St. Mary Church helped revive an old Catholic-Italian tradition on Sunday, July 21st by supporting the Our Lady of Mount Carmel procession down the streets of Mokena.
The procession ran from Mokena Intermediate School, past the old St. Mary Church, to downtown Mokena. Processors carried a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and recited the Rosary along the way. This was all part of the annual “Festa Italiana,” or Italian festival, that takes place on Front Street and features ethnic food and entertainment.
Since 2013, Raymond Loffredi and his friends have organized the festival and procession as a way of bridging Catholic tradition and Italian culture for Mokena residents. They are all St. Mary parishioners and of Italian descent.
“My friends and I grew up in the Chicagoland area and remembered participating in Our Lady of Mount Carmel processions,” recalls Loffredi. “We wanted to revive that beautiful Catholic-Italian tradition and share it with the community here. Festa Italiana ended up being organized around the procession.”
Italian immigrants brought the Our Lady of Mount Carmel procession to the United States with them from Italy during the 19th century. Since then, the tradition has flowered in areas with large Italian populations, like Chicago.
Since its inception, the Mokena festival has attracted up to 1,500 attendees in a given year. It is run by Loffredi’s nonprofit group, and portions of the revenue go to St. Mary Parish and other charitable organizations.
St. Mary lent out the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel for the procession. “The procession is a beautiful tradition and witness of our faith,” says Father Dindo Billote, pastor of St. Mary Mokena.
Overall, Loffredi sees the event as a unifying force. “The procession and festival are very important parts of Catholic and Italian culture, but they also bring everyone in the community together in a spirit of charity and comradery, no matter what their ethnicity.”