October 9, 2015

Evviva i Santi Medici!

A Look at the 112th Annual Feast of Saints Cosma and Damiano at Most Precious Blood Church in Little Italy, New York
Evviva i Santi Medici! 
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
Sunday morning (Oct. 4th), I took a subway ride to Most Precious Blood Church (113 Baxter Street) in Manhattan's Historic Little Italy to attend the 112th Annual Feast of Saints Cosma and Damiano, patrons of San Cosmo Albanese in Calabria. This year, returning to their roots, organizers decided to forgo the annual Latin rite Mass and celebrate their patronal feast with the Italo-Greek Albanian Divine Liturgy of their forefathers. 
Excited about the new experience, as a Latin Catholic I was a little unsure if attending the Eastern Catholic Liturgy would fulfill my Sunday Mass obligation; happily, I learned that it did.
During his sermon, Rev. Economos Romanos V. Russo spoke glowingly about the Arbëreshë people, who are the descendants of Christian Albanians who fled Ottoman oppression and settled in southern Italy, especially in the regions of Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily. He also gave prominence to the heroic George Kastrioti, the great 15th century warrior-prince popularly known as Skanderbeg, who served as a Christian bulwark against the invading Ottoman Turks. It was sobering when we were reminded that Christian persecution still exists today to an appalling extent.
Father Romanos explained proper Church etiquette beforehand, and to the best of my ability I respected these rites and rituals; standing throughout the Divine Liturgy (there is no kneeling) and crossing myself right to left with my thumb, index and middle finger brought to a point. Holy Communion was received with arms crossed over the chest, and the Host (leavened bread) is dipped (Instinction) into consecrated wine and placed on the communicants’ tongues.
After Mass, we had the opportunity to venerate the Cross and several beautiful Russian icons, as well as the statues of Saints Cosma and Damiano. It was an exceptionally rewarding experience; I hope our friends from the Saints Cosma and Damiano Society decide to keep this tradition.
Naturally, we were warmly welcomed and invited to partake in the joyful festivities downstairs, in the church auditorium. Guests enjoyed amusing games of chance (raffle and 50/50) and were treated to a wonderful lunch buffet, complete with delicious sandwiches, wraps and variety of salads, as well as coffee and dessert. 
I want to thank all the members of the Saints Cosma e Damiano Society for their hard work and dedication. Heartfelt thanks to our friends George and Damiano, as well as our new friends Rosemary and Frank, for their warmth and hospitality. Cheers to our dear friend and cohort Cav. Patrick O’Boyle, who represented the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George. Special thanks to Father Romanos, Subdeacon Alexei Woltornist and Anthony Russo for serving the Liturgy. It truly was an honor to be a part of this special day and I look forward to celebrating with you again next year. Evviva i Santi Medici!
The altar was prepared by Rev. Economos Romanos V. Russo
Russian icons are put on display for veneration
Religious articles are sold outside Most Precious Blood Church
Subdeacon Alexei Woltornist prepares his music for Mass
After Mass, devotees venerate the Cross and icons
(L-R) Subdeacon Alexei Woltornist and Rev. Economos Romanos V. Russo
Our friends George and Damiano stand with our beloved patrons
Members pose with the society standard
After Mass, festivities continued in the church auditorium
(Above and below) Family and friends come together
to celebrate their faith and culture
There was an assortment of sandwiches and salads for lunch
For more photos visit us on Pinterest

October 8, 2015

The Search for our Ancestry (XVII)

