The sacred and the profane

Italian Americans have long been defined by their religious beliefs and practices. During the great wave of immigration, the Irish-dominated Roman Catholic hierarchy identified Italian immigrants as the "Italian problem" and mere "sacramental Catholics" due to the latter's popular anti-clericalism, the seamless blending of witchcraft and ecclesiastic teachings, their deep devotion to the cult of the saints and the Virgin Mary, and the spectacularly staged feste that mixed the sacred and the profane in streets across America. During the 20th century, Italian American spirituality and religious practices have undergone significant transformations with shifts in theological tenets, economic status, and the political climate.

-John D. Calandra Italian American Institute and The Italian American Studies Program of Queens College