A year’s worth of planning comes together Thursday night with the opening of the 2012 St. Rocco Feast and Festival in Johnston. Hundreds of visitors will flood the tent behind the church on Atwood Avenue, infusing upwards of $50,000 into the parish.
“It’s a time to get together to renew traditions and to work together for the sake of the parish,” said Deacon Bob Troia.
The funds raised by the Feast and Festival are crucial to parish operations. In years past, the money has been used for essential church repairs or fire code upgrades to the school that were mandated by law.
“We need it for the upkeep of the church. There’s always something that needs to be repaired, and this is one of our main sources of income,” said longtime Feast and Festival co-chairman John Ricci. “This will help us out tremendously in the coming year.”
Ricci is a lifelong parishioner of St. Rocco. He was baptized there, and has been chairing the Festival for at least 25 years; he admits that he stopped counting.
With Ricci at the helm, the Feast and Festival is a well-oiled machine. He knows what permits and applications need to be filled out, and his sub-committee chairs likewise know what to do and when it needs to be done. Coordinating the Feast is a year-round endeavor, with planning picking up in January and February. Sub-committees meet monthly, and by the time the week of rolls around, the parish is putting the finishing touches on the event.
Volunteers come back year after year, with anywhere between 150 and 200 people giving their time to the cause.
“Had we had to pay them, we’d make no profit,” Ricci said.
Many of the volunteers are students working toward graduation or their confirmation and are in need of community service hours. Troia hopes to see more of those young people, as some of the central event organizers get older.
“We need the young blood to come in,” he said.
Father Angelo Carusi, who began his work in the parish on July 1, said the volunteers are a testament to the church, and serve to promote the mission of St. Rocco.
“If someone comes here off the street and comes to the festival, they’ll see all these people who are giving of their time, giving of their talent, giving of their treasure - that’s got to be attractive,” he said. “I always tell people the best way to convert somebody, the best way to bring somebody to Chris, is to give a good example.”
While the Festival is something to look forward to for all parishioners, Ricci said it is also an important religious event in the church. A solemn mass is held on Sunday at 11 a.m., with the Most Rev. Robert C. Evans, the auxiliary bishop of Providence, serving as the main celebrant. Father Carusi will serve as the homilist, and will officially be installed as the new parish priest that day.
“It gives you a great feeling of faith,” Ricci said of the mass. “It really is a glorious feeling. Sunday is the culmination of that feeling with the mass and the music. It starts to give you goosebumps.”
After mass, there is a procession at 12 p.m. with the statue of St. Rocco and a relic of the saint that Father Carusi will use to bless the sick and elderly along the route through the neighborhood. The procession is a highlight for many parishioners.
“You want to continue that tradition that originally came from Italy,” Ricci said.
Special bread, panini, is blessed in honor of St. Rocco and will be distributed after all weekend masses on Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30, 9 and 11 a.m.
Troia believes the Feast and Festival, Sunday’s mass and especially the procession are a way to promote Catholicism and the parish of St. Rocco.
“Especially in today’s day and age, I think Catholics need to be visible. We need to be seen, that our faith means something to us,” he said. “We want to show that we’re strong in our faith.”
Coming off the heals of a Triduum religious celebration, the Feast and Festival kicks off Thursday and continues through Saturday, open from 6 to 10:30 p.m. each night. On Sunday, the Festival runs from 1:30 to 10 p.m. Each day, guests can enjoy entertainment, purchase food, play games of skill, try the rides or purchase raffle tickets for the $5,000 grand prize, $1,500 second place prize or $1,000 third place prize. Raffle tickets can be purchased for $2 each, three for $5 or seven for $10. The drawing takes place on Sunday, Aug. 19 at 9:30 p.m., just before the 10 p.m. fireworks display. Ride tickets can be purchased for $1 each, 20 for $17 or 40 for $29.
Carusi counts himself as one of this year’s most enthusiastic guests.
“I know it’s going to be great. It’s very successful because the people work hard and they’re proud of it. They’re doing it because they love their parish and they love their faith,” he said. “I’m very much looking forward to it.”