The Month of Holy Souls in Bath Beach’s Most Precious Blood And A Homily That Hits Home


Followers of Italian Enclaves on Facebook, Instagram, and on this blog are familiar with seeing photos featuring various Italian National parishes. To clarify for all of our readers, a National Parish is a parish that is created to specifically cater to a certain ethnic group. Masses are usually held in that ethnicity’s language and the customs specific to that group are found engrained in the practices within their parishes. For example, Italian National parishes were first created at the end of the 19th century to accommodate the tremendous immigration of Italians into the United States. Across America, Italian parishes began popping-up in the West Coast, the Midwest, the South and in the largest density of all, the East Coast. One of my goals in creating Italian Enclaves was to visit the still-existing Italian National parishes of America to not only photo-document them but to also have a chance to worship in these churches by either attending a mass there or venerating whichever saint statues or relics might be present. This is such a tall task because there are and have been so many that it’s possible to live an entire lifetime near a church and never walk into it.

Last Sunday, November 4th, I whimsically visited a small Italian national parish in Bath Beach, Brooklyn called Most Precious Blood. I was familiar with this church for years but never had a chance to visit. As I arrived two minutes before noon, I was graciously welcomed by the charming sound of the church’s bells calling all her faithful to mass.

The church building is relatively modern. There are many who prefer traditional churches from the 19th century over the mid-20th century modernistic architecture, but in its own right, Most Precious Blood is a formidable Roman Catholic church despite its size. The church is small and is quaintly decorated with beautiful stained-glass mosaics and several niches with gorgeous statues mostly reflecting the Italian devotions. There are Mother Cabrini, Saint Calogero, Saint Rocco, Saint Padre Pio, and so on.

The altar of the church
(Left) Saint Anthony (Center) Saint Jude (Right) Waiting for confirmation
(Left) Infant Jesus (Center) La Madonna (Right) Jesus
A beautifully stained-glass window with statues of (Left) Saint John The Baptiste (Center)  La Madonna and baby Jesus (Right) Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary Seton Hall
(Left) Saint Michael (Right) Saint Cologero
Saint Padre Pio
(Left) Mother Cabrini (Right) Southern Italian Madonna Devotion La Madonna Della Neve
Gorgeous Stained Glass windows with La Madonna Del Rosario (Our Lady of The Rosary)
(Left) Saint Michael (Right) San Calogero
(Left) Saint Rita of Cascia (Cener) Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Right) Saint Lucy
(Left) Saint Rocco (Center) Saint Anne (Right) Saint Therese



A choir and the school’s 2nd grade catechism class were in the front pews which made the church feel even more family-oriented and inviting this particular day. As we all know, the aesthetics of a church and its parishioners can make going to mass special, but what really affects how we engage mass is the way in which it is presided.

Father Dominick decided he didn’t need the microphone and he didn’t deliver his homily from the altar. Instead, he came down amongst the parishioners and spoke to everyone with only his voice, which powerfully projected throughout the church. Father Dominick eloquently related the importance of November being the month of Holy Souls with a great story about his childhood. He importantly reminded us that the millions of souls in Purgatory require prayer in order to get into Heaven. He made the astute analogy that being in Purgatory was like being in a dark waiting area just outside Heaven. Souls in Purgatory can hear Heaven, they can see others going, but there is still a curtain between Heaven and Purgatory. The way into Heaven, or the party in his analogy, is through prayer. Without prayer, we can not go to Heaven nor can the souls in Purgatory.

Father Dominick related this concept to the parish in a way that funnily prescribes to the Italian culture. He told us a story about when he was a little boy. When he was little, after church, his responsibility was to bring the Italian bread home from the bakery for Sunday dinner. When he’d arrive home with the bread, he could smell the sauce on the stove cooking with the glorious infusion of meatballs and other fixings that go along with a traditional Italian Sunday dinner. Father Dominick reminisced about one time when no one was looking, he went into his mother’s pot of sauce and took out a meatball to quickly eat before anyone noticed. Sure enough, the meatball fell on his white dress-shirt and rolled down the shirt onto the floor, leaving behind a huge sauce stain. Father Dominick related this stain to sin. If he tried to clean the sauce stain himself without his mother knowing, it would be futile because as a kid he didn’t know how to clean a sauce stain from a pure white shirt properly. He could try as hard as he wanted but no matter what, without the proper means of removal a small stain remained, however faint. The stain he compared to sin and the fact that we may be good people with pure intentions in life but the shirt just like our souls, unless properly cleaned, would still be stained with sin. Naturally, Father Dominick explained how his Italian mother and grandmother would clean the shirt with bleach and some elbow grease to effectively remove the stain. This method of properly cleaning the shirt he related to prayer. Through prayer our souls are healed and cleansed of sin.

