By James Niedzinski
---- — A Sunday morning Catholic Mass rich in Italian-American heritage once again transformed into a community-wide celebration on the outdoor altar and stage that served for the last five days as a focal point of Gloucester’s 86th St. Peter’s Fiesta.
Holy Family Parish and St. Ann’s Church pastor John Kiley’s sermon focused on the issues of people falling away from the church — and the important role of fishing in Catholicism, and the city of Gloucester’s heritage.
“I bet the Gloucester fishermen could out-fish St. Peter any day,” Kylie said.
Kiley noted that, at first, St. Peter was not the most successful fisherman, only pulling in nets full of fish after taking the advice from Jesus. This homily represented St. Peter’s role in getting people to follow God.
“Peter was very good at catching men and women for the Lord,” Kiley said.
Kiley also addressed the fleeting numbers from the Catholic Church.
“It’s very difficult to be a believer in today’s age and culture,” he said, adding that the denial of faith is nothing new; he referred to the Bible account of St. Peter denied knowing Jesus on the eve of the crucifixion.
“Even in his denial, the Lord still loves us, as he loves Peter,” Kylie said. “We honor Peter by imitating him.”
Other speakers during the bilingual Mass included Parochial Vicar and Rev. Linus Mendis, Deacon Daniel Dunn and Angela Sanfillippo, who heads the Gloucester Fisherman Wives Association.
There ceremony was well received.
Art Eastman, a Catholic who lives in the Albany, N.Y., area yet frequents Gloucester often, said he always makes it a point to catch Fiesta’s Outdoor Mass when he can. He said the amount of faith in Gloucester was something to be admired.
“You just don’t see that too often,” he said.
Others in attendance came for different reasons.
“It’s more social than anything else,” said Gloucester resident Pat Palmisano.
“I thought Father Kylie did an amazing job of relating St. Peter to our everyday lives,” said Mayor Carolyn Kirk. “I was really moved by his homilies.”
Sanfilippo said she believes that, even in its current state of crisis, Gloucester’s historic and working fishing fleet and the city will benefit from the blessing of St. Peter, the patron saint of fishermen.
“With St. Peter’s blessing,” Sanfilippo said, “the industry would never die.”
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.