Andrea Fricano: An unsung hero

A 30-year family tradition has kept a mom, her daughter, and her grandchildren connected to St. Pius X while also serving the school

Elliott Seng, Staff Writer

It started 30 years ago when Sonia Jaramillo began caring for the chapel linens at St. Pius X.

She checked in at the front entrance, received her guest badge– a square of bright yellow paper – dropped off the starched linens, and turned to go back to her car.

The story could have ended there, but Jaramillo did something that sparked a decades-long tradition.

“She had a shoe box,” Jaramillo’s daughter Andrea Fricano recalls, “and she just started putting [the badges] on top.”

The first badge is still on that shoebox, along with every badge that came after. She has one representing every Mass on campus from 1993-2023. Who knows how many badges there might be?

After Jaramillo moved back to her home country of Ecuador, Fricano took over her mother’s tradition. A resident of the US since age 10, Fricano graduated from St. Pius in 1995 and believes her mother’s work has changed her perspective on life and faith.

“When I started taking over the linens, it felt like I was more connected to God and to the beautiful sacrifice of the Mass that we have. You’ve got to value every little thing.”

These simple things “tie into helping the kids here grow in their faith by allowing them to have masses,” Fricano said. “In this way, I feel like I’m still connected to my school.”

The Catholic Church requires a specific process for cleaning the linens. Fricano explained the importance of soaking them properly, usually in a bucket, “because if there are any particles of Christ on the linens, you don’t want it to go out into the sewer system.” If the linens tear or sustain damage, Fricano burns them in a particular way.

“I used to joke with my kids,” Fricano said. “I’d say like, ‘Ok, so the linens will get Sofia’s admission into Pius,’ and I started watering the plants, and I was like, ‘Ok, Emma, you’re good.’ And then my son came along, and he was like, ‘What about me?’ I’m like, ‘You know what? We can change the holy water.’”

When I started taking over the linens, it felt like I was more connected to God and to the beautiful sacrifice of the Mass that we have.

— Andrea Fricano

In a way, the shoebox documents Fricano and her kids’ lives as they’ve grown up around St. Pius. There’s a badge from the day her now 13-year-old, Sofia, took her first steps.

“It was the first time she’d started walking, and she’s standing in front of the entrance with the gates, and she’s just standing there looking up at the bells because they had just chimed,” Fricano said.

The Facebook caption of the photo reads: Sofia is dreaming of one day being a Golden Lion.

Taking care of the linens is a family operation. Fricano’s kids have helped clean the linens since practically the day they were born. One badge on the shoebox has her son Sebastian’s name on it from one month after he was born.

And her husband helps, too.

“[He] would come over here while I was in the hospital, just after the baby was born. He’d be like, ‘I’ll be back. I’m gonna go drop off the Pius linens,’” Fricano said.

Growing up in a “very strong Catholic family,” Fricano went to Mass daily during the summer and attended Catholic school throughout her education. She attended Christendom in Front Royal, Virginia, a Roman Catholic college.

“Everything is centered around our faith, all the classes, curriculum, everything. It strengthened my faith twice as much,” Fricano said.

Fricano actually met Pope John Paul II. Not only that, she went on a run with him. He had been visiting Christendom and bumped into Fricano on her way out of the building.

He stopped, said hello, and offered to jog with her down the sidewalk to the edge of campus.

Faith has led Fricano throughout her entire life, from high school to college and beyond. Working with the linens allowed her to kstrengthen her faith, carry on a family tradition, and support the students at St. Pius. Her work is invaluable, yet how many of us stop to think about the people at work behind the scenes?

“If my mom hadn’t gotten involved with this,” Fricano said, “I don’t think I would’ve realized the whole process… they have to be soaked, they have to be ironed and starched just right and folded in a certain way.”

At this point, it’s become more than just a tradition. It’s a celebration of faith and an opportunity to provide for family. Unsung heroes like Andrea Fricano deserve recognition for their time, effort, and dedication. Her work is crucial for Mass, the ultimate representation of our values as a Catholic school.

To the readers, Fricano had one last thing to say.

“Go Lions!”