Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Proud Marys (and Peter)

Statue of St. Peter, St. Peter's Fiesta
Gloucester, MA, July 1, 2012
by Katina

While for most people summer is about sun, beach, and barbecues, for those of us interested in history and heritage, it means adding interesting cultural happenings into the mix.  For me, this summer has included processions and festivals; most notably St. Peter’s Fiesta in Gloucester, MA which occurred on July 1st and the upcoming Fisherman’s Feast in the North End of Boston on August 18th.  My interest in St. Peter’s Fiesta stems from my work with the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association (GFWA) for Six Pairs of Hands, a play based on the lives and work of Gloucester women, who lobby in support of the fishing industry.  Throughout the process of interviewing these women, most of whom are of Sicilian descent, we came to find that St. Peter’s Fiesta and celebrations in Sicily were important to these women.
St. Peter’s Fiesta is a series of events that occur over a period of several days in late June/early July, beginning with a novena and ending with a public mass and procession.  This was my first year attending the procession and festival.  I was impressed by the size of the procession and the inclusion of saints from not only Sicily, but also Portugal and Brazil.  Included in the procession were Our Lady of Fatima, Madonna of Aparecida, Maria ss del Lume, Maria ss Annunziata, Maria ss delle Grazie, Madonna del Soccorso, and, of course, St. Peter.  

Maria ss del Lume, St. Peter's Fiesta
Gloucester, MA, July 1, 2012
I was particularly interested in Maria ss del Lume.  An important figure of both faith and folklore in Porticello, Sicily, the image is mentioned in an interview with one of the members of the GFWA.  After doing extensive research on the image and its history, I was thrilled to see a reproduction of the painting in the procession. The story I heard about the painting was that in the early 1700s, fishermen found an icon of the Virgin Mary on the beach.  At that time there was no church in Porticello, but there was a little chapel right on the beach.  They put the painting in the chapel, but the next day they found it in a different part of the town.  It was then placed back in the chapel and the same thing happened again.  This went on for a while until they decided to build a church in the spot where the painting kept reappearing in Porticello. There are of course variations of this story when one probes a little deeper.  One story tells of the painting being caught in the nets of a fishing boat.  Another story includes a tale of how the image came to painted.  The specifics, while important to the historian wanting to probe a little deeper, are not important to the faithful in and from Porticello.  Maria ss del Lume provides them with an avenue for faith and inspiration and the traditions associated with her are important enough to warrant replication in Gloucester, MA.

For those who missed St. Peter’s Fiesta, have no fear, other opportunities are upcoming.  To see a procession featuring Madonna del Soccorso, be sure to attend the Fisherman’s Feast on April 18th in the North End.  This festival will include not only a procession but also the famous flight of the angel!

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