A Benevolent Society Organized By Immigrants and Their Descendants From Cefalù, Sicily
WHO WE ARE
Cefalù is a city located geographically in the middle of the northern coast of Sicily. The word “Cefalutana” comes from the old Sicilian dialect, meaning “of or from Cefalù.”
The Società Italiana di Mutua Beneficenza Cefalutana was founded in New Orleans, Louisiana, on June 19, 1887, and incorporated on August 10, 1887. Its first officers were: Antonino Bonomo, President; Vincenzo Glorioso, First vice-president; Antonino DiCarlo, Second vice-president; Giuseppe DiCarlo, Secretary; Salvatore Glorioso, Treasurer; Salvatore Messina, Financial Secretary; and Vincenzo D’Antonio, Grand Marshall.
The original purpose of the Società Cefalutana is for mutual benefit (Mutua Beneficenza) of the many immigrants who came from Cefalu`. They assisted each other in times of illness, death, financial need, language/cultural difficulties, etc. These early members, working together in a true spirit of brotherhood with their “paisani," enabled the mainstreaming of the entire group into American society. Thanks to their efforts, and those who followed them, the ideals of the Society have not changed.
During World War I the Società raised funds from throughout the South for the defense of Cefalù, including purchasing a cannon for their mother village.
On June 5, 1908, the Società Cefalutana joined with other Italian immigrant societies to form the Italian Hall Association. This organization was responsible for the purchase, on July 1, 1912, of the building at 1020 Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, thereafter called the Italian Hall. Members were either immigrants or descendants of immigrants who had struggled to make a new life in America. The Italian Hall was used as a meeting place for these societies. Historic records show many parties and dances were held there to help raise money for the less fortunate. In 1966 this historic building was sold, and converted to luxury condominiums. Still on the front of the building are the Italian Coat-of-Arms inscribed with the words “Unione Italiana” located on the top of its front and two lions which guard its front entrance.
Membership is open only to those who have blood ties to Cefalù. Spouses may be associate dues-paying members and are entitled to all benefits. Children of adult members will be considered members until they reach their eighteenth birthday, at which time they can apply to become full members. However, children below the age of eighteen may join our Society for full membership at reduce payment of dues.
WHAT WE DO
The Società celebrates the feast of Gesù Salvatore, Patrono of Cefalù each year on the Sunday nearest the 6th of August. The Società is honored at a special commemorative mass, followed by a banquet with Italian food and music. This tradition was started in Cefalù in the 12th century and continues to this day. On August 6 in Cefalù Sicily, there are festivities and fireworks, as well as a solemn procession from the Cathedral through the streets of the village. Here in New Orleans, our Società has continued this local tradition each year of its existence.
The Società also owns and maintains a mausoleum located at St. Louis Cemetery #3 on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans. The first member to be buried there was Vincent Quartavora on March 21, 1889. Sixty-two members are buried in the old plot, which had 12 vaults. The first burial in the new and well-maintained mausoleum was Mrs. Carmela Piraro on January 1, 1927. There are 24 vaults, and as of August 1, 2020, there are 95 buried, plus the remains of the 64 from the old plot, for a total of 159 souls. Over the years some families have transferred their relatives’ remains to their own family tombs.