The Our Lady of Mount Carmel statue is carried through the streets of the Pine Street area.
ADAM ANIK

By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to extreme heat conditions predicted for this weekend, the feast and procession were canceled altogether Wednesday morning, after this story was published in print.

Last year, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church raised $27,000 from its resurrected summertime feast. Despite rainy weather, and a two-year hiatus for the event, the two-day July feast provided free and affordable entertainment for the community. It featured $1.25 carnival rides, sausage-and-pepper sandwiches and hamburgers were about $3, a game of chance cost $1, and concerts by The Infernos and The Cameos were free.

The feast was both festive and religious, including a Mass on Sunday morning, followed by a four-hour procession of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel statue through the streets around Pine Street, where members of the church are fighting to remain.

There was also a beer and wine garden, foods from many nationalities reflecting the diversity of the once-predominantly Italian neighborhood and a 50/50 raffle drawn on the last night.

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But this year, the feast has been canceled, claim parishioners.

Up until today, July 17, the church had planned to hold a small event instead of the feast. Plans included, following a 4:30 p.m. Mass on Saturday, July 20, a procession with the Our Lady of Mount Carmel statue and a small tailgating party in the parking lot — featuring food, music, and more. On Wednesday afternoon, July 17, church officials said due to the extreme heat predicted for this weekend, it was decided to cancel the event altogether and to hold something in October.

Last year’s feast was the first for the Roman Catholic Mount Carmel church since 2015. During 2016 and 2017, the church had only a procession.

The Mount Carmel Feast raised $27,000 last year. This year, church leaders decided to downgrade it to a tailgate party, now canceled due to the heat.
ADAM ANIK

Last year, the Rev. Amilcar Benito Prado — administrator of Mount Carmel’s newly formed parish, St. Teresa of Calcutta, the result of a merger of Mount Carmel and the Church of the Immaculate Conception — said he would donate $200 out of his own pocket as seed money to help resurrect the festival.

The St. Teresa parish formed in September 2016, and in July 2017 was put under the management of Prado. 

Concerning the feast being downgraded to a tailgating party, Prado said the parish had instead opted for a different type of feast this year with a mass, procession and tailgate party with food and entertainment. The “big feast” will take place on alternating years, he said.

“Since the merger, St. Teresa of Calcutta continues to work to build one community with two worship sites. To that end, it was decided to alternate a big feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel with our Parish Legacy Dinner at which we honor parishioners from both churches. Trying to do both in the same year takes away from being able to fully celebrate all in our wonderfully diverse community,” said Prado.

The Legacy Dinner, held earlier this year, is a new fundraiser sponsored by the parish, in which a parishioner from each church — Mount Carmel and the Church of the Immaculate Conception — was honored. Last year’s feast co-chair Raffaele Marzullo said the committee was told in May that the church could only hold one fundraiser a year. 

But critics say that while the feast is accessible and affordable to the community, the dinner is not. 

“The ladies had sponsors lined up and ready to go for this year’s feast. We could have raised upwards of $40,000, especially with the [sunny] weather predicted for this weekend,” Marzullo said.

The St. Sebastian and St. Vito societies had planned to once again be in charge of the procession in which people pin dollars to the statue. The money goes toward the church, said church member Tom Russo. The societies recently commissioned a new carrying altar for the statue, said Marzullo.

“The procession is deeply moving to us and spiritual to all,” said Russo.

Following the 2016 announcement that Mount Carmel would merge with Immaculate, rumors have circulated that the century-old Pine Street church building would be shuttered, though they have been denied by parish clergy. However, the cancellation of the 2019 feast, along with the Mount Carmel church being in such dire need of roof repairs, and boiler and air conditioning replacements, parishioners are questioning their standing within the archdiocese.