WESTERLY — A beloved 90-year-old tradition, one held close to the hearts of many members of Westerly’s Italian community, is now officially underway.
Wednesday night, dozens of faithful gathered to witness the “crowning of the Blessed Mother Mary and the Infant Jesus,” by family members of the late Joseph Fusaro, a longtime member of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Feast Committee. Tonight, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception the first of the Triduum Masses begins with a healing Mass to be celebrated at 7 p.m. at the church by Msgr. Carlo Montecalvo. On Friday at 7 p.m., Mass will be celebrated in Italian and English by the Rev. Francis Santilli. The Mass will be followed by a candlelight procession and refreshments. On Saturday, an Italian festival will take place in the parking lot of the church and on Sunday, two Masses will be celebrated — a 7 a.m. Mass for deceased members of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Feast Committee, and an 11 a.m. Mass celebrated by Don Roberto France Copa – before the procession.
As always, the community is invited to participate in all parts of the festival, which was inspired by a 19th century miracle that occurred in the middle of a 19-month drought in the Village of Toreannugita, Italy, when local farmers prayed daily to our Lady of Mount Carmel. When at last the rains fell, on July 16, 1892, the villagers vowed to honor the Blessed Mother on her feast day each year.
Locally, descendants of the farmers who immigrated to Westerly began the procession tradition in 1928 and each year at this time, walk the 3 miles through the streets of the Italian section of town. The original feast committee included charter members Antonio Trebisacci Sr., Frank Regine, Natale Emanuel, Nicole Lupica, Nicole Feringo, F. Samuel Nardone, Pasquale Pellegrino, John Salimeno, Frank Toscano, Antonio Turco, Natale Turco, and Joseph Turco.
Since the first days of the procession, local people who lived near the route would gather for enormous family picnics and to applaud the marchers as they passed by. Many believed that special graces were obtained by participating in the event and, especially, by marching. Some people remember relatives walking barefoot through the streets to show their devotion to the Blessed Mother. Sunday’s procession, which attracts hundreds of worshippers, will mark the end of a five-day celebration.
On Sunday evening at 8 p.m. the Westerly Band will perform a concert at Cimalore Field which will end with a fireworks display.