HAMMONTON - The day that many people wait for all year finally arrived on July 16 as the annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel procession made its way through the streets of Hammonton.
Before the procession began, people filled Saint Joseph’s Church to light special devotional candles to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, go to confession or to sit quietly and pray. Saint Joseph’s Church offered Masses all day in honor of the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
“I have many prayer requests to lay at the feet of the saints,” said Joanmarie Piazza.
Piazza, who has been attending the festival since she was a teenager, felt the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the procession of the saints would help ease her burdens.
“I have a deep devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the intersession of the saints is very important to me,” she said.
“My father, when we were little children, would put us in the wagon and bring us here,” said Jeanne Fanucci as she waited to go into confession. Even after all of these years, Fanucci is still in awe of the pageantry of the procession.
“It’s beautiful now, just like then,” she said.
Christine Pace, 97, has been coming to the festival every year since she was 5 years old.
“My dad put us all in the back of the truck and brought all eight kids here,” said Pace. Even though Pace now lives in Florida, she still travels back to Hammonton every year for the procession.
As the time for the procession drew near, crowds eagerly began to line the procession route. The crowds were especially thick right outside the doors of Saint Joseph’s Church, where people waited to get the first glimpse of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel statue. While Our Lady of Mount Carmel was the star of the procession, there were many other statues of saints that made their way through town as well. Some of the other saints carried through town included Saint Joseph, Saint Padre Pio and Saint Anne.
Father Peter Saporito, who arrived in the parish last July, experienced his first Our Lady of Mount Carmel procession last year.
“I’m amazed,” said Saporito. “It was my first experience with a true Italian procession.”
After the procession, people were able to experience one last hurrah at the carnival grounds where throughout the week visitors were able to enjoy rides, music and delicious food. The festival was sponsored by the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society.