Father Dominick’s cute analogy really resonated. It hit home because it painted such a vivid picture of Sundays in most Italian American homes for at least the last 100 years in America. Sundays are not Sundays to Italian Catholics without Church and sauce and Church is not an effective part of our lives without prayer.

In order for us to be good Catholics we must do certain things. Charity and prayer are two of the most important cornerstones. With that in mind, I would like to ask you to please recite The Prayer to St. Gertrude the Great for The Release of 1,000 Souls From Purgatory:

Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen.

The prayer of St. Gertrude is one of the most famous for souls in purgatory. St. Gertrude the Great was a Benedictine nun and mystic who lived in the 13th century. According to tradition, our Lord promised her that 1000 souls would be released from Purgatory each time it is said devoutly.

Father Dominick greeting parishioners as they exit mass

Before mass was ended, Father Dominick reminded us that if we do not pray for the souls in Purgatory, then they can not get to Heaven. He also reminded us that if we pray for these souls, then they will be there in Heaven helping us and praying for us in times of our own need here on God’s Earth.

I would like to strongly recommend my readers to visit Most Precious Blood church. Hear Father Dominick. It is becoming rarer that we see Italian National Parishes still being led by Italian Priests. There are also some great vestiges of the old Italian neighborhood that once thrived surrounding the church that you can enjoy exploring as well. This church was the heart and soul of that neighborhood in Bath Beach. From Most precious blood there were many feasts and processions. Today, although many of these traditions have faded, you can still visit the church and enjoy a beautiful mass and please try to be generous for their offertory so the church may persist.

In closing, I ask you to please offer your prayer to Saint Gertrude partially for the souls of all of our veterans who have left us and may still be waiting for the opening of the gates to Heaven. In honor of the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War 1 and the month of November being the month of Holy Souls, please offer these brave heroes your prayers so that they can continue onto Heaven and watch over us.

By: Raymond Guarini

Thanks to Anthony Scillia for enlightening me to St. Gertrude’s Prayer for the 1,000 Souls. Anthony has a wonderful blog that you ought to check out “where faith, food and friends meet” at :



The Italian American Baseball Foundation: A Phenomenal Growth Story

Amongst the many Italian-themed organizations that were ever created, one stands out as potentially being one of the best and brightest. The Italian American Baseball Foundation was created in 2016 and was founded by Joseph Quagliano, Carmine Gangone, and former baseball player Frank Catalanotto. Amongst the members and affiliates of this organization are some of Baseball’s biggest Italian American names like John Franco, Mike Piazza, and Bobby Valentine just to name a few.

How it Started

The story behind this organization’s inception is smashing. While stationed in Rome, Salerno, and Nettuno during World War 2, Joe DiMaggio and other U.S. servicepeople taught the locals how to play baseball. This sparked a seed of interest in the sport which flourished and lasted generations into today. Baseball has always been “the” American sport but the flourishing interest in Italy has caught the eye of the IABF who not only seeks to sponsor Italian players, but players of all nationalities and backgrounds.

IABF’s Mission

“…Is to promote the game of baseball…by developing youth talent through clinics with professional MLB instructors, individual training, and scholarships.”

The IABF donates baseball equipment to organized youth teams as well as individuals in need of uniforms, bats, gloves, cleats and more.

In addition, the IABF will provide scholarships or financial assistance to student-athletes that qualify academically to play baseball in the United States on the College and/or High-School level.

Upcoming Event

Incredibly moved by the foundation’s mission, former Met Allstar Ace, John Franco, has been an amazingly powerful force in the organization. This December, Mr. Franco will be honored as the IABF guest of honor at the organization’s 3rd annual fundraiser and cocktail reception, which is being held at Carmine and Son’s Restaurant on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The event will also honor Jon Paul Morosi, who is an in-game reporter for Fox Sports and MLB Network sports analyst.


The First Annual Columbus Day Party

Despite a plethora of Columbus themed events on the weekend immediately before Columbus Day, IABF threw its first major event at Russo’s On the Bay, and it was a huge success. The event was top-shelf with an incredible cocktail hour, a terrific DJ, raffles, and the master of ceremonies was 101.1 and Brooklyn’s own, Joe Causi.



The founders took the opportunity to present the organization’s President, Joe Quagliano, with an award for his hard work and sacrifice to the organization. Humbly receiving his award, Joe briefly and eloquently addressed the huge crowd which met his grace with awesome applause.
Trip To Italy
At the reception at Russo’s On The Bay, the crowd was also given a first glimpse of a video documentary of the IABF’s recent trip to Italy. Last year the IABF brass, including John Franco, traveled to Rome, Sorento and Nettuno for scouting potential baseball players and to also possibly exchange personnel to Italy for staffing their teams. The IABF also donated a ton of equipment to their Italian counterparts. (Scroll to the bottom of this article for a link to the video).
The Future
Baseball is part of America’s fabric and has done a good job of permeating into other cultures all over the globe. As the love for baseball spreads and the pool of potential players increases and diversifies, the IABF is in a unique position to capitalize as a conduit for players and leagues to find out about one another.

