Transfiguration Church (New York, N.Y.)
Thumbnail Image

2008.041.009 Oral History Interview with Father Raymond Nobiletti

Father Raymond Nobiletti has served as Pastor of the Church of the Transfiguration in Manhattan’s Chinatown since 1991 and speaks Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese. Previously, he spent 15 years as a missionary priest in Hong Kong, where he had the opportunity to learn the language and be with the people on many levels through their problems and difficulties. Recently celebrating its 175th anniversary, Transfiguration, over the years, has welcomed waves of new immigrants. “We are known as The Church of Immigrants. Whoever comes through the door gets served,” he says. Father Nobiletti was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in the Bronx and Long Island. After high school, he decided to join the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, Maryknoll, and was ordained a Maryknoll missionary priest in 1969. Nobiletti felt very fortunate to be assigned to Hong Kong, which was his first choice. Initially assigned to Transfiguration in Chinatown only temporarily, Nobiletti found the pastor work so meaningful and interesting that he decided to stay. He notes that the Transfiguration parishship has been able to adapt to different languages and waves of immigrants, from the Dutch speaking to English speaking to Italian speaking to the Chinese speaking of various dialects. In the early 1990s, the ship, the Golden Venture, ran aground carrying 110 undocumented Chinese, mainly from Fujian Province. The church received a call from the police department because they did not have anyone who understood Fujianese. Six of the young people who were too young to go to prison were brought to the church, where Nobiletti got to know them better. Over the years, increasing numbers of Mandarin-speaking Fujianese immigrants have come to Chinatown and have come to make up the majority of his parishioners. As a gua lo or foreign ghost who does not belong to any of the language speaking groups but knows something of Chinese language and culture, Nobelietti feels that he is able to welcome everyone.