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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Dedication ceremony - Santa Maria Maddalena Corner, June 1998
Dedication ceremony naming the corners of Wooster and Chestnut Streets Santa Maria Maddalena Corner, June 21, 1998. Photo: John Varrone

Santa Maria Maddalena Society

Immigrants from the Italian town of Atrani in the Salerno Province, south of Naples, who settled in the Wooster Square area in New Haven, founded the Society of Santa Maria Maddalena on May 1, 1898. Named for the patron saint of Atrani, this mutual aid society assisted Atrani immigrants with housing, employment, English translating, and legal matters. Over the years, the society's purpose has become more community oriented, helping any worthwhile cause or individual regardless of ethnic background. It has donated in excess of $124,000 to numerous causes, charities, and organizations, which include St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church in New Haven, the Salvation Army, Columbus House (for the homeless), Connecticut Hospice, and Iwo Jima Survivors. The society has also provided scholarships for inner city youths.

The Santa Maria Maddalena Society preserves the traditions, heritage and culture of its members' ancestors, and also maintains ties to Atrani by providing assistance to the Santa Maria Maddalena Church in Italy and the society's Italian sister organization for its annual Festa to Santa Maria Maddalena which coincides with the feast day in Connecticut. During the week of July 22, a replica of the original statue of the saint, which was brought to the United States in 1914, is carried through the streets of Wooster Square. The saint is adorned with jewelry provided by the original members of the society. The feast procession culminates at St. Michael's Catholic Church where a high mass is celebrated. The feast celebration extends for four days with Italian music and food, and on Saturday evening, Neapolitan music is featured.

The holiday is a time for reuniting with friends and providing younger generations with opportunities to learn about their culture. About 45,000 people attended the 100th anniversary celebration of the feast day in 1998, at which time the corners of Wooster and Chestnut streets were renamed Santa Maria Maddalena Corner by the city. The Society of Santa Maria Maddalena is the oldest American fraternal organization in Connecticut.

Project is documented with five-page report, 16 photographs, newspaper articles, copies of letters from President Reagan and Vice President Quayle, and a one-hour videotape with video log.

Originally submitted by: Rosa L. DeLauro, Representative (3rd District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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