Short History of the Society
The Society was founded in 1902 by the late Paul V. Carelli, Sr., and Italian-born barber who came to Chicago and made a personal promise to celebrate St. Rocco’s feast day for the rest of his life. Carelli gathered his family and friends (paesani) into the society to perpetuate the Old-World tradition of celebration. On September 23, 1903, the first feast was celebrated at St. Mary of Mount Carmel Church at 67th and Hermitage.
Since Carelli’s death in 1960, the society has carried on the traditional feast. Annually, hundreds of devotees from across the city and suburbia join together to celebrate Mass and walk in the Procession. In 1976, after hosting the Feast of its first 74 years, the Archdiocese closed the beautiful parish of St. Mary of Mount Carmel. That same year, Fr. A. Corbo, the pastor of Holy Rosary Church at 612 N. Western Avenue, welcomed the Saint Rocco Society into his parish. For the next 19 years, Holy Rosary Church was the host of the annual Feast. The devotees and parishioners of the Holy Rosary Parish are truly a people of deep faith; they are a tribute to what our celebration is all about.
In 1995, after looking for a central location, we were welcomed into St. William Parish by their pastor, Fr. Robert Rizzo, and the parish council. In 2005, because of the growth in membership and the strong following of St. Rocco devotees, the Society was able to go back to the original tradition of carrying the venerated statue throughout the procession.
One hundred years after Carelli and fellow devotees began their tradition, it continues to grow in strength. The Shrine and Feast of St. Rocco are continuing to be hosted by St. William Parish, and it has been handed down through the generations. Devotees travel from many miles, or just down the street, to participate in the annual pilgrimage and to express their faith.