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Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Catholic Life in New York

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Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grotto

36 Amity Street

Staten Island, New York 10305

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Ex Voto NYC is an ongoing series of off site programs designed to activate votive sites in each of the five boroughs. A celebration of New York’s rich history and culture, the second program in this series, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel: Catholic Life in New York, takes place on October 13.

In the fall of 1937, the Italian American members of the lay Catholic organization, the Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, began constructing a grotto on the association’s property in Rosebank Staten Island. The product of voluntary labor over several years, the approximately thirty-foot-high shrine consists of a central chamber built with fieldstones, flanked by two adjoining sections stretching out in serpentine fashion. The surfaces of the grotto walls are decorated with smooth round pebbles, as well as glass marbles, shells, translucent plastic flowers, and bicycle reflectors inlaid in cement in various shapes that include crosses, triangles, ovals, stars, and diamonds. The central apse contains a linen-draped altar with a padded kneeler and an alcove housing a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding the Infant Jesus. A host of religious statues and framed prints are found throughout the grotto’s alcoves, crevices, and ledges. Written petitions, family photographs, funeral cards, rosary beads, and other personal and devotional items adorn the altar walls and shelves.

Join us for a conversation between Joseph Sciorra, director of Academic and Cultural Programs at Queens College’s John D. Calandra Italian American Institute; Michael DeCataldo, an active member of the Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; and Diane Venosa, Staten Island resident and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel volunteer. A musical performance by Michela Musolino, a Sicilian-American internationally acclaimed folk singer specializing in traditional and contemporary Sicilian Roots music will follow.





Joseph Sciorra is director of Academic and Cultural Programs at Queens College’s John D. Calandra Italian American Institute. He has conducted ethnographic research on vernacular expressivity and published on religious practices, material culture, and popular music. He is the editor of Italian Folk: Vernacular Culture in Italian-American Lives (2011), the co-editor of Graces Received: Painted and Metal Ex-votos from Italy (2012), and the two-volume anthology New Italian Migrations to the United States (2017), and the author of R.I.P: Memorial Wall Art (1994, 2002) and Built with Faith: Italian American Imagination and Catholic Material Culture in New York City (2015). In 2014, he was a Bard Graduate Center research fellow investigating Italian immigrant ephemeral architecture.

Michael DeCataldo
, like his father and grandfather before him, is an active member of the Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and currently serves as its treasurer. As a lifelong resident of Rosebank, Staten Island, Michael volunteers with his community board and with local veterans affairs.

Diane Venosa moved from Manhattan to Staten Island in 1973 and for the past decade volunteers to work during the annual July feast held on the grotto, and year-round at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel grotto.

Michela Musolino is a Sicilian-American internationally acclaimed folk singer specializing in traditional and contemporary Sicilian Roots music, infusing her music with the emotions of life. She has performed live in the USA in landmark venues such as the Old Town School, Chicago, St. Markʼs Church in the Bowery, NYC , the Yale School of Music; The Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò at NYU; Ashkenaz in Berkeley, CA; and the MultiCultural Center in Santa Barbara, CA; and in Italy at the Biblioteca Statale in Cremona, the Maison du Tango in Naples. Musolino has also been and Artist-in-Residence at the Middlebury Italian Language School ( 2008, 2012, 2013 ) and was recently named the 2018 Esposito Visiting Fellow at the College of Arts and Sciences at UMass at Dartmouth.





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Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grotto

36 Amity Street

Staten Island, New York 10305

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