Couple Helping Institute Students in Florence, Italy, Flourish
Contributed By Laurie Williams Sowby, Church News contributor
“Institute is like a big family.” —Peter Larrain, institute student
Anna Perongini Ferrini, one of the earliest converts in Italy following the establishment of the Italy Mission in 1966, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of her baptism this year on September 21.
Anna’s mother was the first to meet the missionaries and set up an appointment for her 19-year-old daughter, then later she reluctantly gave permission for her baptism in 1968.
“It took months to understand the feelings I had inside,” Anna said. “I prayed with faith that God would answer.”
With morning Sunday School and afternoon sacrament meeting in those days before the consolidated schedule, Anna maintained her service in the nursery of the local Catholic church between LDS Sabbath meetings.
Anna has remained the only LDS member in her Catholic family, but she said they acknowledge that her positive outlook and happiness come from being a Latter-day Saint.
In 1976, Anna prayed about her decision to marry Bruno Ferrini, a nonmember. “Bruno was a man who respected my beliefs and allowed me to teach our children the gospel,” she said.
When it came to religious matters, he insisted the children choose. Their son Marco always chose going to church over going to the beach, and his brother, Alessio, four years younger, wanted to do whatever Marco did. Their father attended church with the family and participated in social activities but held on to past negative experiences with religion.
“Many missionaries taught my husband [over the years],” Anna said. “And he knew the lessons so well, he taught the missionaries!”
Anna had served many years as an institute teacher in the Florence area when, on one particular occasion, Bruno accompanied her to a training and ended up staying for a young adult conference. It was at this conference when a speaker clearly resolved a doubt Bruno had been holding on to. “My spirit changed,” he said.
Bruno joined the Church after 27 years of marriage. Alessio baptized his father, and Marco, who had just returned from a mission to Brussels, Belgium, confirmed him. The family was sealed in the Bern Switzerland Temple in August 2004.
Bruno was called as president of the Firenze 2nd Branch in 2005 and later ordained his sons as high priests for their current callings. Marco Ferrini is a bishop in Venice, and Alessio Ferrini is a branch president in Valdarno. Between the two sons, they have six children, all of whom are being raised in the gospel.
“The gospel has always blessed our lives,” Anna said. “I met Jesus Christ when I was 12, and from that time, He is the center of my life.”
Seeing the way that Christ and the gospel has blessed their lives and the lives of their family, the Ferrinis have continued to serve in the Church and share their love of the gospel in as many ways as possible.
Following his conversion, Bruno was called in 2010 to join his wife in supporting the young single adults in the Firenze Ward, and together they oversee institute and activities for the area. In this way, institute has continued to bless Anna and Bruno.
Speaking of Bruno, Roberto Morelli, a university student who returned from the England London South Mission in October 2016 and who serves on the institute council, said, “He’s like a dad for us.”
While Bruno assists with activities, does the accounting, and deals with the food that helps make institute a time for socializing as well as instruction, Anna is mainly responsible for the teaching. The past year, she’s been involving her students—whom she affectionately refers to as “my guys” when speaking English—in teaching the lessons and pondering the lesson material to discover what will be most important.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to understand better—to know my students and what they need,” she said.
Despite work and school schedules, around 15 students regularly make time for institute class on Tuesday evenings. “They are all so close and add so much spirit to the lessons,” Anna said.
Peter Larrain, a seminary teacher who is pursuing the Pathway program through BYU–Idaho since returning from the Italy Rome Mission a year ago, sees institute as an important time for young single adults to be together and support each other in their values and standards. “Institute is like a big family,” he said.
Both Peter and Roberto grew up in nearby LDS branches, which have since been combined into the Firenze Ward, but Peter had not been active after his baptism at age 8. A friend’s invitation to attend institute helped him return to full activity, prepare him for a mission, and motivate him to continue reading the Book of Mormon afterward.
“I make reading it a priority every day,” Peter said, adding that he appreciates the different perspectives members of the class bring to the discussion.
Roberto likewise finds value in daily gospel study. “It helps me to feel closer to God every day and not just on Sunday,” he said. “I think about the doctrine and how I can apply it in my life. It makes a difference.”
Anna and Bruno said they love working with Roberto and Peter in institute.
“They are two special guys with a great desire to serve the Lord and to share their testimonies with the other people,” Anna said. Their facility with English will open doors for them in the future.
In addition to their love for institute, the Ferrinis and their students expressed their excitement for the Rome Italy Temple, which is scheduled to open in March 2019.
“Being able to go more often motivates us to improve,” said Bruno, whose health concerns prevent traveling to the Bern Switzerland Temple—an 11-hour drive—as often as he’d like.
Noting that the new Rome Temple is a comparatively short 2 1/2-hour drive away, Roberto said, “It will help us to remain worthy so we can attend frequently.” He expects that the Rome Temple will give more visibility to the Church, especially with the visitors’ center, and that will, in turn, help the missionary effort.
“It has been a dream for all Italian people, and I’m very grateful,” Anna said. “Having a temple can help us to grow if we always work to have the spirit of the temple inside, if we try to live with the same spirit there is in the temple.”
For Peter, who served in Rome during his mission, the temple in Rome is another opportunity to “bring in souls and prepare people for the temple,” even before it opens. Much like the strength they receive from institute and the example and care of the Ferrinis, the temple is another demonstration of the love God has for them.
“For members in Italy, it is the crowning of our desires,” Roberto said. “Having a temple in Rome helps us know that God is seeing our efforts to strive.”