History of the St. Rocco Devotion

  At St. Therese Chinese Church

(Former Santa Maria Incoronata)

The Society of San Rocco Di Simbario (Italy) was officially founded in April of the year 1920 by Bruno Bertucci. He owned and operated a small grocery store at the corner of 24th Street and Princeton Avenue. It was a time when the Italian people were looked down upon and they had no one to turn to except their own.

At the age of 38 Bruno had bad legs. One of his legs was ulcerated and the infection was severe. He had entered the hospital with hopes of clearing the infection. His legs became infected because at that time men had to break off ice from huge blocks with ice picks. Very often, they would accidentally cut themselves with the ice picks, the ammonia in the ice would leak out, and would get on their legs.

After quite a few examinations, the doctors told Bruno that his leg would have to be amputated. His faith was never shaken. He believed that God through the intercession of St. Rocco would not let this happen to him. St. Rocco was a Saint known to cure the gravely ill and hopeless.

At this time, Bruno made a solemn promise to St. Rocco and a seven day novena while in the hospital. He pleaded that if St. Rocco would intercede and ask our Lord to cure him and spare his leg, he would start a society in his honor.

The Lord answered his prayers. The doctors informed Bruno that the infection was clearing up and that his condition was improving. His leg would not have to be amputated. He was able to walk out of the hospital on his own. Bruno Bertucci being a man of his word, kept his promise. He started laying the ground work to form a society in honor of St. Rocco.

He, along with his father-in-law, John Colangelo, went from house to house in the neighborhood and into other surrounding Italian communities to form this society in honor of St. Rocco. Bruno Bertucci insisted on walking himself to talk to his "paisani'. He felt that he had to walk to show his thanks to God and St. Rocco for having his leg and his life spared.

In all, 117 men joined them in devotion to St. Rocco in forming this society. The Rev. John Peona, pastor of Santa Maria Incoronata Church, also was instrumental in forming the society.

In September of 1920 the first procession in honor of St. Rocco was held. A great fast was also held on Alexander Street. Bruno Bertucci, at the age of 39, attained what he promised he would do. The society grew and the feast and procession has continued every year.

Today we have the fourth generation in the society, carrying on the tradition in honoring St. Rocco.
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