The Saints Cosmas and Damian Society is an Italian-American organization comprised of approximately one-hundred individuals. The Society was formed in 1926 during a period of heavy immigration to the United States from Europe.
A large group of immigrants from the coastal city of Gaeta, Italy settled in East Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. Most of these people were eager to learn a new language and a new way of life in order to fit into their surroundings, which would also provide a better future for their children. Most worked in the local meat packing industry, a far reach from their native fishing and farming professions.
A sense of community belonging and cohesion was brought about in many ways for these people, but mainly through religion. A local Italian Roman Catholic Church was opened by the Archdiocese of Boston to service this group, but many longed for the traditions which were left behind, particularly the religious festivals.
In 1926, a small group of women began to meet periodically to pray to the patron Saints of their beloved city of Gaeta, Saints Cosmas and Damian. The group grew and it became necessary to meet monthly in local function facilities. Soon thereafter a group of men organized and sent to their homeland for life-sized statues of their patron Saints. When the statues arrived, the organization began a yearly feast in honor of these saints.
In the 1940s, the women members, led by Marietta Colarutolo, purchased a parcel of land on Porter Street in East Cambridge and funded the building of a chapel for the statues. The building would house the Saints and serve as a meeting place for monthly meetings. The Feast became a major event in the lives of these founding members, as well as in the lives of their families.
Over the years, much has changed. The "old neighborhood" has been transformed as the older generations pass on, and the young move to the suburbs. Religion and devotion, as we now know them, are far from what our grandparents knew, and backyard tomato gardens have been replaced with lush lawns. However, the Feast lives on in its original form. The location of the festival itself has moved by a block or two, but the tradition, as it was intended, lives on in the hearts of the descendants of those who began the festival. The families all still return to the "old neighborhood" for this annual reunion.
The present members of this organization are evermore involved in organizing the Feast, and they represent all ages. Many represent the 5th generation of membership for their families. Most work tirelessly to carry on the tradition, and preserve the prominent presence of the Society in our local community. The Society is represented by various members at all local happenings.
The chapel underwent a major renovation in 1995, and the men's and women's societies have now joined to be known as one large organization, The Society of Saints Cosmas and Damian of Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. Membership is at an all-time high.
"Our Finest Hour"
In 1988, the Smithsonian Institute asked our Society to recreate its festival on the National Mall, which spans between our nation's Capitol Building and The Washington Monument. The festival lasted 2 days and took place over the July 4th holiday. This invitation was quite an honor for our organization, and the event was one that will be talked about for generations. Over 3 million people were present for this spectacular celebration!