Annual feast day abounds with ethnic traditions
By LINDA M. LINONIS
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
The custom of celebrating the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel remains a treasured tradition in Lowellville.
And Monday’s observance included a Mass and procession with a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel through the streets of the town.
Bishop George V. Murry of the Diocese of Youngstown and 11 priests said Mass at 10 a.m. in Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, 131 E. Wood St. It was the bishop’s first visit to the town.
“About 500 or more people attended the Mass and participated,” said Jeanne Dovich, a church member. The band of the Mount Carmel Society, an Italian social organization, participated in the procession along with other society members, children who had recently made their First Communion and members of the Ladies of Mount Carmel Society.
“People stick money into the banner of the statue,” Dovich said of another ethnic tradition. The money goes to the society to benefit the festival, another tradition, which takes place this week.
“The feast day is pivotal. It’s significant spiritually and intellectually, as it marked the start of a new year,” said the Rev. Gerald DeLucia, pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.
The feast day leads into the festival. “The fireworks are symbolic of burning up the past and hoping for a blessed and better year,” Father DeLucia said.
A reflection of that idea remains in what’s called the “Baby Doll Dance,” Father DeLucia said. “It’s a big metal frame of a woman with a trained person inside who lights the fireworks and dances around. At the end, her arms and head are ablaze.”
This custom is rooted in the ethnic heritage of the small town. “The cultural identity of an Italian village is still here,” Father DeLucia observed.
The tradition of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as another reference to the Virgin Mary goes back centuries, Father DeLucia explained. There’s a mountainous and beautiful area of modern-day Israel that juts out into the Mediterranean Sea.
“It’s a biblical site in the Old Testament,” Father DeLucia said.
The area is called “carmel,” which means garden. It’s there where knights in the 12th and 13th centuries took refuge from the crusades and lived a simple, peaceful life, he said. They formed the Brothers of Mount Carmel, a religious order, and honored Mary, the mother of Jesus. Eventually war intruded on that area and the order went to Naples, Italy. The Italians embraced the tradition of honoring Mary, also known as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.