The meteoric rise of the IABF is something very uncommon and it is truly based on the sincere love of the sport as evidenced by the attraction and participation of top tier players like John Franco et al.

If you would like to contribute to this organization’s growth, please do so by purchasing a ticket for the upcoming event on December 6th and/or by making a tax free donation (links below).

2018 IABF Italian Youth Clinic Trip


A Quick Look At The National Italian American Foundation’s (NIAF’S) 43rd Annual Gala Weekend In Washington, D.C.

October was full of festivities and celebrations for those of Italian Heritage. The chief celebration this year was NIAF’s annual gala weekend in Washington, DC. As the National Italian American Foundation kicked off its 43rd Gala Weekend, Italian Americans from all over the country poured into the nation’s capital to take part.


October 8th

The weekend began with the cutting of the ribbon ceremony at NIAF’s new museum in Washington DC that pays homage to the Italian immigrant. This was followed by a grand evening of culinary perfection and photo opportunities with guest of honor, Lidia Bastianich.




October 9th
On Saturday, NIAF hosted EXPO Italiana, which featured some of the world’s best distributors of wine, food, coffee, cigars and more. Open panels discussed various issues surrounding Italian Americans. Over two-thousand people visited the Expo to experience the various products and learn more about the vendors at their booths.


The Gala

Saturday evening, at the Marriott Wardman Park grand ballroom, a sold-out attendance was dazzled by an array of guests while dining on Pugliese delicacies. Singing both the National Anthems of Italy and the United States was Italian tenor, Marco Fiorante.





Amazingly, opera singer Carlos De Antonis brought the crowd to their feet with a standing ovation for his tantalizing performance of Andrea Bocelli’s “Con Te Partiro.”
Taking the cake, Ambassador Peter Secchia, a NIAF board member, was announced to have given a 1.5 million-dollar donation to NIAF. This news ignited the ballroom into thunderous applause.

The air in the ballroom was so electric because it was fused with pride, love, and awe. The conversations in Italian and English, the clamor from cutlery, and the music all gave life to the room in a way that stands up to time. Forty-three years is a great streak for any annual gala.

We highly recommend you get your tickets as soon as possible for next year so that you can see the magic in a room when you are amongst the most successful Italians in the world.

A Photo Essay Of Diminishing Italian Neighborhoods Across America (Part 1)

I have been frantically racing against time for the last 6 years. After the neighborhood in which I live in Brooklyn started seeing a major uptick in the pace of shifting demographics, I set out to determine if a similar dissipation was happening to Italian neighborhoods in other parts of the United States. After traveling across the continent, it became scarily apparent that every Italian neighborhood was undergoing significant change.

The pile of names of Italian businesses that were closing started to quickly mount. I tried to visit as many of them as I could before their closing. In almost every place that I visited there was at least one business that was recently closed. Many of the businesses and churches that I have documented which were opened at the time of my visits over the last six years have closed or been demolished since I was there. The rate at which this is happening is alarming.

The necessity to maintain these businesses and institutions is critical. I have henceforth created a movement that I pray gains momentum which is underpinned by the following hashtag to bring attention to the importance of supporting Italian owned businesses: #SupportItalianAmericanBusinesses.

The following photos are just some of the many that I have accumulated that evidence a massive shift whereby Italian America is losing its identifiable boundaries. I hope you enjoy….





A Look At The Our Lady of The Snow Society in Williamsbug and A Hero Who Helps Maintain Its Traditions

Last night, I traveled to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to visit the Our Lady of The Snow Society’s Hall on Graham Avenue. This pocket of East Williamsburg has been Italian since the late 1800’s. The society just celebrated its 130th Feast Day of Our Lady of The Snow this past August 5th. Needless to say, this is one of the last remaining original Italian enclaves on the North American continent.


In replying to a Direct Message via our Italian Enclaves’  Instagram social media page, I had arranged to meet a younger member of the Our Lady Of the Snow Society at the Hall at 8:30pm, Wednesday August 29th. Little did either of us know when setting this date and time was that it would be 97 degrees and humid. Nevertheless, I made a commitment to see this place and to learn about the history of the society, and I am so happy that I did because this turned out to be one of my most interesting experiences since I began exploring Italian enclaves almost six years ago.

