Ciminna is a small town outside of Palermo, Sicily where the people are very devout and maintain many religious customs. This deep devotion is demonstrated by many religious processions held throughout the year. The largest and most solemn is that of the SS. Crocifisso Padre delle Grazie celebrated annually on the first Sunday of May.
The origin of this feast goes back to the 17th century. The SS. Crocifisso is venerated in the church of San Giovanni Battista, which gives name to the neighborhood. Originally the church was a small oratory dedicated to San Giovanni Battista. In this oratory there was a Crucifix sculpted in wood that was used to accompany funeral processions.
Don Santo Gigante in his Historia della Miracolosa Immagine del SS. Crocifisso di Ciminna, writes that one night in 1623 a certain Bartolo Caiazza, a man of shady reputation was brutally murdered. The following morning the religious and the clergy with their insignias gathered for the funeral at this man’s home which was located near the chapel of the Santa Croce. The young man in charge of carrying the Image of the Crucifix was unable to move it from the wall where it leaned, until the corps was in the burial crypt. Everyone that heard what happened the day of the funeral was mesmerized. It was decided that the image would no longer be used for funerals, but was placed at an alter on the oratory where Mass would be celebrated.
As time went on, testimonies of miracles were given during Masses. To show their devotion and thanks, a procession carrying the SS. Crocifisso throughout town first took place in May 1651. As the faith and devotion grew stronger so did the donations. These donations together with the efforts of many were used to build the still existing church of San Giovanni Battista, with a special alter for the Crucifix.
The faith, devotion and miracles have continued throughout the generations. Those people from Ciminna who have immigrated to other parts of the world carry their devotion with them and have passed this faith on to their children.
Here in Chicagoland there exist a large number of people that emigrated from Ciminna. In particular, Philip Nigliaccio who believes that he and his family were graced by God when on December 23, 1995, they walked out from a terrible car accident without any injuries. With this, Philip began the crusade to have a replica of the SS. Crocifisso made and to have a procession here in Chicago as in Ciminna. Fred Scimeca dedicated himself to make the reproduction of the Image. He traveled to Sicily to make an exact reproduction of the Image. A non-for-profit organization with a committee was then formed, and with the help and donations of all the devotees, the first feast was celebrated on June 15, 1997. The feast is held every year on the second weekend in June on the grounds of MaryvilleAcademy in Des Plaines, Illinois.
We hope to expand our reach; we have extended our society to new members. Anyone who is devote to the Holy Cross can be sponsored to join the SS. Crocifisso di Ciminna Society and enjoy participating in a wonderful non-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and maintaining the religious welfare of the Italian community in Chicagoland.
The feast is open to the public and is held every year on the second weekend in June on the grounds of Maryville Academy in Des Plaines. Much of the proceeds from the celebration are donated to Maryville. We are happy to add that as of May 2008, the image of the SS. Crocifisso resides at the main alter of Marian Chapel on the grounds of Maryville Academy in Des Plaines.