The Federation of Italian-American Societies of WNY Luncheon April 2016



Press Release

Contact: Stephen LaRocca

(San Rocco Society )


Joseph Rinaldi

(Craco Society )


9 AM EDT, March 5, 2013


San Rocco Society of Potenza and The Craco Society Are
Keeping Tradition Alive in Manhattan’s Little Italy

Two Italian-American societies collaborated to keep tradition
alive in Manhattan’s Little Italy by preserving the historic
organ at St. Joseph’s Church, 5 Monroe St., Manhattan, NY.

The Church of St. Joseph at 5 Monroe St., Manhattan, NY is
important to both the San Rocco Society of Potenza and The Craco
Society as the “mother church” for their annual feast day
celebrations that go back over 123 years. The church hosts the
original statues of San Rocco (1888) and San Vincenzo, Martire
(1901) that have been features of traditional the Italian
“festas” held in the area’s East Side for generations.

St. Joseph's Church is also the home to the pipe organ that was
installed at St. Joachim’s Church on Roosevelt Street, the
original home for both the historic statues. St. Joachim’s
Church started serving the Italian immigrant community in 1888
and was the first church opened by the Missionary Fathers of St.
Charles Borromeo (commonly called the “Scalabrini Brothers”) in
America. It was also the first assignment of Mother Cabrini
when she arrived in US. As part of St. Joachim’s outreach to
immigrants who were pouring into the Lower East Side of New York
at the turn of the 20th century, the church encouraged the
formation of groups and societies reflecting the many local and
regional interests of the Italian’s. The groups included the
San Rocco Society of Potenza and the Societá S. Vincenzo Martire
di Craco among many others.

Both these organizations held feast day celebrations for the
saints that included elaborate church Masses with music played
on the organ. The organ music was not only integral to the many
feast day celebrations that were held by all the groups at the
church but its music also marked major events throughout
immigrants’ lives — marriages, deaths, and religious holidays.

In 1957 St. Joachim’s Church was demolished for an urban
development project. The organ and the statues of San Rocco and
San Vincenzo were moved to St. Joseph’s Church where the two

societies continue to hold feast day celebrations in August and

During last August’s San Rocco Feast Day Mass the organist
noticed problems with the instrument and suggested repairs.

The San Rocco Society of Potenza and The Craco Society agreed to
share the expense to preserve this piece of Italian-American
heritage. The music piped from the organ represents a way to
maintain the sounds that generations of Italian ancestors heard
on so many occasions. As the only two societies remaining from
all those that were affiliated with St. Joachim’s Church it is
appropriate and fitting to repair the organ and preserve the
same sounds to pass along to future generations.

The Craco Society, a non-profit organization formed to preserve
the culture, traditions, and history of the town of Craco,
Italy, will hold the 112th feast of San Vincenzo, Martire on
Sunday October 27, 2013. Joseph Rinaldi, president of The Craco
Society says of this preservation project, “Over the 112 years
since the feast of San Vincenzo was first celebrated by our
ancestors in New York City much has changed. With the Italian
immigrants leaving the area in the mid-20th century, new groups
of immigrants populated the area following their path to the
“American Dream.” With those changes the scenario presented

itself for things to be forgotten. Recently, the latest
generation of descendants from the town of Craco stepped forward
to support keeping traditions alive. Collaborating with the San
Rocco Society, who shares the same reverence for preservation of
our traditions, history, and culture, is important to our
future.” Information about the The Craco Society is available
online at:

The St. Rocco Society, a 501c3 non-profit, was founded in 1889
by immigrants from the Southern Italian City of Potenza in the
Basilicata region. Every year, without interruption, since its
founding, the society celebrated St. Rocco’s feast making it one
of the oldest Italian-American societies and celebrations in
America. This August 18th will be the 124th celebration. The St.
Rocco Feasts draw Italian-Americans from New York City’s five
boroughs, Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Canada and
beyond. Proceeds from the annual event are donated to St.
Joseph’s Church and medical charities.

Stephen LaRocca, president of the San Rocco Society points out,
“It was a blessing that this problem with the church’s organ
surfaced on San Rocco’s feast day. Known as the saint of
healing, getting the organ “whole and healthy” before it
deteriorated too much is fitting. We can pass the sounds from
the organ on to the new generation in the community that uses

St. Joseph’s Church while we keep the sounds our ancestors heard

For more information on the San Rocco Society of Potenza visit
their website at: .




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