Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Vital Link to Home

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Vital Link to Home

Article excerpt

HAWTHORNE -- Landing in the busy industrial centers of Paterson and Hackensack at the turn of the 20th century and in the postwar boom period, the immigrants from Santa Croce Camerina, a town of fewer than 10,000 people in Sicily, stayed close.

They lent one another help with jobs and language, created social clubs and soccer teams, and met regularly for dinner and holidays. And each year on St. Joseph's Day, March 19, they held a feast and procession.

That commemoration, held by the immigrants to North Jersey since 1916, continued this weekend. More than 200 of the Italian city's natives and descendants baked pastries to fill a 400-square-foot table in their social hall and walked with a statue of St. Joseph -- their patron saint -- to Sunday Mass, preserving a vital link to their religion, home and one another.

"This really gets us together and you see the family spirit," said Robert Podimani, 69, president of the San Giuseppe Santa Croce Camerina Society, the club that hosts the festivities. He was 23 and a veteran of the Italian military when he arrived in Hackensack in 1968.

The immigrants from the small town on the southern tip of Sicily came mostly by boat, the first wave arriving around the turn of the 20th century and the second after World War II, members of the society said.

They clustered in Paterson and Hackensack, near factory jobs and relatives who had moved there already. The societies helped them settle and "try to know each other again" in a foreign country, Podimani said.

Many of the immigrants had known one another from Santa Croce Camerina. And some of the older members today still share memories of going to school together in the 1940s and '50s, and being baptized by Monsignor Vincenzo Di Quattro, who led the local church for decades.

"We were almost like a family," said Angelo Gulino, a 74-year- old Totowa resident who immigrated in 1955, when he was 14. …

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