By Marianne Peri-Sack
Santa Fara is the patron saint of a town in Western Sicily called Cinisi. Many people from that village have immigrated to the St. Louis area and many settled in the area called “Little Italy’ in downtown St. Louis. In Little Italy stood the Italian church Our Lady Help of Christians. The immigrants brought with them the customs and traditions from their respective towns. Each town had a patron saint and processions were held honoring many of these saints. A society in honor of Santa Fara had been formed and the people from Cinisi and their descendants held a Mass, procession and festivity annually.
In the early 70s, the beloved church was razed to make way for the new convention center to be built. The Italians that still lived there and those that had moved away tried their best to keep the church where they were baptized, married and worshiped from being demolished but they were not successful.
Statues, art work and other items had to be moved. Some were moved to Our Lady of Good Consul in Bellefontaine Neighbors where Monsignor Carl Poelker had built a new church, some were moved to the Italian church St. Ambrose on the Hill and some were given to individuals who had some connection to the item. Rose Biondo Sita was given the Santa Fara statue since it was her father who had commissioned the statue many years ago.
Thirty years ago, Father Palazzolo, then pastor of St. Ambrose, was wondering if there existed a statue of Santa Fara in St. Louis. His people were from Terrasini, the town adjacent to Cinisi and he remembered fondly the processions. Angelo Sita advised Father Palazzola that his mother had a statue. Father invited her over for dinner and he asked if she would allow the statue to reside in St. Ambrose. After a few months of mulling it over, Mrs. Sita consented. The statue needed repair and Aldo della Croce repaired it and Father Strout from St. Aloysius painted it. From that time, devotees could visit the Santa Fara statue and pray before her. On September 10, a mass was celebrated commemorating the 30th year of the Santa Fara statue at St. Ambrose.
Among the attendees that morning were immigrants from Cinisi, their children and grandchildren. Three of Rose Sita’s children were there – John Sita, Tina Gray and Angelo Sita. The fourth child, Tori Greco, recently passed away. For those that wished, candles were available in memory of loved ones. They were carried up and placed on the altar railing. The light flickering inside the royal blue candles on top of the white marble railing made a very lovely sight. Father Leo Spezia celebrated the Mass.