Mary Anne Zecchino, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church parish council president is also the coordinator of the July 16 feast and procession.
DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Mass and Procession
Sunday, July 16, 11:15 a.m. Mass, with procession following. Afterward, refreshments in the hall of OLMC

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 94 Pine St.

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

The future of the church is still unclear, but Our Lady of Mount Carmel is going to hold its annual Mass and Procession on Sunday, July 16.

As it was last year, the procession will be scaled down due to uncertainty: rather than a carnival in the church parking lot, the procession will be the main event, with food provided by the church afterward, said Mary Ann Zecchino, coordinator of the event.

Zecchino, who lives in Cedar Grove, is also parish council president for OLMC. Her family owns Nicolo’s Bakery on Baldwin Street.

She took charge of the feast this year because she wondered if there would be one, and reminded the priest that July 16 was coming.

“I asked Father Joe [Scarangella], who was leaving July 1. He said, ‘I need somebody to be in charge.’ What am I going to say?” she said with a laugh. “That’s how I got stuck this year doing it.”

The Roman Catholic church at 94 Pine St. has had a shaky future since last May, when the archdiocese of Newark announced its intention to merge the parish with the Church of the Immaculate Conception, in a new parish called St. Teresa of Calcutta.

In previous years, the July event included rides, a 50/50 raffle, a street fair, games, music and food trucks, from late afternoon until night.

“We were planning to do that last year too, but in May they told us they were closing us, so we couldn’t afford to get stuck paying for rides and everything else,” Zecchino said.

This year, the festivities follow the Mass at 11:15 a.m.

“Then we bring the Blessed Mother out of the church.”

A small marching band will play, and there will be balloons. “Before the Blessed Mother comes out, the band plays ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ then the Italian anthem.”

There is also food: last year, a parishioner brought a big cake, and will again. The church will also provide chicken wings, hot dogs and sandwiches.

When Zecchino found out last year the church was slated to be closed, she said, she was at the altar, serving as Eucharistic minister. “I cried my eyes out.

“I’ve been a member all my life. My grandparents got married in the church, I think in 1907.

“My parents married in the church. My husband’s parents married in the church.

“My children married in the church.”

And she was married in the church too, and recently celebrated her 50th anniversary there.

The procession, which Zecchino thinks began in the 1930s, had a hiatus mid-century, but hasn’t missed a year since 2005.

Last year, attendance was high “because we thought it would be the last feast.”

She’s heard conflicting reports about the fate of the church. “In the future, we’ll have rides and stands and food stands and what not. Right now we’re in limbo.”

High attendance at the feast this year would help, she said. Yes, church attendance is down, which was a reason parishioners were given for the closing of the church but, Zecchino said, “All churches’ numbers are down. For a lot of reasons, people aren’t going to church.”

At OLMC, which has a “save our church” Facebook page — facebook.com/SaveOurChurchOLMC/ — the congregation wants a place to celebrate.

“I don’t want this to stop,” said Zecchino. “As long as we can worship here, and be together, we’ll be happy.”