Italian and Sicilian Civil Birth Records
An image of Gaetano Coniglio’s birth record
By Angelo Coniglio
When I began seriously searching for ancestral information, I expected that it would be difficult to access good original records. For no particular reason, I thought record-keeping in the old country in the 1800s and early 1900s might be slipshod and hit-or-miss. I had a surprise in store!  In the early 1800s, throughout Europe, Napoleon instituted civil records including those registering births, marriages and deaths were kept in a format called “Napoleonic” records. No nation of ‘Italy’ existed at that time, and records in the northern Apennine Peninsula varied somewhat from town to town. The southern peninsula and Sicily, being under one Kingdom and administration, kept more uniform records.  Records in the south, less subject to wars, generally survived in better condition and more completely than those of the north.
“Birth certificates” were not used in those days.  No record of birth was given to the parents. The births in each year were recorded sequentially in a large Registro, or register.  Napoleonic civil birth records generally include, for each year, an index of all the year’s births. These are usually, not always, directly after the records for a given year. In the best case, indexed names are alphabetized by surname, and each has a number indicating the page or record for the person. Often the alphabetization was by first letter only, but in some cases it was fully alphabetic. Or the index was listed alphabetically by first name, or simply by an un-alphabetized chronological list.
The actual record can contain valuable bits of information, as follows: record or page number; child’s name; registration date and time (not necessarily the same as the birth date); name and rank of the presiding civil official (Uffiziale dello Stato Civile); birth date; father’s name; paternal grandfather’s name; the father’s age, occupation, and address; mother’s name (with her birth surname) occupation and age; and the maternal grandfather’s name. This data is followed by the names, ages, and occupations of two witnesses (not to the birth, but to the registration of the birth), and by a statement saying that the record was read to all present and signed by those who knew how to write. This can be an unexpected bonus:  If your ancestor’s father knew how to write, you’ll see an image of his signature!  
Below is a full translation of a typical civil birth record, that of my father, Gaetano Coniglio, in the format used from 1875 through 1910.  These records were “boilerplate”, that is, the basic format was pre-printed and the same for most towns. Understanding one of them opens the key to all. Underlined italics represent handwritten entries.

Record Number 158
Gaetano Coniglio 
In the year one thousand eight hundred eighty-nine, on day twenty-seven of April, at ten AM, in the Town Hall
Before me, Pasquale Vaccari, Secretary delegated by act of the Mayor on twenty-four April one thousand eight hundred eighty-eight, duly approved
Official of the Civil Status of the Town of Serradifalco appeared Gaetano Coniglio, age fifty-three, a sulfur miner living in Serradifalco, who has declared to me that at five PMon day twenty-six of the current month, in the house located at via Migliore number ten, by Carmela Calabrese, his wife, a housewife, living together with him was born a baby boy who was presented for me to see, and who was given the name 
To the above, and to this record, are present the witnesses Vincenzo Barile, age thirty, a sulfur miner, and Salvatore Barile, age thirty-six, a sulfur miner, both residents of this community.
The present act was read to those in attendance but is signed by me alone, the informant and witnesses having said that they don't know how to sign [Signed] P Vaccari

From the father’s age, his birth year can be estimated as 1836, and his birth record, in turn, can be found. Witnesses may have been casual observers, or family members, or paid a small stipend. This particular record also had a “margin note” written years after the birth, stating Gaetano Coniglio married Rosa Alessi on December 1st 1912”.  To see the original record, in Italian, go to http://bit.ly/1889BirthRecord  
Coniglio is the author of the book The Lady of the Wheel, inspired by his Sicilian research. Order paperback or the Kindle version at Amazon.com. Coniglio’s web page has helpful hints on genealogic research. If you have genealogy questions, or would like him to lecture to your club or group, e-mail him at genealogytips@aol.com

October 7, 2015

Feast of Our Lady of Victory

La colonna spezzata, Napoli
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
October 7th is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Victory, a celebration of the Holy League's victory over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The victory was attributed to the praying of the Rosary. In commemoration I'm posting "Mother of the Rosary" from Prayers and Devotional Songs of Sicily, edited and translated by Peppino Ruggeri.(*) The accompanying photo of La colonna spezzata (the broken column), a monument to lost sailers, was taken at Piazza Vittoria (Victory Square) during my 2010 pilgrimage to Naples. The picture of Our Lady of Victory was taken during the 2012 Feast of San Gerardo at Saint Lucy's Church in Newark, New Jersey.
Our Lady of Victory, Pray for us
Mother of the Rosary
Of Heaven you are our Grand Lady
With Jesus our defender you have been
I saw a precious rose and a white lily
Mother and son for ever blessed be.

Oh dear Mother of the Rosary
Give me council and your favor grant
Oh Mother of the Word who is incarnate
From the pains of hell please liberate.

