PORT ST. LUCIE | Members of Holy Family Parish celebrated the feast of San Gennaro, honoring St. Januarius, patron saint of Naples, Italy, Sept. 23, at the church in Port St. Lucie. The saint’s actual feast day of Sept. 19 is marked in grand fashion every year in Italy and in New York’s Little Italy, where many of the diocese’s Italian faithful attended before moving to Florida. “I really want to see this become a big celebration here in Port St. Lucie like the feast of San Gennaro in New York,” said Rosa Arciprete, born in Naples, Italy, and owner of the St. Lucie Bakery in Port St. Lucie.
The bakery donated many of the pastries for the festival, with all proceeds from ticket sales donated to the poor, she said. “We have been doing this for 13 years, except for two years because of COVID.”
The festival began with the celebration of Mass, officiated by Father Tony Mullane, assisting retired priest. At the conclusion of the liturgy, members of the local San Gennaro Society carried the large statue of the saint into the parish hall for an Italian feast of food and music.
“A few years ago, I visited Rosa Arciprete and her friend, and they were looking for a place for the statue of the holy saint, St. Januarius,” said Father Tri Pham, Holy Family’s pastor. “They asked if the church had a place for the holy saint, and I told them, ‘The church is his home.’ Holy Family welcomed the holy saint like we welcome the Italian community.”
Arciprete was so grateful, saying, “When Father Tri came to my house and said to me, we are going to put him in the church, I cried. I said to him, ‘What an honor, to have him here at Holy Family forever.’”
Bernadette Bodnar, secretary of the San Gennaro Society, was jubilant. “My family celebrated this always. I have been doing this for 13 years and people come from all over,” she said. “I was in Italy, and we went to where the blood turns to liquid (in the reliquary) three times a year. It was absolutely gorgeous to walk into that church.”
“When I was a kid, we always went to the feast of San Gennaro in New York. I think everybody here did,” Ralph Annunziata said.
Flora Camodeo added, “My family is from Naples and I come here every year for this.” And Sal DeCarlo said, “We lived in New Jersey and we always went to the big feast of San Gennaro in New York every year.”
St. Januarius, or San Gennaro in Italian, was bishop of Benevento in the third century, and his bones and blood are preserved in the Naples cathedral. The liquefication of St. Januarius’ dried blood happens at least three times a year: his feast day, the Saturday before the first Sunday of May and Dec. 16, which is the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Italy.
This year again, the blood of St. Januarius liquified when the local archbishop held up the reliquary for the faithful to see Sept. 19 in Naples’ Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, also known as the Cathedral of St. Januarius, patron of Naples and blood banks.
For information on the San Gennaro Society at Holy Family, call Arciprete at 772-626-2000.