In the fall of 2017, SS. Crocifisso Society and San Giovanni Bosco Society joined together as Societá SS. Crocifisso San Giovanni Bosco di Ciminna (Chicago). We hope to expand our reach and continue to extend our united society to new members. Anyone who is devote to the Holy Cross and to San Giovanni Bosco can be sponsored to join our society. We welcome you to participate in our wonderful non-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and maintaining the religious welfare of the Italian community in Chicagoland.
Ciminna is a small town outside of Palermo, Sicily where the people are very devout and maintain many religious customs. This deep devotion is demonstrated by many religious processions held throughout the year. The largest and most solemn is that of the SS. Crocifisso Padre delle Grazie celebrated annually on the first Sunday of May.
The origin of this feast goes back to the 17th century. The SS. Crocifisso is venerated in the church of San Giovanni Battista, which gives name to the neighborhood. Originally the church was a small oratory dedicated to San Giovanni Battista. In this oratory there was a Crucifix sculpted in wood that was used to accompany funeral processions.
Don Santo Gigante in his Historia della Miracolosa Immagine del SS. Crocifisso di Ciminna, writes that one night in 1623 a certain Bartolo Caiazza, a man of shady reputation was brutally murdered. The following morning the religious and the clergy with their insignias gathered for the funeral at this man’s home which was located near the chapel of the Santa Croce. The young man in charge of carrying the Image of the Crucifix was unable to move it from the wall where it leaned, until the corps was in the burial crypt. Everyone that heard what happened the day of the funeral was mesmerized. It was decided that the image would no longer be used for funerals, but was placed at an altar on the oratory where Mass would be celebrated.
As time went on, testimonies of miracles were given during Masses in front of the SS. Crocifisso. To show their devotion and thanks, a procession carrying the SS. Crocifisso throughout town first took place in May 1651. As the faith and devotion grew stronger so did the donations. These donations together with the efforts of many were used to build the still existing church of San Giovanni Battista, with a special alter for the Crucifix.
The faith, devotion and miracles have continued throughout the generations. Those people from Ciminna who have immigrated to other parts of the world carry their devotion with them, and they have passed this faith on to their children.
In 1959, Filippo Di Nicola suggested to a small group of men who were all originally from the town of Ciminna, to form a society in the Chicagoland area with the purpose of furthering their cultural and social ties to their motherland.
The society was named “San Giovanni Bosco Club” by Salvatore Miceli who had a tremendous devotion to San Giovanni Bosco, a saint recognized for his dedication to youth.
The first elected president was Vito Cali. A prominent member of the business community, Vito served several distinguished terms as president until 1979. In 1980, Tony Napoli was elected president. Also a prominent member of the Italian community, Tony hosts his own Italian show on WEEF, is a member and past president of A.R.S.A., and president of the Sicilian Band of Chicago.
In 1984, the society decided to honor San Giovanni Bosco with a statue. Member Felice Barbaria donated the material to build it, and Vasile Saucine sculptured it. The bara to carry the statue was made by member Mario Sarullo. Also in 1984, Tony Napoli formed the “Fratellanza” led by Giuseppe Anzalone, and the “Sorellanza Auxiliary” led by Maria Concetta Citrano. In 1985, the Society had their first annual procession and feast for San Giovanni Bosco and San Vito (the patron saint of Ciminna) at the Italian Cultural Center, now known as Casa Italia in Stone Park, Illinois.
In 1986, members Frank Bragioli and Giovanni Gambino suggested to celebrate the “Triunfu”, a tradition held in Ciminna the first Saturday after December 8 to honor the Immaculate Conception. Readily accepted by the members, a short procession with a statue of the Madonnina, made and donated by Onofrio Scimeca has been held annually since 1986.
1995 was the year the society purchased a location at 5505 W. Lawrence Ave. A member and fellow countryman Pete Di Nicola contributed time, materials, and labor to build the chapel and meeting room which held up to 100 people.
Through the years the San Giovanni Bosco Society has been honored to have special guests from Ciminna come and celebrate the feast of San Giovanni Bosco including: Mayor Michelangelo Barone, Maestro Franco Frangipane with his musical group, Mayor Maria Rosa Brancato, I Festanti – entertainers managed by Antonino Frangipane.
In December 1995, Philip Nigliaccio and his family walked out from a terrible car accident without any injuries. Believing they were graced by God, Philip began the crusade to have a replica of the SS. Crocifisso made and to have a procession here in Chicago as in Ciminna. After speaking with his family and his siblings, Philip scheduled a meeting at St. Emily’s Church in Mount Prospect to gather all the Ciminnese in the Chicagoland area together to discuss having a SS. Crocifisso feast in Chicago. With more than one hundred people in attendance all showing their support, the reunion was very successful. Many people in attendance pledged their support and offered donations to help bring the SS. Crocifisso Feast to life in Chicago. After that meeting, Philip contacted the committee for the SS. Crocifisso Feast in Ciminna and Father Salvatore Scimeca, the pastor of San Giovanni Battista Church to share his intentions. The committee and Father Scimeca granted permission to have the replica of the SS. Crocifisso created, and Onofrio Scimeca traveled to Sicily to make an exact reproduction of the Image. Meanwhile, Felice Barbaria created the beautiful bara which is used in procession.