(*) Prayers and Devotional Songs of Sicily, edited and translated into English by Peppino Ruggeri, Legas 2009, p.127

Announcing the 55th Annual Feast of the Madonna Del Paradiso, San Diego, California

For more information visit www.mdpssd.org

October 6, 2015

A Look at the 2015 Santissimo Crocifisso Procession in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Evviva Gesù!
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Sunday, October 4th, members of the Club Carinesi D'America of Brooklyn, New York (7618 17th Ave., Brooklyn, New York) held their annual procession in honor of SS. Crocifisso. This year, Mass was celebrated at St. Dominic’s RC Church (2001 Bay Ridge Parkway).
The procession heads down 18th Avenue
Danny Vecchiano and the Giglio Band heralded their approach
(Above and below) There was a terrific turnout for the procession
The color guard led the way to St. Dominic's Church
The procession saunters down 20th Avenue
Our friends from the Borgetto Cultural Association M SS. Addolorata del Romitello in Astoria, Queens show their support
Members carry the Crucifix into St. Dominic's Church for Mass
For more photos visit us on Pinterest

Also see:
A Look at the 2014 Santissimo Crocifisso Procession in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
A Look at the 2013 Santissimo Crocifisso Procession in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Announcing Open Enrollment for Sicilian Language and Culture Lessons in New York City

New class is starting on Monday October 19th at the Italian Charities of America in Queens, located at 83-20 Queens Boulevard, Elmhurst, New York 11373, which is sponsoring the lessons along with the Sicilian Cultural Institute of America.
Lessons will focus on learning the Sicilian language, culture, history, poetry and cuisine. Classes to meet weekly from 7 to 9 pm for a total of 12 weeks. The fee is $120 for 12 lessons.
Please call Italian Charities @ 718-478-3101 or leave a message on The Italian Charities of America or Sicilian Cultural Institute of America Facebook pages for inquiries and enrollment.
Also see:
A Special Event in Elmhurst

October 5, 2015

A Calabrian Pilgrimage

Some unexpected (and extremely thoughtful) souvenirs from Calabria: An image of San Rocco mounted on wood from Gioiosa Ionica, a San Giovanni Battista prayer card from Nocera Terinese, a Saints Cosma and Damiano prayer card from Riace, and a San Francesco di Paola magnet from Paola
My good friend John recently returned from a pilgrimage to his ancestral homeland in Calabria and was kind enough to share a few photos from his trip that give us a taste of the region's rich history and culture.
Nocera Terinese, Catanzaro
San Rocco, Chiesa di San Rocco, Gioiosa Ionica, Reggio Calabria
Saints Cosma and Damiano, Santuario di Riace, Reggio Calabria
Santuario di San Francesco da Paola in Paola, Cosenza

Photo of the Week: The Spire of San Domenico

The Spire of San Domenico di Guzman, San Domenico Maggiore Square, Napoli. Begun in 1656 by Cosimo Fanzango, to commemorate the city's deliverance from the plague, the obelisk was eventually completed by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro in 1737. Photo courtesy of Andrew Giordano

October 4, 2015

Feast of San Francesco d’Assisi

St. Francis renouncing his worldly goods
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
October 4th is the Feast Day of San Francesco d’Assisi (Saint Francis of Assisi), patron saint of animals and ecology. Beloved patron of Cava de’ Tirreni in Salerno, the town’s processional statue is adorned with the Collar of the Golden Fleece and Constantinian Cross. The honor was bestowed upon the citizens of Cava by HM King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies for their loyalty to the Bourbons during Napoleon’s invasion and occupation of the Regno. In commemoration I'm posting a Prayer to St. Francis of Assisi. The accompanying photo of St. Francis on horseback was taken at the Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi in Perugia, Umbria.

