From Steve Florman: I served in the Italy Catania Mission under President Vincenzo Conforte from 1987 to 1989. In early 1988, when I was in Catania as mission secretary, I was approached by Sister Rita Piconese, one of the sister missionaries in the city. She told me that she and her companion had an investigator who was ready for baptism, and asked if I would be willing to perform the ordinance. "Of course!" I replied. "I'm honored! Why are you asking me?" I was taken aback by her reply: "You're the biggest elder in Catania." At 6'3" and about 220 pounds I guess I was, but I wondered what I was volunteering for.
When I met the investigator, Vincenza, I found out. She was about 5 foot 5 and must have weighed close to 300 pounds. At that time, the Catania chapel was in a storefront sort of building, and we had no permanent font - just one of those huge rubber porta-fonts that you assemble out of pipes and fill with a garden hose. Although she was very slightly mentally retarded, Vincenza was a wonderful, cheerful woman with a sparkle in her eye and a strong handshake and you could feel how badly she wanted to be baptized. She had no doubts about the gospel, real child-like faith. So we set the date - January 2, 1988 - and filled the porta-font, and the sisters went through who-knows-how-much trouble to find a white dress big enough for her. The evening came. Vincenza couldn't get into the font over the side; we had to place folding chairs inside and outside so she could clamber in with the sisters holding up a blanket to hide this slightly-immodest procedure from view. When they lowered the blanket, I stepped up into the font, took Vincenza by the wrist as we had practiced, raised my right arm to the square, and said, "Vincenza, essendo stato incaricato da Gesu' Cristo, ti battezzo nel nome del padre, e del Figliuolo, e dello Spirito Santo, Amen." She bent her knees and went over backwards. I had to half-turn and actually sit on her to get her all the way under. But the spirit that filled that little chapel, and touched my heart, was one of the strongest manifestations of the Holy Spirit I have ever felt, and as the witnesses nodded and she came up out of the water, we had our sure witness that this baptism had been registered in heaven and that there was much rejoicing there. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience and I have never forgotten it. Despite the almost comic-opera logistics, it was a marvelous baptism and I am very grateful to have been part of it. I know that it is real authority we have to perform that ordinance - that was made clear to me that evening.
After her baptism, Vincenza was called as a district missionary (this was before there were any stakes in the Catania mission). The sisters worked with her, and they told her she could only wear her missionary nametag when she was out with them actually doing the work. Every so often, we or the sisters would run into Vincenza around town, and she'd talk to us with her arms folded tightly across her chest. Well, she was covering up that nametag - she wore it all the time, and was a tireless witness of the restored Gospel. She'd talk to anyone, anywhere, any time about the Church. Eventually the sisters gave up on the nametag issue, and she wore it pretty much constantly.
About a year later I was back in Catania preparing to go home, and I was catching up on the branch there. I was told that Vincenza had passed away just a couple of months earlier. I guess the weight was too big a strain on her valiant heart. I cried as I thought about her excitement about the Gospel, about the opportunities I had missed to share that message with people, and about how glad I was that she had been a member of the Church, safe in the truth, for a year before her death. Although she never had the chance to attend the temple, I think the angels were waiting for her with open arms when she arrived.