About the Society
As various Italian immigrants settled in Lawrence at the turn of the century, they brought with them the dialects, culture and traditions of the many regions and villages from which they came. Many of the Sicilian immigrants from the towns in the Province of Catania, especially from the area around Trecastagni, maintained their particular devotion to the three martyred brothers, Saint Alfio, Saint Filadelfo and Saint Cirino. As their numbers increased, they set about the task of organizing an association, the primary purpose of which was to establish the tradition of honoring these patron Saints in this new community.
Because of the difficulties faced by the immigrant community, an important purpose of the Society was mutual aid. This need grew out of an era when there was no help from public sources. Members who were in good standing and paid their annual dues were entitled to a death benefit — for some, the only life insurance they possessed. The members also paid twenty-five cents per month, which entitled them to free medical care if they became ill. They were always sent to Italian doctors, including Dr. Zannini, Dr. D'Urso, and Dr. Tiani. In 1932, at the height of the Depression, the Society voted to give any member facing financial difficulties up to $25.00. Later that year the Society also voted a one time gift of $5.00 worth of food for any member in need; with the stipulation that any member found to be taking advantage of this benefit under false pretenses would be automatically expelled from the association.
Minutes from the 1920's reveal that dues were prorated by age, with younger members paying as little as $2.00/yr., and older members paying as much as $12.00/yr. This higher rate was equal to, if not more than, a week's pay for most workers in Lawrence at that time. Members were often called upon to make extra donations in order to help with expenses.For example, in 1930 every member was obligated to purchase ten raffle tickets at 10 cents each to help cover the expenses of the Feast. Each member was given four months to meet this obligation!
The Society was also a social hub for the community. Its headquarters moved from various sites on Newbury Street and Union Street until the present building on Common Street was built in 1961. Holiday parties and dinner dances were attended by the members and their families. Mary Sciuto Privitera remembers that her father, Giuseppe Sciuto, who served twice as president, would hold a weekly card game with other members at the headquarters.
They never played for money but only for chocolate bars. The next morning we kids would wait to see how much candy our Dad had won for
The "Friday night gang" continued to be a fixture, and members still gather when they can for a friendly game of cards and perhaps a late night snack.
The community has changed, and most members now live far from the headquarters, but the spirit of fellowship remains strong.
In Loving Memory
In May of 2011 our society brother, Sam Sapienza passed away after many years of devotion to the three saints and the feast that honored them. God bless him. This photo from 2000 is being shown to honor his memory. The St. Alfio Society of Lawrence held its 3rd. Annual Dinner Dance on Saturday, January 22, 2000 at DiBurro's in Bradford. Over 250 people attended to enjoy the night and to see two men from the Greater Lawrence area be honored for their years of devotion and dedication to the society's Feast of the Three Saints. The Labor Day weekend celebration is held to remember and honor the saints; three martyred brothers from Sicily and to raise money for a variety of charities. Honored that night was Al Torrisi, owner of Jackson Lumber and Millwork in Lawrence and Sam Sapienza of Salem N.H. a society member for 40 years. Sam will lead the saints into the feast's first millennium celebration. First row: L to R: surrounding the honorees are: Stephen N. Zanni, President of the Society; honorees, Alfred J. Torrisi and Sam J. Sapienza; Raymond E. DiFiore, Vice-President of the Society and Tony Palmisano, Secretary of the Society. Second row: Mr. Torrisi’s son, Mass. State Representative, David M. Torrisi, D-North Andover; Lawrence Mayor, Patricia A. Dowling and Joseph A. Salvo, Treasurer of the Society. The original date of the photo is: (E-T photo/Carl Russo)Tuesday, January 25, 2000.
Again we were sadden by the passing of another society brother, Vito Nastasia. The oldest St. Alfio Society member, Vito J. Nastasia, 96, of Lawrence, passed away Wednesday, June 1, 2011. This is a photo of Vito at his last feast in 2010 (Carl russo Photograph)