Gold balloons, confetti and shouts of “Viva Maria,” marked the 10th annual feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, also known as Maria Santissima Addolorata, on the streets of Bensonhurst last Saturday.
This feast, Sept. 15, commemorates the seven sorrows endured by the Mother of God, particularly her suffering in union with Christ in His passion and death.
Our Lady of Sorrows is the patroness of Mola di Bari, Italy, and local residents with roots in that town honor her feast day each year with a novena, a street procession and Mass at St. Athanasius Church. Msgr. David Cassato, pastor, was the main celebrant of this year’s bilingual Mass in Italian and English.
Hundreds gathered outside church in the afternoon hours to pray the rosary in Italian, shoot confetti and release gold balloons before escorting the statue of the Sorrowful Mother through the streets. The figure dons a black gown with gold embroidery and bears in its heart a golden dagger, symbolic of the Mary’s seven sorrows.
An Italian marching band led the way, followed by local Knights of Columbus and youth waving golden flags. Dozens of women walked two by two, praying the rosary, followed by men carrying the statue on their shoulders. Husband and wife, Vito and Phyllis Marangelli, served as grand marshals.
“In Mola di Bari, we have a huge procession for Our Lady of Sorrows,” explained Lucrezia Nardulli, who was born in Mola and came to the U.S. when she was 16. “This is how we express our devotion, and also give this devotion to our children.”
Nardulli is the president of the Associazione Culturale Pugliese-Figli Maria Santissima Addolorata, a Catholic cultural and social group that organizes this and other events to help members and neighbors grow in faith and reverence for the Blessed Mother.
JoAnn Mary Marinelli, who serves as one of the group’s vice presidents, said the society has more than 250 members, and is open to anyone who has a devotion to the Blessed Mother. Members meet on the first Friday of every month to pray the rosary for “anyone that needs prayers,” she said.
The group also hosts monthly events to benefit the parish and community, and members make a real effort to reach out to families that are struggling, elderly neighbors who are alone and those who are vulnerable.
Connected through Sorrows
“A lot of us are connected to Our Lady of Sorrows because of the sorrows we carry deep in our own hearts,” said Nardulli, whose attachment to the Madonna deepened when her daughter died.
“Every day, people lose children, husbands, loved ones. A lot of people are alone. We help them. We try to visit them. Everything we do is for people who are suffering.”
Members hope that the example they set, along with the traditions they are passing down from their homeland, will continue among their children and grandchildren.
Many young people took part in the day, including Gian-luca Alioto, 16, who carried the association’s banner at the start of the procession. He’s been doing so the last couple of years, having been recruited by his godmother, Josephine DiDonna.
“I’m happy to do it,” he said. “I like to be involved in the church.”
Ten young girls were dressed for the day as Madonna Addolorata, wearing dresses handmade by Nardulli. She prays that they will always carry this experience in their hearts, and that it keeps them close to Our Lady and the traditions of their ancestors.
“I hope they will remember, and come back every year,” she said.
Love and Prayers
Msgr. Cassato blessed the girls and the parade grand marshals during Mass, which opened with the hymn, “Mira Il Tuo Popolo,” entreating the Blessed Virgin to love her people and pray for them. The faithful also sang the “Stabat Mater” in Italian before the Gospel.
The Mass was followed by a joyful celebration that included homemade Italian dishes and cookies, and singing in the parish’s auditorium.
Luigi Perrone was grateful to participate in the day because of his deep love for the Madonna Addolorata. “She’s the Mother to every one of us, every one of us, the Mother who suffered for us,” he said.
When he was younger, he used to go back to Italy every September just to observe the feast. Nowadays, he’s grateful to be able to gather with others from Mola and celebrate close to his home in Brooklyn.
“I thank God to be here, to participate in this,” he said. “I don’t have to go there (Italy). I have it right here.”