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The Feast of St. Rocco – 130 Years Young

With tremendous pride, Stephen S. La Rocca, Esq., President of the St. Rocco Society of Potenza, announces the 130th Annual Feast of St. Rocco to be held on Sunday, August 18 at Most Precious Blood Church, 113 Baxter Street in New York City. The Solemn Mass will commence at 12:00 noon, followed by the procession, the highlight of the event, at 1:30pm. The procession begins at the Church and winds its way through the streets of Little Italy, as it has done since its inception in August of 1889.  This is the fifth year that the feast will be held at Most Precious Blood since the closing of St. Joseph’s Church.

The St. Rocco Society was founded on Roosevelt Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1889 by immigrants from the southern Italian city of Potenza in the Basilicata region. It is one of the oldest Italian American societies in New York State. Every year since its founding, the society has celebrated St. Rocco’s feast with a procession.

Although the society was originally founded by men from the Italian city of Potenza, whose descendants are still members, immigrants from many towns in the provinces of Potenza and Matera also participated in the procession. Over time, those who participated came from every area of southern Italy and Sicily.

The focus of the feast is the procession of the statue of St. Rocco. Even before St. Rocco begins “his walk” through the neighborhood, he is nearly covered with monetary offerings of his faithful. The statue, which is carried on the shoulders of the members, is accompanied by an Italian street band for the entire length of the approximate three hour long walk. Devotees of St. Rocco follow along the route as a means of thanking the saint for his powerful intervention, as well as future graces and blessings through his intercession.

Stephen S. La Rocca, an attorney in New York City, has made it his mission to renew the active participation of the Italian American community and all of the St. Rocco devotees in this event. “It’s like Christmas, Easter and my birthday all rolled up into one,” he says. La Rocca, the maternal grandson of immigrants from Basilicata (his paternal grandparents were from Sicily) has a fervent devotion to his patron saint and it has been his goal to restore the feast to its former glory.

After St. Rocco’s statue is let down from the men’s shoulders to receive offerings and veneration, it is then re-lifted onto their shoulders, to which the men shout with tremendous joy “Viva San Rocco!” (Long Live St. Rocco!) As the procession progresses, the shouting becomes widespread and passionate with participants, as well as bystanders.

Last year’s feast drew Italian Americans from New York City’s five boroughs, Long Island and New Jersey. In addition, there were devotees from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Canada and even visitors from Italy. Whether they came from literally across the street or from other states, they all brought their enthusiasm, love and devotion to this annual event.

Following the procession, there will be food for sale and free live Italian entertainment.  Proceeds from the feast will be donated to Most Precious Blood Church. For more information, including directions to the church, please feel free to call the rectory at 212-226-6427 or Mr. La Rocca, 718-256-0792 or 646-734-8354. You can also visit their website: www.stroccosociety.com or e-mail Mr. La Rocca at [email protected].