I have always been very shy. That is why it makes me chuckle when I think of some of the exciting adventures I have had serving Jehovah.
I was born in 1934 in Pescara, a city on the central east coast of Italy by the Adriatic Sea. I was the youngest of four girls. Father chose to name us in alphabetical order starting with “A,” which is why my name begins with “D.”
Father had always been interested in spiritual things. He first came into contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses in July 1943 when a man named Liberato Ricci, who was associating with the Witnesses, spoke to him about the Bible and lent him a copy of The Watchtower. Before long, Father began zealously talking to others about the things he was learning. Mother also accepted the truth. Despite being illiterate, she too shared her newfound hope with others, reciting Bible verses that she had memorized.
Our little home became a hub of activity. We had our Christian meetings there. And even though we had only two bedrooms, we provided accommodations for traveling overseers and pioneers.
My two oldest sisters showed little interest in the Bible and eventually left home to get married. But my sister Cesira and I loved listening to Father read the Bible. We also enjoyed the stirring talks given by the brothers who visited our little group.
I often accompanied my father and others in the ministry, but I was so shy that it took me months to work up the courage to say anything to householders. Still, my love for Jehovah grew, and I was baptized in July 1950. A brother gave the baptism talk at our home, and then we went to the sea for the baptism. The following year, a married couple serving as special pioneers were assigned to our area, and I often went preaching with them. The more time I spent in the ministry, the easier it became. How I grew to love this wonderful privilege of service!
A Decision That Changed My Life
Our first circuit overseer was Piero Gatti.a He encouraged me not only to pioneer but also to move where there was a greater need for Kingdom proclaimers—something I had not even thought about. In our area, it was customary for girls to stay at home until they got married. So in March 1952, I started pioneering from home. I did not then realize how that decision would shape the rest of my life.
About that time, a young sister named Anna also wanted to start pioneering. She came to live with us so that we could go witnessing together. In 1954, the two of us were assigned to serve as special pioneers in Perugia, a city about 250 kilometers (155 mi) away, where there were no Witnesses.
What an adventure that was! I was just 20 years old, and the only time I had ever left my hometown was to go with my parents to a convention. Now I felt as if I were going to the other side of the world! Father was a little apprehensive about Anna and me living on our own, so he came to help us find accommodations. We rented a room that doubled as a Kingdom Hall. For a while, though, we were the only ones at the meetings. Still, we had a great time preaching in Perugia and the nearby towns and villages, and our efforts began to bear fruit. About a year later, a brother moved to Perugia, and he conducted the meetings for us. By the time we left for our next assignment in 1957, a small congregation had been formed.
Our next assignment was in a small city called Terni, in central Italy. We were excited to preach in Terni because there were already many interested ones in the area. But we had challenges as well. Although the Fascist regime officially ended in 1943, some authorities continued their efforts to stop Jehovah’s Witnesses from spreading the Bible’s message and demanded that we have a license to preach from door to door.
It was not unusual for Jehovah’s Witnesses to be followed by the police. Sometimes we could lose them by mingling in a crowd, but not always. I was stopped and arrested twice. The first time, I was preaching with the circuit overseer. The police arrested us and took us to the police station, where they charged us with preaching without legal authorization and fined us. We refused to pay the fine; we were not breaking any laws. My heart was thumping so hard that I could almost hear it! I was very grateful to Jehovah that I was not alone. The reassuring words of Isaiah 41:13 came to my mind: “Do not be afraid. I will help you.” We were released, and when the case went to trial, the judge dismissed it. My second arrest was about six months later. That time, I was alone. But again I was acquitted.
More Opportunities to Serve Jehovah
I remember being particularly excited about a convention held in 1954 in Naples, in southern Italy. After arriving there, I volunteered to help clean the venue, and I was assigned to work near the platform. There I noticed a handsome young attendant named Antonio Caparelli, a pioneer from Libya. His family had moved there from Italy in the late 1930’s.
Antonio was energetic and courageous. He traveled far into the Libyan Desert on his motorcycle to preach to Italians living there. We wrote to each other occasionally. Early in 1959, however, he returned to Italy. He spent a few months at Bethel in Rome before being assigned to serve as a special pioneer in the city of Viterbo, in central Italy. Our relationship blossomed, and we got married on September 29, 1959. I joined Antonio in Viterbo.