Upon arriving in front of the Our Lady of The Snow Hall on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, I was greeted by Allessando, the society’s youngest inducted member who initially contacted me with the suggestion to visit the society. After our formal in-person introduction, he guided me to the society’s club house down a narrow alley between the Hall and the building next door. Inside, a few tables were full of Italian men having coffee and playing Italian card games while watching Italian Television. I was immediately introduced to Vinny Raymond, the society of Our Lady of The Snow’s President.

Vinny quickly made me feel at home in the society’s clubhouse where right away he offered me an espresso as we began to discuss our common history and appreciation for old world traditions. We proceeded to tour the society’s upstairs, the hall which is elevated from its foundation with two staircases and Greek revival columns protectively overlooking its neighborhood’s main artery, Graham Avenue AKA Via Vespucci.


The Hall is beautifully decorated with a mural covering the entire back wall. The mural depicts the town and mountain top of Esquiline Hill where the miracle of Our Lady of The Snow occurred in Rome, Italy. On the Same wall there is a niche made for the Madonna Statue, which is an exact replica of the statue in the town  in Italy. Please find the story of Our Lady of The Snow below:

The story of Our Lady of The Snow edited by Joseph San Pietro
The mural in the society hall depicting the mountaintop where La Madonna promised snow in Rome.

Almost on queue, as we left the hall and descended its steps, a car driving along Graham Avenue slowly approached and stopped directly in front. Out of the passenger side of the car emerged an elderly gentleman of strong, fluid motion not to be expected of a 97-year-old. As the man walked over wearing his WW2 hat which also indicated that he was in Korea as well, I was told that he is the former President of the society of Our Lady of The Snow. I was then introduced to Joseph San Pietro where I introduced myself and thanked him for his service to our country before we entered into the society club house.

A screenshot from the Italian Enclaves Instagram account. Left to right: Allesandro, the society’s youngest member, Vinny Raymond-the Society’s current president, Joseph San Pietro-former society president, Raymond Guarini-founder and chairman of Italian Enclaves.

As an avid world war 2 buff and given my significant love of Italian American history, it is needless to say that I was overwhelmed by the opportunity to sit with a Veteran of World War 2 who also happens to be an Italian American of great respect and historical consequence. As our conversation progressed from his landing on Okinawa in the third wave of the assault in one of the bloodiest battles in human history, I also learned to my astonishment that Joe also served in Korea after World War 2. I could stop writing his resume right there and he would be an amazing man, but incredibly, Joe went on to become an New York Police Department detective and wound up on the “racket squad” with the collar of Joe Colombo under his belt. This arrest would become one of the most famous photographs of any mobster in custody with Detective San Pietro pictured behind the mob boss walking him to his legal fate.

Detective San Pietro walking Joe Colombo, mob boss, to his legal fate.

I was enamored by Mr. San Pietro because he is the epitome of the American hero. He is part of the “Greatest Generation” at 97 years old and we should all emulate his patriotism and moral fortitude. He also vigilantly attends society meetings and is extremely active in the society’s pursuit of honoring the story of Our Lady of The Snow. Please find the below photos which depict certain medals and photos from the society’s club house.


Computer Genius Closer To Sainthood

By: Raymond Guarini


I made a post a while back about a young man in Italy who was in the process of possibly becoming a Saint. We are extremely happy to inform our readers that Carlo Acutis’ cause has moved further along when on July 5th Pope Francis authorized The Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree which advances Acutis’ cause and names him Venerable.

Carlo Acutis was born on May 3rd, 1993. He was raised in Milan and gravitated to computers. He remarkably created a website that catalogued every Marian apparition which led to the birth of the international exhibition: The Eucharistic Miracles of the World.

Acutis passed away on October 12th, 2006 at 15 years old. He was an extremely pious young man and would attend church daily to receive the Eucharist. He frequently said the rosary and dedicated his life to his love of God.
What an amazing example of a young man willfully choosing to lead a moral life in a world rife with temptation. Carlo Acutis should be an example for young men and women throughout the entire world.

Please share this so that Carlo’s cause can be seen to the end with his beatification.

The Oldest Italian Feast in New York City’s Manhattan: Saint Rocco Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow

By: Raymond Guarini


As the feast season is upon us, one must look at one of the oldest living feasts in New York City and the oldest in Manhattan, the upcoming feast of Saint Rocco. A preservationist’s dream, the feast of Saint Rocco maintains uninterrupted for 129 years due to the vigilance and devotion shown by the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza, which was established in 1899. Each year, Saint Rocco’s Feast Day is celebrated on August 16th. This year, the feast will be celebrated on August 19th.

To understand how indominable the love and devotion is for this great saint here in New York, the journey that the feast and society have taken must be acknowledged. The story of Saint Rocco’s continuance as a celebration in New York begins in an old Italian Enclave in Manhattan’s lower east side.