Crocifisso di Ciminna Society, a non-for-profit organization with a committee was then formed (with these couples: Mr. Paul & Mrs. Antonetta Barone, Mr. Frank & Mrs. Maria Bragioli, Mr. Nick & Mrs. Rose Brancato, Mr. Mike & Mrs. Ida Cassata, Mr. Tom & Mrs. Fran Cinardi, Mr. Vito & Mrs. Maria Dalmazio, Mr. Pino & Mrs. Lina Faraci, Mr. Domenic & Mrs. Marianna Gambino, Mr. Phil & Mrs. Josephine LaSusa, Mr. Vito & Mrs. Daisy Nigliaccio, Mr. Phil & Mrs. Rose Nigliaccio, Mr. Vito & Mrs. Nina Urso Russo, Mr. Fred & Mrs. Nardina Scimeca, Mr. Joe & Mrs. Lillian Episcopo). This committee elected Philip Nigliaccio as president. With the help and donations of all the devotees, the first annual feast was celebrated on June 15, 1997 at St. Emily Church in Mount Prospect with Reverend Benny Vaghetto, a Ciminnese living in Pittsburgh. For the first three years, the SS. Crocifisso Feast was held at St. Emily’s. Since June 2000, the feast is held every year on the second weekend in June on the grounds of Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Crocifisso Society is grateful to have Reverend John Belmonte serve as its vibrant chaplain through all these years. He has serviced the entire Ciminnese community in Chicago so wonderfully that the Mayor Giuseppe Leone of Ciminna made him an honorary citizen of Ciminna. Through the years the SS. Crocifisso Society has been honored to have special guests from Ciminna come and celebrate the feast of SS. Crocifisso including: Father Pino Graziano, Father Michele Polizzi and Father Mario Cassata.
Meanwhile, in January 1999, Franco Cassata, a prominent business man and a member of A.R.S.A. was sworn in as the new president of San Giovanni Bosco. As president, Franco successfully achieved his mission to form a youth division and expand the society to the younger generation and their families.
The San Giovanni Bosco Society and SS. Crocifisso Society have proudly raised funds and contributed to the restoration of San Giovanni Battista Church in Ciminna. The contributions from San Giovanni Bosco Society helped pay for the church’s electrical system.
Also in 1999, the San Giovanni Bosco Society raised funds to purchase an ambulance for Ciminna based on a request made by Franco Frangipane to Dominic Gambino while he was vacationing in Ciminna. Later in 2000, San Domenico Church in Ciminna requested San Giovanni Bosco Society’s support to restore the statue base of the Mother of the Rosary. With the society’s donations, the statue was restored and a feast was held which had not been held in 50 years.
In 2001, while in Ciminna, Franco Cassata was granted his request to have a replica of the Crucifisso in Ciminna made. Committee member Franco Urso Cale found the sculptor G. Sessa from Catania. Franco returned to Ciminna in 2003 to receive the crucifix at a special mass. Once he brought the crucifix to Chicago, a celebratory mass was held with Father Paolo Longo at St. Eugene Church in Norridge, IL. The crucifix now resides in the Casa Italia Chapel.
In November 2003, Societá San Giovanni Bosco officers and members voted to change the society’s name to Societa San Giovanni Bosco and SS. Crocifisso di Ciminna.
In 2004, Frank Faraci was sworn in as the new president of Societá SS. Crocifisso and Phil Nigliaccio retained his role as chairman of the SS. Crocifisso feast.
In January 2006, Tony Napoli was re-elected President of San Giovanni Bosco Society.
In 2007, SS. Crocifisso Society and San Giovanni Bosco Society celebrated the feast of SS. Crocifisso together with La Banda Musicale di Ciminna, Arciprete Don Antonio Mancuso, and Comitato S.S. Crocifisso with Pesident Angelo Alesi.
In May 2008, SS. Crocifisso Society was given permission to have the SS. Crocifisso reside at the main alter of Marian Chapel on the grounds of Maryville Academy in Des Plaines where the crucifix continues to reside.
In the year of 2010, Complesso Bandistico Ventimiglia, L’arciprete the Mayor and a group of delegates from Palermo came to Chicago to honor us the feast of San Giovanni Bosco.
The feast of SS. Crocifisso and San Giovanni Bosco is open to the public and will be held annually on the second weekend in June on the grounds of Maryville Academy in Des Plaines.