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Holy Rosary Society folds after 45 years

Cathy Dobson An organization of Catholic Italian men who raised money and volunteered their time for 45 years in Sarnia has made its final donations.
Holy Rosary Society
Five final donations were handed out Tuesday by board members of Sarnia’s Holy Rosary Society. From left are: Lesley Coene of St. Joseph’s Hospice, Paula McKinlay of Canadian Cancer Society, Kathy Alexander of Bluewater Health Foundation, Taylor Spinnato of Canadian Mental Health Association, Father Brian Jane of Our Lady Mercy Church, each receiving $6,000 cheques from Holy Rosary Society members Dino De Carolis, Tony Azzolina, Salvatore Spadafora, Claudio Iafrate, Mario Savo, Bruno Gismond and John Vani. (Cathy Dobson photo)

Cathy Dobson

An organization of Catholic Italian men who raised money and volunteered their time for 45 years in Sarnia has made its final donations.

The Holy Rosary Society folded Tuesday at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church after handing out $30,000, evenly distributed to five local groups.

Dino De Carolis

“It was not an easy decision to close down,” said Dino De Carolis who served as the society’s president for decades.

“Like everywhere else, our membership is aging and the younger generation is finding other things to do,” he said. 

The Holy Rosary Society – more formally known as The Holy Mary of the Rosary Association – originated in Vicalvi in the Italian province of Frosinone and continues to operate there.

In 1932, a group of Italian men started a Holy Rosary Society in Detroit that a number of Sarnia men joined, said De Carolis. 

Its purpose was to keep their religion, traditions and culture alive while being separated from their homeland, he said.

In 1978, Sarnia members formed their own registered non-profit organization based at the now-closed St. Peter’s Catholic Church. They later moved their activities to Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church on the corner of Christina Street and London Road.

For many years, the Holy Rosary Society was a going concern, raising and donating considerable amounts of money, participating in the annual St. Rocco Festival and holding regular special events.

The membership grew to about 100 and many helped with the manual labour of keeping the church maintained, said De Carolis.

While at St. Peter’s, the Society commissioned sculptor Antonio Caruso to create the statue of the Holy Mary holding baby Jesus. That statue is now located at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church.

“We also helped pay for the honour guards at funerals and created scholarships for church members’ kids,” said De Carolis. 

In recent years, finding enough members has been a challenge. When the Society shut down this week, there were 29 left as well as a committee of late members’ widows.

“It’s a little hard for us to give it up now,” said board member John Vani. “But the next generation is not interested.”

The five groups receiving $6,000 each from the Holy Rosary Society Tuesday included St. Joseph’s Hospice, Canadian Cancer Society, Bluewater Health Foundation, Canadian Mental Health and Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. 

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