Fourth Ward
A neighborhood once known as the Five Points, or the old Fourth Ward, the lower east side of Manhattan was once home to Irish and German immigrants until the mid-to-late 1800’s, when Italians started to immigrate to the United States en masse. Upon their arrival, Italian immigrants were not welcomed to worship in Irish and German churches. The arrival of more and more Italian immigrants was referred to by many members of New York’s archdiocese as “the Italian problem.” Relegated to church basements or worse, Italians were forced to petition community and church leaders for an opportunity to create their own places of worship. Saint Joachim was their answer. Created as the first Italian parish in New York City in 1888, Saint Joachim was located at the epicenter of the lower east side Italian immigrant community on Roosevelt Street. There were many other Italian enclaves forming throughout New York city in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s but Saint Joachim was certainly the first church in which these new migrants could practice

Catholicism with their own language and ancient customs. It is at Saint Joachim where the first Saint Rocco Statue was held and venerated by the Southern Italian immigrants of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

The Statue

The Saint statue is of paramount importance to devotees of any Saint because it allows the devout to venerate their Saint’s memory while having a tangible connection to Heaven. The original statue that was processed each year in the Saint Rocco procession was built in 1889 and imported here from Italy. With its base, it weighs a total of 100 lbs and is crafted out of paper mache.


Society History

The Saint Rocco Society was created in 1889 in Manhattan’s Lower East Side by immigrants from Potenza in the Basilicata region of Italy. Italian societies in the late 19th century were created not just out of love and devotion for their saints but to also supplement things for immigrants such as health insurance and death benefits. At that time, there was no organization like Catholic Charities and there were no formidable ways for newly arriving immigrants to acquire insurance or death benefits in the absence of public assistance programs like those which exist today. The societies filled this gap for Italians in addition to providing a place for them to congregate and socialize with their own. They were places where people who were often persecuted against by earlier arriving Europeans could gather and reinforce one another in their new home.

Changing Times
As demographics in the United States continued to change and urban renewal sprawled across major metropolises, many neighborhoods were torn down to make way for newer structures that could capitalize on technology to build vertically taller, and more space efficient structures. This process was mirrored in every major city and particularly here in New York. As a result, the lower east side’s Fourth Ward was essentially torn down. The Italians moved out in droves to other neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs and those remaining around Saint Joachim moved into the Knickerbocker Village, a complex of apartment buildings that sits on the old site of the old fourth ward Italian district. Saint Joseph’s church was built to accommodate the early 20th century’s influx of Italian immigrants into the lower east side and to alleviate Saint Joachim from being overtaxed by its 18,000 parishioners. Both churches, Saint Joseph and Saint Joachim, served that community until 1967, when Saint Joachim was torn down. The Saint Rocco statue was then translated to Saint Joseph and the feast was held from Saint Joseph thereafter until Saint Joseph’s was closed in 2015. At that time, due to the persistent and unconditional devotion by the Saint Rocco Society and chiefly, its president Stephen LaRocca, the statue was again translated to Our Most Precious Blood on Baxter Street in what remains of Manhattan’s other, downtown Little Italy enclave.

The Society Today

Although much of what we show on Italian Enclaves social Media pages (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) reflects on former establishments and institutions, there is a major emphasis placed upon supporting the businesses and traditions that remain. For us, the Saint Rocco feast on August 19th is the apex of current traditions in that not only has it survived uninterrupted since 1889 but also because it has underwent and continues to undergo a profound revival in which new devotees propel the devotion and veneration of Saint Rocco forward.


The momentum that the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza has gained is due to the undying support of its members and the people who turn out to the procession each year. Most importantly, as always, feasts serve as an opportunity to raise funds for the society to continue its traditions with the proper authenticity. Therefore, we strongly urge you to support this great feast and oldest Italian tradition in New York by purchasing raffle tickets for the drawing on the evening of August 19th. One’s presence is not necessary to participate in the raffle and if a winner is not present, you will still receive your prize notification via e-mail. Please contribute to this incredible event by participating in the raffle to support the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza in their mission to enlighten the world as to the miracles of Saint Rocco. Purchase raffle tickets here:

About Saint Rocco
From the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza’s website (link in bibliography) :
St. Rocco was born of noble parentage about 1340 A.D. in Montpellier, France. At birth it was noted that he had a red cross-shaped birthmark on the left side of his chest. As a young child, St. Rocco showed great devotion to God and the Blessed mother. At an early age, his parents died leaving him an orphan under the care of his uncle, the Duke of Montpellier. Soon after, St. Rocco distributed his wealth among the poor and took a vow of poverty.