We needed a place to stay and to hold meetings. Eventually, we rented a ground-floor room that was like a little shop with a tiny bathroom at the back. We put our bed in the corner and blocked it off with a screen. That was the bedroom. The rest of the space was either our living area or the Kingdom Hall, depending on the day. The room was not ideal, and I would not have chosen to live there alone. But I was happy because Antonio and I were together.
In 1961, Antonio was appointed to serve as a circuit overseer. First, however, he had to attend a month-long school for congregation servants, or overseers. That meant that I had to stay on my own for a month. I must admit that I felt sorry for myself, especially in the evenings when I was alone in our little room. Still, I was happy that Antonio was being used by Jehovah. I kept myself busy as well, so the time passed quickly.
The circuit work meant a lot of traveling. We went from Veneto, a region in northern Italy, to Sicily, in the south. At first we did not have a car, so we used public transport. On one occasion, after a rather bumpy bus ride in rural Sicily, we were greeted at the bus stop by brothers who brought a donkey along to carry our baggage. Antonio was wearing a suit and tie, and I was wearing a meeting dress. Seeing us walking with farmers alongside a donkey that was carrying our suitcases and typewriter must have been a rather comical sight.
The brothers generously shared whatever they had, even when that was very little. Some houses had no bathroom or running water. On one occasion we stayed in a room that had not been used for several years. During the night I wriggled around so much in my sleep that Antonio woke me up. When we lifted up the sheets, we saw, to our horror, that the mattress was swarming with insects! There was little we could do about it in the middle of the night. We simply brushed off as many insects as we could and tried to go back to sleep.
Yet, these inconveniences were not what I found the most challenging. My biggest obstacle was my shyness. When we visited a congregation for the first time, I found it hard to make new friends. But I really wanted to be encouraging and to help the sisters, so I made a special effort. With Jehovah’s help, by the end of the week, I always felt much more at home. It was a real privilege to work with the brothers and sisters and to see their generosity, faithfulness, and love for Jehovah.
In 1977, after a few years in the circuit and district work,b we were invited to Bethel in Rome to help make preparations for the 1978 “Victorious Faith” International Convention. After just a few months, we became members of the Bethel family. Soon thereafter, Antonio was assigned to serve on the Branch Committee.
Bethel was a new experience for me, and again my shyness sometimes prevented me from feeling completely at ease. But with Jehovah’s blessing and the help of other Bethelites, I soon considered Bethel my home.
Facing New Challenges
In the following years, we faced a new challenge—health problems. In 1984, Antonio had heart surgery, and about ten years later, he had more health problems. Then, in 1999, he learned that he had a malignant tumor. He had always been a dynamic person, but he was unable to conquer this terrible disease. Seeing him get progressively weaker broke my heart. I prayed fervently to Jehovah, asking for the strength to help me support my dear husband. Also, I often read the Psalms. These gave me a measure of comfort when I felt anxious. Antonio died on March 18, 1999. We had been married for almost 40 years.
It is incredible how lonely you can feel even when you are surrounded by people. To be sure, I received much love and comfort from fellow Bethelites and the brothers and sisters we had come to know in the traveling work. Even so, the terrible void in my heart, especially when I went back to my empty Bethel room in the evening, hurt in a way that words cannot describe. Prayer, study, and time helped me to heal. Eventually, in fact, recalling the life I had shared with Antonio even became pleasurable again. I still like to reflect on the things we did together, confident that Antonio is in Jehovah’s memory and that I will see him again in the resurrection.
I have had many assignments at Bethel, my present one being in the sewing shop. It makes me very happy to do work that benefits my enlarged family. I also try to keep busy in the ministry. Of course, I cannot do as much as I did in the past, but I still enjoy sharing the Kingdom good news—a privilege that I fell in love with when I was a girl. That is why I like to encourage young ones to pioneer. I know how exciting that work can be.
When I look back on almost 70 years of full-time service, I see how much Jehovah has helped and blessed me. I am still shy, so I know that in my own strength, I would never have been able to do the things I have done. I have been to faraway places, seen and experienced many enriching things, and met people who have inspired me. I can say without a doubt that I would do it all again.
b A district overseer served a number of circuits that made up a district.