The Society was incorporated in the State of New Jersey on October 31, 1927 and was located at 230 Willow Ave. in Hoboken. The Society stayed affiliated with St. Ann’s Parish up to 1938 when the feast was moved to an open field in Moonachie returning back to St. Ann’s in 1946. With the arrival of a new Statue in 1948 the Society then switched affiliations to St. Francis Church where the Statue currently resides. In the year 1950 the Society, under the leadership of President Corrado DePinto and Chairman Anthony Cilento (Honorary President,) arranged to buy the property at 332 Adams St., where the Society now resides.
Over the years the Society’s membership has swelled and contracted but the goal was always to produce the best Feast possible. The decade between the mid-sixties through the late seventies seemed to be the height of popularity. Buses of the Faithful would come to the celebrations. Many dignitaries from Molfetta would come to Hoboken to add to the celebration. These people included mayors, bishops and priests from Molfetta. More recently, we have enjoyed the company of the Papal Nuncio to the United Nations. During the 1980’s Hoboken was changing and no longer was a first destination for immigrants. The Italian community began to move out to the suburbs and the crowds that were once a certainty no longer could be counted upon. The Feast was traditionally held on Labor Day week-end, which was the unofficial end of summer. Many in the Molfettese Community chose to stay “Down the Shore” thereby diminishing the tradition further. During these years a handful of Societa’ members kept the Tradition going. Without these members our Tradition would have gone the way of other Hoboken feasts namely; Santa Febronia, Our Lady of Libera, St. Lucy, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Our Lady of Montevergine, which was the last of the feasts not emanating directly from a church. The few most responsible members were; Vincenzo “Jimmy” DePinto, Saverio Sciancalepore, Dominic DePinto, Gennaro Capelutti, Francesco Altamura, Mauro Altomare, Dominic Tulipiani, Dominic DeCandia, Modesto Mezzina, Aldo DePinto, Ignazio Cinnamea, Michele Minervini, Pietro DeSario, Jimmy Lanzetti, Corrado Azzolini and Sabino Sciancalepore.
During this time the only other Feast was that of Saint Ann which was experiencing a rebirth of interest. Under the leadership of Marie Totaro, the festival had grown in popularity and success. Many in the Molfettes community would ask rhetorically, “Why can’t we be as successful?”
Old Tradition / New Birth
It was around 1996 when a few new younger gentlemen began to join the Society. It was fresh blood with new ideas. With the cooperation of the “old guard”, a few changes were implemented to try to bring the Feast to the Level of success that it once enjoyed. The first changed happened in 1998 when the week-end of the Feast was changed to the following week after Labor Day. When this failed to turn the tide it was decided to remodel the entire Feast to attract patrons from outside of the Molfettese Community. It was agreed to move the festival to Sinatra Park and promote it as The Hoboken Italian Festival in honor of Madonna Dei Martiri. It was hoped that it would attract crowds and sponsors. The entire plan was based on attracting a different audience each of the 4 nights. Thursday would be for the college crowd, Friday would be for the Disco crowd, and Sunday for the 50’s music crowd. All of this was planned so that Saturday would be “our day,” with the Mass and Procession and fireworks on the Hudson. Trying to be as true to the Feast in Molfetta as possible the Procession went right up to a waiting boat where the statue was loaded along with the faithful and cruised in the Hudson River just like it is does in Molfetta.
That day in 1999 was truly a turning point for the Feast ensuring that it will go on for many years to come. It was estimated that over 45,000 people attended. For the Society, gratification was the enormous turn out of Molfettese who came back. There were many tears of joy. Many times one could hear in the crowd, “I have not seen my Madonna on the water since I was little, back in Molfetta.” Since that watershed year the festival has grown in success and the Societa’ has enjoyed a rebirth of members ensuring the future of this Beautiful Tradition.