Since the church’s dedication in 1904, different groups of Italian parishioners formed many “clubs” within the parish of Santa Maria Incoronata. Each club was closed, meaning members had to come from a club’s specific town or region’s ancestry, and each had its own annual feast. In 1920 the Calabrese from the small village of Simbario in Catanzaro formed the St. Rocco di Simbario club; it is the only surviving closed club today, celebrating the Feast of St. Rocco each year on the second Sunday of August.
Fr. Lorenzioni was very active in forming Club Maria SS Incoronata e San Cristoforo di Ricigliano (SMI), which he intended to be a club open to the whole parish. This club sponsored the two feasts that opened and closed the feast season, and to this day both the May feast (known as May Crowning since 1962) and the September feast and procession are joyfully celebrated.
The School and New Chapel
Santa Maria Incoronata Parochial School opened in September of 1914 with instruction by the Sisters of Notre Dame. It was located at 25th and Princeton and was formerly part of St. Anthony’s parish. Over the next forty years, attendance exploded so much so that in 1953, a larger school had to be opened on 25th Street to accommodate all the students.
Meanwhile, although attendance at the school and church was good, the parishioners south of 29th Street began to complain that the distance was too great to attend Mass every Sunday. Since some of the parishioners had moved in that direction, then-pastor Father Lazzeri quietly looked for a suitable location for a new “satellite” chapel. He chose the present site of Santa Lucia, which was dedicated on Easter Sunday, 1943.
Changing of the Times and Culture
During World War II, the demographics of the Santa Maria Parish neighborhood began to shift. The parish had succeeded in helping the Italian immigrants get started in America , and the parish school had succeeded in educating their children. The trend in the neighborhood at the time was to get an education and move to the southwest or northwest sides of the city. The urgency to move was further exacerbated by the construction of the Dan Ryan Expressway, which forced many Italians out of the area. But meanwhile, more and more new immigrants of Asian descent began to settle in the vicinity of the parish.