St. Rocco festival draws thousands

The St. Rocco Festival at St. Mary Parish in Franklin, started with a walk. Twenty-five years ago, a young parochial vicar was checking out the field behind the empty convent, next to the closed St. Mary School, and across the street on the corner opposite the church. The convent building, called Oakwall, was the built in 1921, and was the mansion home of Henry Taft Haywood, a Franklin mill owner and relative of President William Howard Taft. After Haywood’s death, the family donated Oakwall to St. Mary’s Parish, and it became an orphanage and then a convent for the sisters who taught as the parish school.

That vicar, Father R. Michael Guarino, is now the pastor of St. Anthony of Padua in Revere. A native of Ashland, his family would take him to the Italian religious festivals in the North End of Boston. It became his dream to bring a similar event to the suburbs, he said.

Guarino said, as he walked the grounds that day, he noticed obscured by branches and overgrown bushes a forgotten statue of St. Rocco. Clearing away the brush, he found the inspiration to bring the Italian tradition to Franklin. Considering Franklin’s large Italian community, it wasn’t a hard sell.

Of course, it was also a nice that the “R.” in his name stands for Rocco, he said.

The first year, despite horrendous rain, was a great success, Guarino said. “I remember that Saturday night, we had a dance and there were thousands of people dancing in the rain,” he said.

The disk jockey, Jack McCoy, told me that the closest he ever got to Broadway was working that night at the St. Rocco Festival, he said.

"Each year, the festival is the peak moment in the life of the parish," said Father Thomas Walsh, the pastor of St. Mary.

Hidden from the crowds by a row of trees, is Oakwood’s carriage house. In its center space, is a 15-foot wide turntable built into the floor that the Haywoods used to reverse the direction of their automobiles before driving out. Just past the turntable is a small office where two 25-year veterans of the festival, two of the four co-chairmen, Vincent DeBaggis Sr. and Peter Brunelli, hold court. On the wall is an old print of St. Mary Church and framed photograph of Pope John Paul I.

Families plan reunions and vacations to coincide with the festival. If the weather is good, the festival will draw around 50,000 visitors, said DeBaggis.

“Everyone knows that it is on the second full weekend of August said Peter Brunelli, who supervises the festival’s 15 food booths.

"We sell a lot of lemonade," Brunelli said. The committee bought 2,375 lemons this year, he said.

This year there were three Masses associated with the festival. The opening Memorial Mass for members of the parish was held on Aug. 3. After the Solemn Closing Mass of the Feast, a statue of St. Rocco was carried in procession out of the church, and across the street to the festival grounds.

Father David Goodrow was the principal celebrant for the Mass of the Sick and Communal Anointing held on the festival grounds on Saturday Aug. 2. Father Goodrow has been at St. Mary’s for three years, he said.

He said that he has been blown away by the sense of community and excitement the event brings. Father Goodrow said that this year he was reminded of the feast’s greater meaning and the power of prayer.

In July, a woman from Brockton approached Father Goodrow after a Mass. She asked him if he had any information on St. Rocco. Father Goodrow apologized that the programs were not ready yet. When he asked if there was anything he could help her, she told him her story.

Recently, the woman was diagnosed with breast cancer. After she told a friend about her diagnosis and that after her operation, she was going to go through chemotherapy regimen. At her friend’s advice, she prayed for the intercession of St. Rocco, he said.

When the woman had her operation as scheduled, the doctors could not find any cancer to remove. She told Father Goodrow that she has a complete clean bill of health and was coming to the festival for the first time to thank St. Rocco for his help, he said.

It is fitting that an Italian celebration is held on the grounds of the Haywood estate, said Timothy Pulling, the current owner of the property. Pulling bought Oakwall 10 years ago and lives there with his wife, Mary Ann and their daughter, he said.

"Haywood was instrumental in bringing Italian workers to Franklin to work in his mills," Pulling said.

Although the property no longer belongs to the parish, there is a clause in the deed that allows St. Mary’s to hold the feast on the land every August, Pulling said.

"When we moved in we knew that the festival would be held in our backyard. But, there is a difference between knowing something and living it," he said.

"We bought the house to save and protect it," said Mary Ann Pulling. After the house was sold by the Church, it became a prep school, called Leyland Academy. When the school fell onto hard times and there were rumors that a new owner was going to tear the mansion down, she said.

Sitting at the large oval table in the formal dining room, the Pullings acknowledged it has been difficult having 50,000 visitors in their backyard every August. “We are members of St. Mary’s and I take my daughter on the rides every year,” Mary Ann Pulling said.

"Everyone thinks that we get to ride for free, but it isn't true--we pay like everybody else," she said.

After 10 years at Oakwall, the Pullings are at an emotional transition, having decided to put the house on the market and move out, she said.

There are no hard feelings, Pulling said. “Father [Walsh] is a wonderful man and we have an excellent relationship with him and the parish,” he said.

After they move out, they would have no problem coming back to really enjoy the St. Rocco Festival, Pulling said. “Then we will be the ones looking in the windows and asking if we can park in the driveway.”

Nation
Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

World
Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Nation
Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

World
Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

World
God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

World
Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

World
Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Nation
Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

Nation
N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Nation
Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Nation
Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Nation
Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

Nation
#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Nation
Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Nation
Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Nation
Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

World
Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

World
Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Nation
Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Nation
Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...