The outdoor altar and stage are well under construction, a sure sign that St. Peter’s Fiesta is drawing near.
But a more quiet, subtle sign of Fiesta will take place tonight, with the opening of the novena offering prayers and petitions to the patron saint of the fishermen set to begin at 7 p.m. in the American Legion Hall.
The novena — drawn from the Latin word for “nine” and defined as a series of prayer services spanning nine days — actually marks the start of the overall Fiesta, and will run from tonight through Tuesday, June 25. It also sets the stage for the five-day core of Fiesta, whose carnival opens a week from Wednesday and runs with its usual full slate of events through Sunday, June 30.
The novena itself, like Fiesta as a whole, dates to 1927 and heralds the June 29 Feast of St. Peter, which this year falls on Fiesta Saturday. Tonight’s opening of the novena also bookends the religious aspect of Fiesta, which culminates in the celebration of the outdoor Mass, the procession of St. Peter and the Blessing of the Fleet — all planned for Sunday, June 30.
The novena includes the singing of traditional Sicilian hymns, readings from the Bible, and prayers for Gloucester’s fishermen and a variety of other intentions.
The religious side of Fiesta takes on added meaning this year given the plight of Gloucester’s an New England’s fishermen, who are working with dire limits cuts of up to 78 percent imposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Despite appeals from several quarters, including Gov. Deval Patrick, and a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Martha Coakley challenging the legality of NOAA’s action considering a community economic impact provision of the federal Magnuson-Stevens Act, NOAA officials have held to the hard-line cuts, leading some Gloucester fishermen to have already burn through most if not all of their quota for the new fishing gear that began May 1.