Santa Lucia school and parish in Chicago’s Bridgeport/Armour Square neighborhood just closed their doors for good. The school, which was opened in 1961, was built to support the burgeoning number of second, third and fourth generation Italian Americans who belonged to the parish and lived in the local community. The school and church were founded by the Scalabrini Brothers but the Sisters of Notre Dame staffed the school. The parish was started in 1943 as an extension to the Santa Maria Incoronata Parish which still exists in the neighborhood considered Chinatown.
In 1953, the Archdiocese approved the separate administration of Santa Maria Incoronata and Santa Lucia became its own parish. Father Primo Beltrama became the first pastor of Santa Lucia.
Santa Lucia, or Saint Lucy in English, is the patron saint of eyesight and clear vision in any situation to see the good and positive in people despite disparity.
This past weekend parishioners celebrated the solemn closing of their church the best they could with mass and a celebration of food and comradery afterwards. As the neighborhood demographics change, and Italian residents pass on or move into the suburbs, the remaining parishioner base of the former Italian National parish can’t provide enough support to justify maintaining this fading piece of Italian American history.
Italian National parishes were built all throughout the United States starting in the late 1800’s so that masses could be held in the native tongue of the settlers that would attend mass the church’s masses. Therefore, Italian National parishes would require Italian priests who could hold masses in Italian.
Thanks to Lou Phillips in Chicago for sharing this news and for the photos.
By: Raymond Guarini, Founder of The Italian Enclaves Historical Society
The National Italian American Foundation celebrated its 2019 gala on April 9th at Cipriani on 42nd Street in Midtown, Manhattan. As always, guests came from near and far to take part in a vibrant evening that celebrated Italian culture and accomplishment throughout the world.
The night’s master of ceremonies was Joe Piscopo, the beloved on-air personality and former Saturday Night Live cast member.
Enchanting the crowd was 10-year-old singer, Romina Perri, who wowed the sold-out crowd with her bellowing renditions of both national anthems of the United States and Italy. Her performance sparked the crowd as guests enjoyed Cipriani’s signature bellinis and hors d’oeuvres.
Consistent with tradition, prior to seating, guests perused the venue to mingle and chat with other attendees who ranged from foreign dignitaries to local businessmen and philanthropists. Guests also had time to place silent auctions on a variety of valuable Italian-themed items and memorabilia.
The three-course meal was exquisite and the night flew by as guests were entertained by the delivering of multiple awards.
The honorees and their awards were as follows: Marylou Delfino Berk who received The National Italian American Foundation Special Achievement Awards in Real Estate. Judge Frank M. Ciuffani who received The National Italian American Foundation Special Award in Public Service for his service on the New Jersey Superior Court and his 40 years on the bench and private practice. Lorenzo Zurino who received The National Italian American Foundation Special Achievement Award for Young Entrepreneur.
As always, the National Italian American Foundation outdid itself with another stellar event to promote Italian culture and causes throughout the country and the world.
I would like to offer my special thanks to Gabriel A. Battista, NIAF’s co-chair and Natalie Wulderk, NIAF’s Manager of Communications & Public Policy for having me attend the event. It gets more enjoyable each time we get to celebrate.
For more information about NIAF and the 2019 Gala or how to be a member, follow the below link:
On March 2nd, our friends at Il Centro in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn threw an unforgettably amazing event. Guests attended from all parts of the tri-state area to revel in treasures of Italian culture. Vanessa Racci and her swingin’ jazz trio wowed all who attended with a mix of reinvented Italian songs from her album “Italiana Fresca And American Jazz Standards.” From delicious food to warm company, all who attended were grateful to be a part of this beautiful event:
From Vanessa Racci’s website:
“Vanessa Racci’s 2017 debut album, Italiana Fresca, heralds the breakthrough of a fresh sound in jazz: a sweet-and-sour, wide-ranging contralto with a passion and sex appeal born of her Italian-American heritage. On this recording, Vanessa puts a jazzy spin on the Italian songs she sang with her grandfather as a child; “Al Di La”, “Buona Sera”, “C’e La Luna”, “Return to Me” and the lot. The songs are re-invented with modern jazz arrangements ranging from jump swing to lush string ballads to Louisiana Street. Several songs are updated with Vanessa’s own English lyrics. Her producer, the renowned bassist David Finck, has raved about her “natural sense of rhythm and flow, and her wonderful ability to communicate both musical and poetic language.” The songs were arranged by Yaron Gershovsky, long time Musical Director for The Manhattan Transfer and NYC pianist, Glafkos Kontemeniotis.
