North End's Santa Rosalia di Palermo Society celebrates 75th year

Members of the St. Rosalia di Palermo Society, Danny Puccio (president) of Medford and Charlie Maniscalco of the North End distribute calendars on Salem Street to local businesses. Pilot photo/Aileen McElroy

The Santa Rosalia di Palermo Society of Boston will celebrate its 75th anniversary Sunday, Sept. 7 and invite all to join with a 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Leonard, a coffee and doughnuts breakfast and a 1 p.m. procession in honor of St. Rosalia.

St. Rosalia, also known by her English name St. Rosalie, is the patron saint of Palermo, Sicily. She was born in Palermo in 1130 of a noble family descended from King Charlemagne. According to tradition, a pair of angels lead the young and devout Rosalia to a cave on Mount Pelligrino where she lead a solitary and spiritual life until her death in 1166. It is said that on the cave's walls she scrawled, "I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses, and Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ."

Centuries later in the early 1600s, the city of Palermo was ravaged by a plague and went under quarantine. St. Rosalia interceded when she appeared to a hunter and led him to the cave on the mountain containing her remains. She asked the hunter to carry her bones in a procession through Palermo. After the hunter walked the streets carrying her bones, the plague ended and Rosalia was regarded as "Santuzza," the little saint who saved her people from the plague. St. Rosalia is now the patron saint of Palermo, where a celebration is held in her honor every July 14 and a procession atop Mount Pellegrino occurs every Sept. 8.

In the North End, in 1939, a society dedicated to St. Rosalia was formed among families descended from Palermo so that they could continue to venerate their patron saint.

"The tradition was passed down among our cousins and uncles," says Danny Puccio, president of the Saint Rosalia di Palermo Society. "The procession was dormant in the '60s and most of the '70s but it was Joe Longo, our president for 20 years, from 1979 until 1999, who revitalized the tradition and put us on the map."

Every year, in early September, society members carry the 175-pound St. Rosalia statue from her home at Sacred Heart Church and collect calendars, pink ribbons laden with dollar bills from attendees, local restaurants, bakeries and businesses. Members adorn the long ribbons of money to the statue. The calendars will later be used for society funds and donated to local charities. Serenaded by the society's band, members dressed in white with brown sashes, weave through neighborhood streets throughout the afternoon.

For more than 30 years, Puccio has participated in the celebration of St. Rosalia. As a child in the 1980s, Puccio marched alongside his father, Gaspare, and older brother, Lorenzo, who were born in Palermo.

"My mother would dress me up as a cardinal and my cousin was dressed as St. Rosalie," he says. "In the '80s we really grew with Joe. We had three-day festivals at Christopher Columbus Park. It was excellent."

From 1999 until 2013, Longo's son Anthony Longo lead the society. Puccio was elected Puccio as president earlier this year.

"To me, it's just a title," he says. "Others may view it different. Don't get me wrong. I am truly honored to be president and in a league with my predecessors. However, without good people around, I cannot be successful and I am truly blessed and thankful for the hard work our members do. We are certainly in a period of growth within the society, hopefully we can continue to grow and keep this tradition going."

As the St. Rosalia festival draws near, Puccio reflects on his father Gaspare who introduced him to the St. Rosalie Society as a boy in 1979 and helped induct him as a member when he turned 18.

"My father passed in 2003 and it is in his memory I do this now," says Puccio.

Over the years Puccio has visited Palermo, reconnecting with family overseas and learning more of St. Rosalie. Puccio attended Mass at the Cathedral of Palermo, where a commanding statue of St. Rosalie is framed by palms on the outside plaza. Puccio also made the pilgrimmage to St. Rosalie's shrine, a cave atop Mount Pelligrino overlooking the bay.

"It is pretty amazing to see this grotto built into the mountain," Puccio says.

The shrine's sanctuary contains a statue of the little saint wearing a crown of roses and holding a cross.

"It is a beautiful statue of her all adorned in golden dress," he says.

While walking through the Sicilian city's old quarter, Puccio happened to meet the artist who created the St. Rosalia statue at Sacred Heart Church on North Square.

"I was walking on Via Lincoln and came upon a store selling sculptures and I recognized the statue in the window, that it was the same as the St. Rosalie statue we have here in Boston. I went into the store, met the son and said, 'My God, is this your statue?' He introduced me to his father, the artist, and he showed me photos of the papier-mache statue he created for the Sacred Heart Church years ago. I was so honored to meet him."

Puccio is excited about the society's 75th anniversary in Boston Sept. 7. In addition, this year's procession will contain two bands: the Society's official Italian-American band of Lawrence playing a medley of hymns and Italian melodies and the Sons of Italy Drum and Bugle Corps of Haverhill.

"I hope everyone who comes, enjoys the day with us in honor of St. Rosalie, enjoys the music and walking the procession with us," he says.

The St. Rosalia di Palermo Society procession is at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 7 at North Square in the North End.

For more information, please visit:

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...

Book tells about behind-the-scenes search for St. Peter's bones

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Two Houston men shared a journey through centuries of history and a decades-long archaeological dig under the Vatican to unveil a story ...

Update way priests are chosen, accompanied, pope tells new bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The best way to help the Catholic Church, Pope Francis told new bishops, is not by pointing fingers and creating scapegoats, but ...

Vatican confirms ongoing Sistine Chapel Choir finance inquiry

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican confirmed an ongoing investigation into financial irregularities involving the directors of the Sistine Chapel Choir. ...

After meeting pope, cardinal says he's hopeful about addressing crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston struck a determinedly hopeful tone after his long-awaited meeting with Pope Francis ...

DA clears Indiana bishop of misconduct, says claim has harmed prelate

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend welcomed findings by a Pennsylvania district attorney that cleared Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ...

Cardinal DiNardo calls meeting with pope lengthy, fruitful

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has called a Sept. 13 meeting between Pope Francis and leaders from the Church in United ...

What do Church abuse policies mean by 'vulnerable adult?'

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- A Vatican summit this February will gather the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world. While ...

'Elitist, clericalist' church allows abuse to thrive, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sexual and physical abuse by priests and religious and the scandal of its cover-up by church authorities thrive in countries where ...

Cardinal Wuerl to ask pope to accept his resignation

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- An archdiocesan spokesman has confirmed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl will soon ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation ...

Pope accepts resignation of West Virginia bishop as inquiry into abuse claims launched

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Pope Francis Thursday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the pastoral government ...