JCCIA kicks into high gear

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A Freedom of Information Act request submitted to the Chicago Park District by attorneys for the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans yielded an abundance of documents about the statue that once served as the centerpiece for Columbus Plaza in Arrigo Park.

Among them was a signed agreement that stated, “The Park District will, in perpetuity, obtain the written approval of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans before making any substantial change to Columbus Plaza or the statue.” The statue was ordered removed by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the middle of the night on July 24, 2020.

In a four-page letter to the Chicago Park District board and its legal counsel, JCCIA President Ron Onesti recounted the history of the statue’s installation in Arrigo Park, referenced the signed document, noted the statue was removed without written consent and challenged the authority of the city of Chicago to remove it.

The Chicago Park District later issued a statement contending that the city owns the statue, that it worked with the park district to remove it and that no substantial changes were made to the plaza.

At press time, the JCCIA was hoping to meet with the park district while weighing its legal options. “We understand the safety issues involved, but to say that removing the statue isn’t a major change to the plaza is completely unreasonable,” Onesti says.

The JCCIA hosted a welcome dinner for Bishop Robert Lombardo at da Luciano’s on April 4. Originally from Connecticut and now assigned to the Our Lady of the Angels Mission, Lombardo is the first Italian American to be ordained a bishop by the Archdiocese of Chicago. JCCIA leaders Ron Onesti, Lisa Ryan, Sal Camarda, Lyn Scolaro, Christine Cerami and Jo Ann Serpico took part, along with Melrose Park Clerk Mary Ann Paolantonio and several nuns from Our Lady of the Angels. “I actually graduated from OLA, so it was an extra source of pride to be able to meet the bishop and those wonderful Franciscan nuns,” Onesti says.


The JCCIA and the Italian American War Veterans will team up to honor those who have served our country at a special Memorial Day event on May 30. An 11 a.m. Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii will be followed by a solemn 12:30 p.m. program of remembrance at the veterans monument behind Columbus Plaza at Arrigo Park. The program will feature the Brian Patti big band, an honor guard and a World War II vehicle and Carl Liture, Angela Rinaldi, Angelo DiLiberti and the late Fred Randazzo will be honored. Reservations for the Mass are a must. (708-450-9050) Onesti urges all veterans and their families, friends and supporters to attend the event. “We owe so much to those who fought and died for our country,” he says. “This is our small way of showing our gratitude.”

The JCCIA will host a one-week enrichment camp for children ages 9-12 at Casa Italia from June 21-25. “This is a one-time project to tide the Casa over until it can relaunch its full two-week camp next year,” Onesti says. Dubbed “Un Giro d’Italia,” the camp will include lessons in Italian language and culture as well as activities like cooking, shopping, games, crafts, music and dance. The camp will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. A registration fee of $150 will cover lunch, snacks and a camp T-shirt. Call 708-450-9050 or visit jccia.com for details.

After a year hiatus due to the pandemic, the JCCIA Women’s Division’s scholarship luncheon and fashion show will be back in all its glory on Aug. 7. Dubbed “A Parisian Affair,” the event will kick off at 10:30 a.m. at the Drury Lane Oakbrook in Oak Brook Terrace. Division officers are on the hunt for worthy scholarship recipients. Several $2,000 grants will be bestowed upon female high school seniors of Italian ancestry. Winners must attend the event. Applications are due no later than July 1. For details, visit jccia.com or contact 708-450-9050 or jcc@jccia.com.

About Fra Noi

Fra Noi produces a magazine and website that serve the Chicago-area Italian-American community. Our magazine offers our readers a monthly feast of news and views, culture and entertainment that keeps our diverse and widely scattered readers in touch with each other and their heritage. Our website offers a dizzying array of information drawn from every corner of the local community.

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