Birdland, the legendary New York jazz club, debuted Vanessa’s show to a sold out audience June 4th, 2017, which received rave reviews.”
The Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Brooklyn, also known as F.I.A.O. Brooklyn is proud to announce the opening of its flagship building “Il Centro.” This structure is the first Italian-American multicultural community center in New York, located in southern Brooklyn. Il Centro was designed to serve as a resource for the Italian-American community that will enable the preservation of Italian-American heritage and culture. Through various programs we hope to present a positive image and legacy of generations that strengthen ties within the community. (Source: https://fiaobrooklyn.org/il-centro-2/).
Il Centro is a multi-level 44,000 square foot facility outfitted with modern, state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Classrooms will serve to host a series of seminars and workshops as well as a full fitness center designed with contemporary exercise equipment that allows for both individual and group opportunities. A gymnasium will serve as an epicenter for sports teams and programs throughout the borough. A swimming pool is enhanced by a panoramic view of the city inviting both fitness and leisurely activities. An elegant event space designed to transition for various functions holds potential for a multitude of events such as private parties, vendor showcases, charity events and network gatherings. (Source:https://fiaobrooklyn.org/il-centro-2/).
As I mentioned in my last blog post about Bensonhurst, it is a very large area. It takes hours and hours to really traverse every street within its confines thoroughly enough to capture the fine details that give it its Italian character. There are so many photos for our readers and social media followers that I am releasing them in separate posts over time. For now, here are some photos that reflect what still remains, what has changed, and what is in the process of changing.
Unfortunately, for the fair share of businesses and organizations that are still operating to service the Italian American community in Bensonhurst, there are some that are leaving as many have over the years.
I recently decided to take a walk around Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Bensonhurst is still the largest Italian Enclave in the United States. Although much has changed in the neighborhood due to the natural cyclicality of metropolises, there is still a lot that visually remains and quite a few Italian families still living there.
If you aren’t familiar with Bensonhurst, then you should know that it is massive in size. Bensonhurst-proper includes the area bounded by 86th Street, 14th Avenue, 60th Street, McDonald Avenue, Avenue P, and Bay Parkway.
Bensonhurst derives its name from Egbert Benson (1789–1866). His lands were sold by his children and grandchildren to James D. Lynch, a New York real estate developer. Lynch bought the old farmlands of the Benson family in the mid-1880s, and by 1888, began selling private lots in an area with the slogan : “Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea” which is really now the Bath Beach neighborhood that often gets referred to as Bensonhurst but is distinctly its own neighborhood.
Italians have been in Bensonhurst since the early 20th century. Prior to Italians, there were large Jewish and German communities living within the neighborhood. The newest waves of Italian immigrants into the United States generally occurred in the 1960’s and 70’s and many of those new arrivals wound up in Bensonhurst-mostly Sicilian.
Provided the massive amount of land to cover, traversing the streets of Bensonhurst to efficiently photo-document the neighborhood requires several days. I have thus broken my walks throughout the neighborhood into separate posts that I will be releasing over the next couple of months.
In this particular instance, I noticed a barbershop along 17th Avenue and New Utrecht that has actually been there for over 40 years. I must have driven by hundreds of times and never noticed it. On foot, the details of a neighborhood really stand out so much more. Salvatore, the proprietor and barber, told me that he wishes to retire and is selling his business. The photograph showing the window of his barbershop has the phone number if anyone is interested (everything in the shop is included).
