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Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church receives donations in processional
Father Mark Hushen, Pastor, St. Anthony of Padula Church, receives donations in processional, 1998. Photo: Anthony Bocchini

St. Anthony of Padua Feast Day Procession

The St. Anthony of Padua Feast Day Procession, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2000, is the most important factor in bringing the Italian-American people of Wilmington together. This annual religious procession is a reminder of their Italian heritage and faith.

What began in 1925 as a small religious procession for the new Catholic church, St. Anthony, honoring one saint, now includes twelve saints. Il carnevale was a tradition found in small Italian cities and towns to commemorate the local saint with a religious procession followed by a festive carnevale. Although a small carnevale was held for several years in Wilmington, the first large-scale carnevale took place in August 1933. In following years, the parish held its religious processions three times a year: in June for the feast of St. Anthony of Padua; in July for the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and in August for the feast of St. Francis de Paola.

By 1975, the carnevale had expanded to an eight-day event, centered around the June 13th date, which is St. Anthony of Padua's feast day, and became known as La Festa Patronale. The festival culminated with the traditional procession of those saints that were especially important to parishioners. These saints, which are St. Anthony of Padua, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Rocco, St. Francis de Paola, St. Patrick, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. Rita, St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, Mater Maria dell Misericordia, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, St. Lucy, and St. Pius X, are placed on platforms and carried or pulled by men for two miles through the Italian community. The procession also includes parish priests, the Bishop of Wilmington, members of various religious societies, men and women dressed in regional Italian costumes, children dressed in the Lenten religious costume, the Via Crucis (stations of the cross), a float bearing the model of the church, elected government officials, and several bands, especially the Old Colonial Band. The latter band has been performing since it was founded by Salvatore Zoli in 1900, and was conducted by his grandson, Joseph, in year 2000.

Documentation includes many "processional" snapshots, a 1949 portrait photograph of St. Anthony's Band, and a video of the 1997 mass and procession.

Originally submitted by: William V. Roth, Jr., Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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