St. Rocco dressed in the clothes of a pilgrim and departed for Rome. Along the way, he stopped at Aquapendente, which was stricken by the plague, and devoted himself to the plague victims, curing them with prayer and the sign of the cross. He next visited Cesena and other neighboring cities, and then finally, Rome. Legend has it that everywhere he visited, the terrible scourge disappeared before his miraculous power. He visited Mantua, Modena, Parma, and other cities, all with the same results.
During his travels, he too contracted the plague which was evident by an open sore on his leg. Rocco was banished from the city and took refuge in a cave. There he slept on leaves and drank water from a small stream. Miraculously a dog that refused to eat, faithfully brought him bread as a means of sustenance. The dog used to leave a nearby castle and the lord of this castle having a curious nature followed this dog into the woods and discovered Rocco. The nobleman had pity on Rocco and brought him to his castle where Rocco was cured.
St. Rocco traveled through northern Italy for two or three more years before returning to his birthplace in France. So weak and sick from suffering, the townspeople did not recognize him and he was thrown into jail as a spy without any proof. He was kept in prison for five years. On August 16, 1378, a guard entered his cell and found St. Rocco near death. The dungeon was illuminated with a blue light radiating from his body. Upon hearing this, the Governor demanded to know St. Rocco’s identity. St. Rocco faintly replied, I am your nephew Rocco. Only one thing could prove that, so he had him disrobed and the red cross-like mark was visible on the left side of his chest. The Governor and the townspeople present in the cell then believed. A voice from paradise was heard announcing that St. Rocco’s soul had merited immortal glory in Heaven. Even after his death, St. Rocco performed many miracles.
Saint Rocco is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as the protector against the plague and all contagious diseases. The statue of Saint Rocco is considered unique among theologians because of his pose. It is most unusual because it depicts him with his left hand pointing to an open sore on his left leg. Few images of saints expose any afflictions or handicaps. His body is enclosed in a glass tomb in the church of St. Rocco in Venice, Italy. St. Rocco is remembered on August 16th of each year.
St. Rocco is greatly venerated in Southern Italy and Sicily. In fact, no other country in the world honors St. Rocco as extensively as Italy, most particularly in the South. Numerous cholera epidemics ravaged Southern Italy from shortly after St. Rocco’s death and the Southern Italian people turned to St. Rocco for his protection against this plague, other sickness and for his help in all circumstances of life.
At the turn of the Century, millions of Southern Italian immigrants brought their devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Saints, including St. Rocco to the United States.
Prayer to Saint Rocco
O Great St. Rocco, deliver us, we beseech you, from contagious diseases, and the contagion of sin. Obtain, for us, a purity of heart which will assist us to make good use of health, and to bear sufferings with patience. Teach us to follow your example in the practice of penance and charity, so that we may, one day enjoy the happiness of being with Christ, Our Savior, in Heaven. Amen.


As always, we thank John Napoli of Il Regno for introducing us to the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza and for his archive of photographs that he has graciously shared relative to this feast and many others. Blog:

We would like to thank Stephen LaRocca for his endless love and knowledge about the feast and the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza as well as his hard work in coordinating the oldest Italian tradition in New York

Churches, Communities, and Children: Italian Immigrants in the Archdiocese of New York, 1995 Mary Elizabeth Brown

The Sacred Questua Procession And The Dancing Of The Giglio in 2018; Musica, Uaglio, Aizati I Spalli, Aggiet!

For almost 120 years, the Dance of The Giglio has been a tradition in many Italian American neighborhoods in the United States. Today, as Italians have become more assimilated into American society, the tradition has been narrowed to only four “lifts.” In Brooklyn, for instance, over the last 118 years, 120 men have endured the physical sacrifice of lifting a five-story man-made tower weighing close to four tons in honor of their patron saint, San Paolino, who is the Patron Saint of their ancestors’ town in Nola, Italy. This magnificent tower is called The Giglio, which means Lily in Italian, and it sits upon a platform along with a full band and chaplain. In Nola, there are still many Gigli that are carried through the town in complex routes sometimes lasting an entire day of back-breaking dedication. There are currently four Giglio Dances that still take place in America: Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Harlem in Manhattan, Belmont in the Bronx and Franklin Square in Long Island.




On the day before Giglio Sunday in Williamsburg there is a Questua procession in which Questua committee members, musicians, police and children distribute blessed bread to the people of the neighborhood. The members go as early as 5am to get the bread from local Italian bakeries. Thousands of loaves are gathered as everyone congregates before the procession to see the bread blessed right outside of Our Lady Of Mt. Carmel Church. Once the bread is blessed, the crowd breaks up into “distribution crews.” Each crew consists of a chairman, money managers, children who bag the bread, a band and the police who graciously escort the procession. The procession moves through the streets collecting donations and handing out the bread until all the bread has been distributed. This is usually completed by 4pm. The entire Questua procession takes about six hours.

A young boy taking a bite of the blessed bread prior to the Questua procession.

