Gaetano Gagliano was a Great Connector and Communicator
August 24, 1917 – April 14, 2016
In an age when the dignity and sacredness of human life is under siege, when marriage and family life are in crisis, the Gagliano family story is about two people's love for 70 solid years resulting in 10 children, 35 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. Gaetano Gagliano’s legendary 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, prestigious awards and the Order of Canada in his 80s!
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 his wife Giuseppina was pregnant with their 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 printing press in his basement.
Over a century ago, the famous American city planner Daniel Burnham told Chicago city planners: "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 Canada. 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.
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.
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. Every time Gaetano Gagliano visited us at our broadcast centre in downtown Toronto, he would ask us, "How is the baby?" meaning, "How is Salt and Light Television?" Salt and Light was his dream come true! He had longed for a Catholic Television Network for Canada for many years, and the World Youth Day became its impulse and the wind under its wings.
In over 13 years, this digital cable network is now available to well over 2.5 million homes in Canada and accessible to people around the world though its many Social Media platforms. It broadcasts in English, French, Italian, Mandarin and Cantonese.
Gaetano Gagliano's secret was very innovative yet quite simple. It involved responsibility to the community, decency, respect, integrity, and lived Christian faith in God and in humanity. He succeeded in achieving balance that 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.
Over 60 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. They have taught us very important lessons about faith, family, business ethics, generosity and philanthropy. Through his life and witness, Gaetano taught us how to truly communicate with one another, and how to live integrated, faithful lives.
In these final years before his death on April 14, 2016, Gaetano’s life was a living witness to the words of Pope Francis in his recent Apostolic Exhortation: Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love):
“Listening to the elderly tell their stories is good for children and young people; it makes them feel connected to the living history of their families, their neighborhoods and their country. A family that fails to respect and cherish its grandparents, who are its living memory, is already in decline, whereas a family that remembers has a future. “A society that has no room for the elderly or discards them because they create problems, has a deadly virus”; “it is torn from its roots”.”
“Our contemporary experience of being orphans as a result of cultural discontinuity, uprootedness and the collapse of the certainties that shape our lives, challenges us to make our families places where children can sink roots in the rich soil of a collective history.” (#193)
We shall be forever grateful to Gaetano who gave us faith and hope, boldness and courage, roots and wings. May he rest in peace and intercede for us.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
Founding CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
April 14, 2016