Mount Carmel Feast defies the rain
Rainy weather did not deter residents and guests as they gathered for the 148th Annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16.
The day of the feast concludes the week of the Mount Carmel Festival, which is the world’s longest running Italian festival.
The weather brought questions regarding the status of the feast—heavy rain was forecast.
But a good turnout was in front of St. Joseph Church as preparations were made for the procession. People lined up wearing ponchos and umbrellas awaiting the statues to enter the middle of French Street.
The procession began as members of the St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish moved each statue out of Saint Joseph Church’s parking lot. Led by Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel, everyone then slowly marched down North Third Street and collected donations along the way.
Members of town council, the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society, the Hammonton Police Department, New Jersey State Assemblyman Michael Torrissi Jr. and Atlantic County Clerk Joseph Giralo and their families walked down the streets in the heavy rain.
As they walked to the area of Third Street and Fairview Avenue, they turned onto Fairview Avenue and walked to near the train tracks on Egg Harbor Road.
The procession made various stops as they collected donations from people standing outside their homes and on the sidewalks.
The procession then resumed down to the area of the downtown railroad tracks, at which point the rain had stopped, although it remained cloudy for the rest of the day.
With the roads blocked off by the Hammonton Volunteer Fire Company Station 2 fire truck and several police cars, the procession then continued and passed through the Mount Carmel banner hung across Bellevue Avenue. The procession then entered its final stages as it made its way back to Third Street and to St. Joseph Church.
As the rain cleared, more people came out to witness the Blessed Virgin Mary statue taken back inside the church as the procession ended. St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish Pastor Father David Rivera gave a small speech and prayer to those outside the church.
“Let us pray, holy father, and thank you for all the pilgrims that walked in this procession,” Rivera said.
“Especially to the Mount Carmel Society and other members who have faithfully continued to keep the promise, to procession with the blessed Thanksgiving, all the members living and deceased. All that have come for the procession, their family and friends, especially for those who have come for the first time, may you be blessed for your time here at the procession and devotion. We ask for blessings for those who made this possible: the hundreds of volunteers, city officials, police, firefighters, medical personnel, all types of servants and those who continue this evening for the festivities, may you have a blessed time together with your family and friends,” Rivera said.
A mass was held inside the church shortly after the procession. A sizable crowd gave their thanks and prayed with members of the church as Rivera touched on the topic of change in our views, keeping promises and being faithful within our culture. Rivera then led a prayer and donations were collected throughout the church.
Ever since he’s come to Hammonton, Rivera said he has seen the day of the feast as much more as it was celebrated in a special way, even when it’s celebrated throughout the Catholic church.
“The Blessed Mother’s intercession has felt really special here to these people. So to come to a parish where this procession has been going on for so long, I feel a great weight of tradition as well,” Rivera said. “It’s something to keep going and so I’m just blessed to have a parish that has this kind of activity of faith, family, friendship, food and everything, so it’s like a second Christmas for us here.”
After witnessing a good turnout despite the weather, Rivera spoke of it as a testament to everyone’s faith and that people are willing to come out and not let the weather affect them on this holiday.
“It’s a sign of their love for the Blessed Mother and for their faith so it was very heartening for me as a priest and a spiritual leader here to see that people were still willing to come out,” Rivera said. “We think of faith as ‘kind of dead’ in our times but it’s good to see that it’s not and to live it right here, it was great.”
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society President Louis J. Pantalone echoed those sentiments in regards to the turnout, saying that it signifies what the society is all about in the religion aspect.
“On a day when nobody should be going anywhere because of the way the weather was, we had a large crowd come into Hammonton to participate in the 148th consecutive Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel,” Pantalone said. “To me, that says a lot about our society and the people that we think about.”
Pantalone has been participating in the feast since he was little with his father and as he attended the annual mass the morning of, it brings a sense of joy and emotion to Pantalone and other members as they think of past relatives that have been a part of this tradition.
“I think back to my dad, my grandfather, other relatives and other members and their fathers that are no longer with us but cared so much about this to keep it going for 148 years and it’s really, really special to me,” Pantalone said.