On Giglio Sunday before the lift, the pastor blesses the structure and the lifters and says the invocation to Our Lady of mount Carmel and San Paolino. The Paranza reply with “pray for us.” Then, the national anthems of America and Italy are played. The lifters begin shouting “Musica!” to spark the band to play the Giglio Song, O’ Giglio’e Paradiso. The band serenades thousands in crowded streets with tantalizing tunes that grace the ears of Italian Americans and all those fortunate enough to experience the electrifying event.

The Beloved Pastor of OLMC, Monsignor Jamie, and the Giglio Band atop the Giglio Platform.

The Giglio is a huge platform that stands upon the shoulders of The Paranza, or lifters. The Paranza are broken into four “crews” of 30 men. Each crew has a capo and lieutenants who direct the men and keep things organized during the Dance of the Giglio, which is a complicated feat of lifting the Giglio tower up and down and moving it around narrow streets in full 360 degree turns. Below the Capos are Lieutenants who also work to unify and synchronize The Paranza. The capo shouts four commands in the dialect of the Nolani: “Uaglio! (Boys!), “Aizati i spalli” (lift your shoulders), “Acconge i cosce”(tighten your legs), “Aggiet! (Throw it!). After the last command, the Giglio is dropped to the ground in a thundering crash as the Giglio shakes and jirates and the crowd cheers. The fluidity of these men moving in unison is simply poetic. The Capo Paranza leads the men and conducts the Dance like a maestro conducts an orchestra, hence the name Maestro Di Festa. To see this synchronization at work is a true gift and is one of the oldest Italian traditions still taking place in America that will transport anyone who witnesses “the lift” back in time and across the ocean to another world. As the Giglio Dances, La barca, which is a huge boat that is constructed in the same fashion as the Giglio and is lifted by the same principle, is danced towards the Giglio . Riding in the boat is a band and singer, the Turk, and young boys, dressed in Arabian costumes that shower the audience with confetti symbolizing San Paolino’s glorious return to Nola after a grueling sacrifice .

The Giglio stands upwards like the flower it is named after, stretching towards the Heavens. The Giglio is handmade by master carpenters and sculptors who painstakingly sculpt figurines of Saints and religious scenes for different sections of the Giglio before it is painted. This process takes months, and shortly before the feast begins, the pieces are slowly put together on top of the platform which is essentially a deck on top of metal beams that are carried on the shoulders of The Paranza with a small piece of foam between their shoulders and the hard edges of the beams underneath the dancing megalith.

The Paranza, lifters, lifting the Giglio. Notice the metal beams.

The Giglio in Williamsburg is a very special event just like its counterparts in Harlem, the Bronx, and Long Island, but is generally more popular because there are still many Italians living in the neighborhood and those who have moved, return in full force. This feast honors San Paolino who stands all the way at the top of the Giglio overlooking his devotees while his figurine is animated in Dance by the Paranza. As legend has it: a poor widow came to San Paolino, who was then the Bishop, for help when her only son had been carried off by the son-in-law of the dreaded Vandal King in a twisted campaign that plagued Italy. Having exhausted his resources in ransoming other captives, Paulino said: “such as I have I give thee,” and went to Africa to exchange places with the widow’s son and other town folk who were enslaved by the Vandal King. There, Paolino was accepted in place of the widow’s son, and employed as a gardener. After some time, the king found out that his son-in-law’s slave was the Great Bishop of Nola. He at once set him free, granting him also the freedom of all the townsfolk of Nola. Upon his return to Nola, Bishop Paolino was welcomed with gifts of Lily’s by all the grateful constituents of Nola. For this great sacrifice put forth by San Paolino, devotees and descendants of Nola continue to endure the excruciatingly difficult lift of the Giglio.



There is an incredible film about the lifting of the Giglio entitled “Heaven Touches Brooklyn” which was produced and directed by Tony DeNonno. Tony spent years researching the Dancing of the Giglio in America and Nola, Italy with authentic footage that he shot himself while creating one of the most enchanting documentaries ever made about Italian American traditions. His video can be found and purchased at:

Useful links to Giglio society websites that also served as a bibliography for this piece:

Feast Committee

Dancing of the Giglio & The Feast of Saint Anthony




Memorial Day 2018 : Photos From The Memorials Dedicated to Fallen Italian American Soldiers

Memorial Day 2018 And How We Remember Our Fallen Ancestors

Although Memorial Day has passed, the actual memorials of many Italian Americans who bravely served our country proudly stand day-after-day in various places throughout the United States. The photos in this post depict most of the memorials that I have encountered in various Italian neighborhoods in the United States over the last several years of my travels.

Now that most of us are back at work and the BBQ and pool photos have winded-down in our news feeds from the long weekend, please take the time to read these names to perhaps identify family friends or relatives and if you can, say a brief prayer for these young men who laid down their lives right out of high-school so that we may have the freedoms and luxuries that we often take for granted.