Prayer to St. Francis of Assisi 

O beloved Saint Francis, gentle and poor, your obedience to God and your simple, deep love for all God's creatures led you to the heights of heavenly perfection and turned many hearts to follow God's will. Now, in our day, pray also for us, in our ministry to the many who come here searching for peace and intercede for us as we come before the Lord with our special requests. [Mention your special intention.] O blessed Saint of God, from your throne among the hosts of heaven present our petitions before our faithful Lord. May your prayers on our behalf be heard and may God grant us the grace to lead good and faithful lives. Amen. Saint Francis of Assisi, Pray for us. Amen.

Feast of the Madonna del Rosario di Pompeii

Evviva Maria!
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
The First Sunday of October is the Feast Day of the Madonna del Rosario di Pompei (Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii). Widely venerated across southern Italy, She is the principal patroness of Pompei (NA), Botricello (CZ), Vignacastrisi (LE), Castromarina (LE) and Ventimiglia di Sicilia (PA), among others. To commemorate the occasion, I’m posting a prayer to Our Lady of Pompeii. The accompanying photo was taken at the Our Lady of Pompeii Church (25 Carmine Street) in the West Village, New York, NY.
Prayer to Our Lady of Pompeii
What have I to offer you, Oh, Queen, rich in mercy and magnificence? What remains of my life I dedicate to you, and to the propagating of your cult everywhere, Oh,Virgin of the Rosary of Pompeii, through whose invocation the grace of the Lord has visited me. I shall promote the devotion of your rosary; I shall tell everyone of the mercy you have obtained for me; Ishall always proclaim your goodness towards me, so that others as well, unworthy as Iand sinners, may turn to you with confidence. If all the world only knew how good you are, how compassionate with those who suffer, all creatures would turn to you. Amen.

Honoring Francesco Solimena, a Forgotten Baroque Master

Self-portrait, Francesco Solimena
By Giovanni di Napoli
"Painting possesses a truly divine power in that not only does it make the absent present (as they say of friendship), but it also represents the dead to the living many centuries later, so that they are recognized by spectators with pleasure and deep admiration for the artist." – Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) *
As is my custom, I will visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art today to view Francesco Solimena's remarkable The Birth of the Virgin (ca. 1690) in honor of the artist's birthday. I do this whenever possible because I feel that members of our ethnos are part of my extended family and deserve (especially the great ones) the same respect and veneration afforded to my direct ancestors. Viewing the masterpiece in person, like reading the prose of a great writer or attending a concert by a preeminent composer, is my way of communing with our forebears. Continue reading

October 3, 2015

A Look at the First Annual Feast of the Madonna di Montevergine in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

Evviva Mamma Schiavona!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
Sunday afternoon (Sept. 27th), my friends and I made our way to the Knights of Columbus Archbishop John Hughes Council 481 (1305 86th St.) in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn for the First Annual Feast of the Madonna di Montevergine. Participants gathered at the fairgrounds for some refreshments, while the kids enjoyed the many games and rides. 
At 2PM sharp, the procession made its way from the Council building up 86th Street to St. Frances Cabrini Church (1562 86th St.), where Mass was celebrated with Rev. Guy Sbordone. During his edifying homily, Father Guy spoke at length about the history of the Madonna di Montevergine and the importance of the Blessed Mother in our lives. 
Afterward, we returned to the fairgrounds to continue the celebration. Many of us congregated on the veranda to be near the image of Mamma Schiavona and enjoy a little peace and tranquility. 
Thank you Antonio and Maria Limone, and all the Knights for your hard work and dedication. In my humble opinion, the Feast was a smashing success and I anxiously look forward to next year’s celebration. After talking with several of the participants, I’m sure it will be even bigger and better, and become a beloved neighborhood tradition. Evviva Maria!
The Color Guard led the way down bustling 86th Street
The Honor Guard escort the sacred image of the Madonna di Montevergine
Members carry the council banner
The Columbiettes show their support
There was a terrific turnout for the procession
Great to see our dear friends from The Our Lady of the Snow Society
The Cordi family enjoy the festivities
Celebrants gather at St. Frances Cabrini Church
The Madonna's image is placed beside the altar
After Mass, we processed back to the fairgrounds
Back at the Knights hall, devotees pin donations on to the picture
Celebrants congregate on the veranda
Also see:
Opening Night of the First Annual Feast of the Madonna di Montevergine in Dyker Heights