by Antonina Zielinska
People of Italian heritage celebrated the life of Christopher Columbus over the holiday weekend, but Italian Catholics in the diocese did not forget their religious traditions and their love for Mary. They joined Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio to praise of Our Lady of Pompeii in a procession from St. Mary Morther of Jesus church, Bath Beach, to St. Athanasius church, Bensonhurst.
The Italian Apostolate is continuing the tradition of honoring the patroness of the Rosary with a procession and solemn Mass.
Bishop DiMarzio said this was an important event because it is a tradition that is celebrated in all of Italy. He said he is pleased to see the tradition of his cultural heritage continued in this diocese.
“It’s good to see everyone together, representing different parishes, to form one community,” he said.
Deacon Vincent M. La Gamba says that religious community is the reason he spends so much time and effort organizing these events.
“We want to show how proud we are of our faith to other communities by showing how proud we are of our religious traditions,” he said.
Representatives from 16 parishes joined the bishop for the 1.3-mile procession along Bay Parkway. They walked with a larger than life statue of Our Lady of Pompeii provided by Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish, Williamsburg. The statue is a representation of the original painting which depicts the Holy Mother with her Infant Son, handing out rosaries to St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Genoa. During the procession the participants recited the glorious mysteries of the Rosary and sang hymns of praise.
The worshipers passed houses decorated with Italian flags and people who made the Sign of the Cross at the sight of the statue of Mary and waved to the bishop.
The onlookers also waved at the Red Mike Festival Band and at the women of the Italian folklore group from SS. Simon and Jude parish, Gravesend, who were dressed in traditional garments. The women of the folklore group attended Columbus Day celebrations and wanted to honor their country by upholding their native religious traditions as well. They also hope their displays of faith will inspire others.
“We are trying to bring our faith to other communities,” said Rossella Failla.
Teodolinda Mellace brought her granddaughters, who were also dressed in folk wear. “I try to teach them their roots,” she said.
Ten-year-old Sophia Mellace, said she enjoys the processions which she attended since she was two years old and was excited to have the opportunity of sitting on the float.
Bishop DiMarzio invited Dino Sorrentino, Italian Deputy Consul General, to the procession. He accepted because it afforded him the opportunity to meet with Italians in New York.
Following the procession, Bishop DiMarzio celebrated Mass in Italian at St. Athanasius church. Teodolinda said she enjoyed the bishop’s homily, which developed the message of being prepared for heaven as Jesus described in Matthew’s Gospel story of the “king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” (Mt 22: 1-14) She said that maintaining religious traditions and publicly demonstrating faith is one of the ways she is preparing for the eternal feast.
The bishop concluded the Mass with the Suplica, the Appeal to Our Lady of Pompeii. The prayer is recited by Italians throughout the world in the month of October in honor of the patroness of the rosary.
Next year’s celebration will take place at St. Luke Church, Whitestone, on Oct. 7.
After the celebration in honor of the mother of Jesus, the priests and deacons of the Italian Apostolate observed the 30th anniversary of their apostolate and the 150th anniversary of the reunification of Italy with a festive dinner.