Celebration of the Feast of The Mother of Grace Sunday, July 2nd
by John Yeager
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee.”
The feast of St. Mary, the Mother of Grace, has been celebrated around the world for centuries. In medieval times, there was a celebrated shrine of “Our
Lady of Grace” at Ipswich in England and a Cistercian Monastery, St. Mary Graces, stood near the Tower of London. Today, a Catholic Church stands
near this site and perpetuates the memory in a shrine of our Lady of Grace. There are shrines at Altotting in Germany, Cambrai in France, Cork in Ireland,
and Colebrook in New Hampshire. Several Shrines of “Santa Maria Della Grazie” (Saint Mary of Grace) are in Italy. The best known is in Milan, partly
because Leonardo de Vinci’s masterpiece, “The Last Supper,” hangs there.
In the small village of Valle San Giovanni, near the town of Teramo, in the Abruzzi region of Italy, the Feast of the Mother of Grace continues to be a major
celebration. Held the first Sunday of July, the feast day is preceded by a week-long gala carnival. On that first Sunday, a High Mass is celebrated,
followed by a street procession, sacramental benediction, and a fabulous dinner.
The immigrants from Abruzzi who settled in Penns Grove wanted to carry on this wonderful tradition. On July 2, 1925, the first Feast of the Mother of
Grace was celebrated at St. James Parish. Father H.L. Massey celebrated that first Mass and blessed the life-size statue of the Blessed Mother cradling
the child Jesus in her lap.
The stature is an exact replica of the statue venerated in Valle San Giovanni. Made in Italy, this beautiful sculpture was carried through the streets of
Penns Grove by a group of 20 Pitman Street Italians. This group of 20, whose names were not recorded, were granted this privilege by bidding $400. A
large sum of money even by today’s standards, but remember, this was 1925. At intervals where a table was set to rest, the statue was adorned with gold
chains, pendants, and other decorative pieces, while considerable amount of money was pinned to her silken gown. The procession route was from the
church, Beach Avenue to South Broad Street to Willis Street, Smith Street, East Main Street, State Street, Railroad Avenue, Oak Street, West Main Street,
Penn Street, Pitman Street, down Broad Street, then back to the church on Beach Avenue. It was customary for some people to walk the parade route
barefoot as penance. Over 400 people participated in the first Mother of Grace procession. Luigi Nicolini was the Grand Marshall. Also marching were the
Penns Grove Band, the Ancient order of Hibernians, the St. James Fife & Drum Corps, the St. James school children, Rossi’s band and a large number of
citizens. In the evening, everyone was entertained by a concert of Italian music.
This year, the Feast Day has been proceeded by the St. James Carnival which will run through Saturday, July 1. The carnival will feature rides, games,
music, fac painting and of course, lots and lots to eat.
On the Feast day, Sunday, July 2, there will be a Mass at 11 am. Featured speaker during the Mass will be Penns Grove’s native son, Monsignor Carmen
Carlone. His choir from the Parish in Williamstown will provide music for the Mass. Following the Mass, the statue of the Mother of Grace will be brought
from the church and taken through the streets of Penns Grove followed by parishioners, an Italian Band, Members of the Mother of Grace Society, Mr.
Ascenzio Cataldi honoring His Excellency Bishop Francis Mazzieri, children of Saint James school and Mrs. Minnie Quatrini, the daughter of the first Italian
immigrants to come to Penns Grove.
When the participants return to the Church with the Mother of Grace, there will be Benediction and a special blessing of all children and expectant mothers.
The celebration of the Feast Day will end with a gala Italian Buffet dinner with Italian music and dancing in the air-conditioned church hall. Tickets are $15
and must be purchased in advance.
Come and enjoy the return of the St. James Carnival and the wonderful celebration of the Feast of the Mother of Grace.