manzano. During 1990 full scale construction was begun on all the buildings. During that year all the foundations, external brick walls, and roofs of the Friary, Sister's Convent and Dormitories were completed. The larger Multi-Use Building which was actually begun in 1990 is expected to be completed by July 1991.


At this point the projected time table for occupancy is as follows: The Friary in March 1991, Sister's Convent in June 1991, The Children's Dormitory in October 1991 and full occupancy in November 1991. The entire facility is expected to be fully operational for the beginning of the new school year in January 1992.


The Solemn Blessing, Dedication and Inauguration is scheduled for August 2, 1992 on the Feast of "Our Lady of the Angels," Patroness of our living dream, "Valley of The Angels, " "Valle de Los Angeles."


Mucho love,

Fr. Rocco Famiglietti, OFM



An Orphanage Update Since Father Rocco's Passing

Since Father Rocco wrote the above letter, there have been many new developments and improvements that have continued the dream of a man who wanted to give "the poor the best." Valley of the Angels has continued to grow and flourish with the help of many friends and benefactors. We first took up the task of setting up a formal board of directors called the Association of Benefactors and elected Dona Sofia Bolanos as our president. She and her family have been part of the Valley of the Angels family since its very inception. We are honored by her dignified presence and authentic example of a woman who has not only been a generous benefactor, but someone who has always been personally invested in the project, unselfishly giving of her time. We also elected two old friends of the Valley to work along side her: Rita Castillo and Tutti, who help her in decision making. Angel Gonzales, who brings with him a wealth of experience from the business world, was also assigned to serve as our medical liaison. Anna Marie Sanchez and Gonzalo Palarea have also committed themselves to making Valley of the Angels a better and more well run organization, advising us on many issues.


There have also been two new key people who have come on board to share their professional expertise. Vicky de Diaz began the new year as my assistant in the office and has been instrumental in organizing the administrative affairs. She has single-handedly catapulted the entire business end of the Valley. Her dedication and professionalism have been unparalleled. Aida Palarea, our second new acquisition, is a nutritionist who was brought in to review and implement a new healthier menu for the children and to manage the buying of food. Fr Neri Aguirre has also joined us this June and quickly jumped in to lend a hand in clearing the field down below near the Church for our children to use.


There have been several changes at the Valley. We have completely updated our computer education program by installing fiber optics and contracting an organization called Technokids to instruct our children in the latest technology, knowing that facility with computers is a must in this market. Frankie Burg-Feret, a dear friend from Canada, has been gracious enough to enlist the help of CFFC (Canadian Food For Children) who have committed to sending us 40 foot containers every two months filled with food, clothing and medicine. While the primary aim is to first use this product at the Valley, we have also been distributing its surplus to over 40 different institutions who are desperately in need of help. In order to help our teachers develop professionally, we have invited the prestigious Monte Maria school to assess and form our education staff. This school was founded by Maryknoll sisters and enjoys a strong reputation for working for peace and justice and empowering women to become leaders. Among the other changes, new energy conserving lights were donated, several repairs were made on the water and waste system, and with the help of volunteers like Patty Castillo and ......, our stock rooms have been inventoried and organized.



Fr. Michael Della Penna, OFM