Photos of Memorials By Location

On Federal Hill, there is a memorial for P.F.C. Louis Tocci who was killed-in-action in the Korean War:


This next memorial is located in the former Italian enclave of Bridgeport, Connecticut at the shrine of Saint Margaret. Aside from this shrine being a breathtaking place to visit because of the powerful religious imagery, there is a beautiful memorial to the local fallen:

The following memorial is located on the site of Our Most Precious Blood church and rectory on Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s “Little Italy.” Currently, the memorial has fallen into poor condition where the names are barely readable. These photos were taken by me in 2012. Hopefully this piece can be restored but if not, this can serve as an eternal memorial:

In Brooklyn’s former Italian Enclave of Canarsie, this veterans memorial generally gives thanks and appreciation to their fallen:


The following memorial is dedicated to the fallen soldiers of Long Island’s St. Rocco’s parish in Glen Cove, New York:

In Baltimore’s Little Italy, there is an incredible memorial dedicated to the fallen young men of St. Leo’s Parish from both world wars seen below:

In St. Louis, the Italian Enclave referred to as “The Hill” has a humble dedication to their fallen:


In West Paterson, New Jersey, there is a dedication to Sgt. John Zambrano who lost his life at the famed “Battle of the Bulge:”


In Brooklyn, one of numerous Italian Enclaves that existed was in Gowanus. On the border of Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, Gowanus is a small neighborhood onto itself in which one of the oldest Italian National Parishes still stands replete with a memorial to the fallen boys from the neighborhood and parishioners of Our Lady of Peace:

The Church Of The Transfiguration in Boston’s North End has a beautiful honor roll citing the names of the parishioners who perished in World War I:


Corona, which is in New York’s borough of Queens, there is a street named for “Marlon A. Bustamante.” Marlon was killed in action on February 1st, 2006 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV. He was assigned to the Army’s 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. Marlon was 25 at the time of his passing:


Bushwick was once a thriving Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, and one of its central institutions was Saint Joseph Patron Church. On church property, in the rear of the church’s yard, there is a memorial and shrine to Our Lady memorializing the fallen from this neighborhood and Parish:

Along Court Street in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, New York, there is a familiar site outside of Saint Mary’s Church. This memorial is dedicated to the Church’s fallen youth who died during World War 1. Although the church was founded as an Irish parish, the constituency in the early 20th century became predominantly Italian.


Brownsville, one of many Italian neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York, still has this memorial at the former cite of the Our Lady of Loreto Church. This Church was one of the first Italian National Parishes in New York and was built by Italian immigrants. Her fallen during World War I and World War II are commemorated in this beautiful tribute still on Sackman Street despite the church’s being torn down:

In the formerly thriving Italian Enclave of Worcester, Massachussets, there is a memorial dedicated to the area’s fallen soldiers connected to the Parish of Our Lady Of Mt. Carmel who died in World War 2. The church has been closed and is slated for demolition:

In Mount Vernon, New York, which is technically Westchester but some still refer to it as the Bronx, there is a memorial dedicated at the closed church of Our Lady Of Mount Carmel. This church has been closed for some years but the grotto and memorial are still maintained:

The Mission: To Enlighten and Preserve

Initially, I was naïve enough to assume that visiting each Italian neighborhood in America would be something that I could wrap-up in a couple of years on the weekends in between raising a family and a career in finance. When reality set in, and I realized that my commitment would be more like a lifetime’s work, I made sure to capitalize more on my travels by taking my time to document as much as possible in an unparalleled contribution to future Italian Americans.

I very much anticipated taking photos of businesses, churches and yard shrines as well as feasts. A common denominator that I did not expect to find between many Italian neighborhoods in the United States was the dedication that many Italian parishes and their neighborhoods exhibit to the fallen soldiers who sacrificed their lives for America in the bloody wars of the 20th century.

As we see our Italian parishes closed and our neighbors move away from our Italian Enclaves, we should never forget those who laid their lives to protect this great land and her inhabitants. The efforts on the battlefield and the home front should never be forgotten. As Italian Americans comprised over 10% of all fighting men in both World Wars, the Italian American contribution was not just limited to those wars. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan saw hundreds of thousands of brave Italian Americans as well.

Creating a master list and archive of photos for each war memorial dedicated to Italian Americans is a work in progress since I know of many more monuments and memorials that are not included in this post. I will continue to travel to these memorials in order to photo document them and give these men an online memorial space forever. Please e-mail any suggestions that you may have because as the sand in the top of the hour glass dissipates, we run the risk of these memorials being removed or forgotten forever and with them, our knowledge of the great sacrifices laid forth by our brave ancestors.

Please e-mail any suggestions to





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