The outside of J&J Barbershop
The inside of J&J Barbershop
The small portion of Bensonhurst that I am showcasing in this post also had a lot of wonderful visual indications of the vibrant Italian community that once claimed this part of Brooklyn as the largest concentration of Italians outside of Italy. Please share this post and let your friends and family know about our site (and social media pages: ItalianEnclaves on Facebook and Instagram).
Sabino and I met in Williamsburg at the famed Carmines Pizzeria and Restaurant on Graham Avenue for the Italian American Baseball Foundation’s Annual Gala in December.
I was vaguely familiar with the Growing Up Italian podcast and more familiar with the Instagram account. I found myself following Growing Up Italian earlier last year (2018) and being amused at many of their posts. I was fascinated by the fact that they were mostly first generation Italians representing the millennial Italian American population in North America; a rarely represented group.
The podcast was an amazing time and being with Sabino and the rest of the folks from Growing Up Italian felt like hanging out with old friends and family. (LINK BELOW).
What Sabino is doing is incredibly important. He is linking the millennial generations to the older generations of Italians primarily through light-hearted and witty posts on social media. Such posts innocently poke fun at the nuances of growing up in an Italian household. Phrases are shared amongst other jovial, cultural references and we strongly recommend browsing through the comments sections of their posts.
It is truly important to pass along our traditions and solidify a future for Italian Americans by preserving things such as Saint societies, processions, feasts, culinary traditions and so on. After meeting Sabino and the squad at Growing Up Italian, I can gladly say that the future for Italian Americans is looking bright.
The technologically intelligent Growing Up Italian platform is a perfect vehicle for not only delivering things that are funny but also acts as a perfect stage to occasionally change the tone towards the more serious and important aspects of Italian culture in North America. We look forward to having more opportunities to chat with Sabino, Rocco et al at Growing Up Italian.
We can’t wait to see what else they have in their bright future.
In 2018 we made two posts about a young boy who was taken from this earth way too soon. His name is Carlo Acutis. To illuminate this boy’s importance for new readers and to remind our loyal followers, Carlo Acutis may become a Catholic Saint.
Carlo first received the Eucharist at the age of 7 and continued to receive it each day of his life until his untimely passing. Born in 1991 and having left this earth all too soon in 2006 at the age of 15, Carlo spent his young life in Italy dedicated to Jesus by collating on his website each Church-verified apparition of our Blessed Mother that occurred on this planet for over two millennia.
Since our last article, Carlo Acutis has been deemed Venerable by the Catholic Church and his cause has been under scrutiny by the Vatican to determine if he will eventually be Canonized.
The vice-postulator, Father Marcelo Tenorio, of the canonization cause of Venerable Carlo Acutis announced Wednesday that the boy’s body has been found to be incorrupt. Father Tenorio shared the news on social media. He revealed that he indeed saw the pictures but that he could not share them.
I am particularly intrigued by this young man because of his dedication to tabulating Madonna miracles. The correlation to The Italian Enclaves Historical Society’s mission to show the public every Italian Parish in America and their corresponding Saints’ processions solidifies our love and appreciation for Carlo’s work even further. We support his cause for Sainthood and we ask that you do as well by praying for him and sharing this article.
We are very pleased to announce that the Saint Therese Chinese Church will remain! The church was once the Madonna Incoronata Church when the neighborhood was home to a thriving Italian community. Over the years, the church has changed parishioners but the Italians have continued to use the Church not only as a place of worship but also as the center of their annual feasts for Saint Rocco and La Madonna Incoronata.
Just recently, as discussed in one of our posts from earlier this month, the church was threatened with closure but due to a major wave of support both in Chicago and online, the church was able to raise hundreds of signatures via “Change.org” and far surpassed the expected number of signatures: 2,500.
On Saturday night, the diocese informed the parishioners that the church will remain. This is a huge victory for our friends in Chicago. Please share so this can act as an inspiration those whose parishes are facing similar fates.
One of the many incredible contacts that I made at the most recent event for the Italian American Baseball Foundation was Sabino Curcio of the social media phenomenon, Growing Up Italian. Sabino invited me to join his podcast as a guest. I graciously accepted. About a month after the IABF event, I met with Sabino at the San Sabino Society Club (206 Withers Street) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I am grateful to have accepted this invitation as I was not only welcomed warmly by Sabino and the rest of the Growing Up Italian folks and made to feel appreciated for my work with Italian Enclaves but also because I learned a great deal about Saint Sabino and the innerworkings of the San Sabino Club, which mirrors many other Italian clubs in North America.
