By Tim Harfmann
WILLIAMSBURG – The pews of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Williamsburg were packed July 16 as Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio celebrated a bilingual Mass honoring the parish feast day in English and Italian.
“Today is a day that those devotees of Our Lady of Mount Carmel are really, very happy,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “It’s her feast day. It’s a day that they show their love and devotion to Our Lady in different ways.”
That love and devotion were on full display throughout the parish’s 11-day festival for Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which ran July 10 to July 21. However, on the actual feast day, Catholics took a more devotional approach, dedicating themselves to prayer through the Holy Eucharist and rosary.
Outside the church, the faithful formed a long line at a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. “She’s the mother of all mothers,” parishioner Grace Lugara said. “She’s the mother of heaven and earth.”
“All the Italian people, we got a very, very strong devotion,” said fellow parishioner Franca Marsillo. She added that the day brings in a slew of emotions. “Every year, my heart is full of joy and I cry.”
For Marsillo, the devotion brings back memories and helps her feel closer to her ancestors and her homeland. In particular, she remembered her grandmother, who instilled her love for the Virgin Mary while growing up in Italy.
“My grandma was a very, very religious woman,” Marsillo said. “Every morning she used to get up at 5:30 and first go to Mass. Every day she said the rosary. She taught me a lot of things.”
Lugara explained to The Tablet that the devotion is an inheritance that must be cultivated and passed on.
“For us, I think we were all born in the church,” she said. “That’s how we grew up. And we keep on going, we keep the faith, and we try to transmit it to our kids.”