Started as a mutual aid society, the San Sabino Club was founded in Williamsburg in 1932. The purpose of the society, much like all Saint societies in the US since the late 1800’s, was to pick up where the government left off. Italian immigrants were often discriminated against and had a tough time upon arriving.
After arriving in the U.S., Italian immigrants were frequently un-hirable, often taking low-wage jobs and having little disposable income to invest in things like health or life insurance. The society would help pay members’ medical bills and even support the families of deceased members, if necessary. I learned that one of the members was a funeral director and would often assist families of deceased members in funeral preparations with great generosity. The necessity for this was immense.
At the time, the United States Government did not have anything in place to help immigrants afford doctors or final expenses. The San Sabino society helped its members survive and gracefully provide for themselves in a country that provided little for immigrants at the time. The society worked on a quasi-barter system where favors were exchanged instead of money. A doctor could help people seeking medical help in exchange for something, an ironworker or laborer could offer their services in exchange for whatever they might need, and so on.
The box in which the voting balls were placed.
Original Documents and photos of the San Sabino Club
When a new member came up for review, every member got both a black and white ball. White balls were a yes vote for the new member to join and the black ball was a no vote. 50 members voted by placing either a white or black ball in the box. When all members submitted their vote, the box would be opened and the great reveal was made. The catch is that if a newly proposed member received three or more black balls in the voter box, the person would be denied. So out of 50 members, 48 had to vote in favor of the person for them to be approved to join. The other absolute must to get in is that your family had to be from Sanza.
As with any Saint society, there is a patron Saint that is venerated and often processed throughout the town or neighborhood in which the society’s club exists. San Sabino is the patron of Sanza. A town somewhat isolated in the mountains, Sanza is home to great devotions to Catholicism and its Saints by the town’s constituents.
When the mass migrations occurred from Italy to the US before and after the Great War, the Sanzese emigrated from Italy to the US in hopes of greater opportunity like everyone else. Such opportunity not only existed but was eventually realized by the members of the San Sabino society because of their devotion to one another and their commitment to perpetuating the veneration of their town’s patron, Saint Sabino. They were able to purchase their club’s building and quickly paid-off the mortgage.
As quoted by Wikepedia:
“Saint Sabinus of Spoleto (died c. 300) was a Bishop in the Christian church who resisted the persecutions of Diocletian and was martyred.
According to legend, Venustian, governor of Etruria and Umbria, had Sabinus and his deacons arrested in Assisi. Diocletian’s order required all Christians to sacrifice to the gods or be put to death, with their estates seized for the state. Venustian mocked Sabinus’s faith, accusing him of leading the people to the worship of a dead man. When Sabinus said that Christ rose on the third day, Venustian invited him to do the same thing. He had Sabinus’s hands cut off.
The deacons were in great fear, but Sabinus encouraged them to hold to their faith, and they died after being torn apart by iron hooks. In prison after the martyrdom of his deacons, he was tended by a woman named Serena. While in prison, he healed a man born blind. Venustian heard of the cure and sought a cure for his own eyes from Sabinus. Sabinus healed the governor and converted him to Christianity. Venustian then sheltered Sabinus. Maximianus Herculius, hearing of this, ordered the tribune Lucius to address the matter. Lucius had Venustian, his wife, and his two sons beheaded at Assisi, and he had Sabinus beaten to death at Spoleto.”
Sabinus’s feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is December 7th.
Growing Up Italian
The fact that I was one of the first guests to air live from the San Sabino Club on the Growing Up Italian podcast was thrilling. I had a great time chatting with Sabino and the folks of Growing Up Italian. It felt like I was home in my living room speaking with cousins or life-long friends. I look forward to making another post with a link to the podcast later this month. Stay Tuned.
As always, sharing our work is encouraged and appreciated.