June 16, 2015

A Look at the 74th Annual Festa di Sant’Antonio di Padova in Elmont, Long Island

Viva Sant'Antonio!
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
After a trying week of work, my friend and I were looking for a brief respite from the city, so we took a short trip to Elmont, Long Island for the opening night of the Feast of Saint Anthony.
Arriving a little early, we visited the newly renovated Saint Anthony Chapel on 90 Meacham Avenue for the Novena. Greeted by our dear friend Marcantonio Pezzano, we were given a pleasant tour of the facilities and introduced to several members of the society. 
Warmly welcomed, we were shown many fantastic old photographs, bronze bas-relief plaques, and historical flags and banners. Members told us some interesting anecdotes about the society’s history, including its mystical origins back in 1941 in Jamaica, Queens after a neighborhood man told his friends he was visited by the saint in a dream.   
I was told many of the members served their country valiantly during the Second World War. Each man was pinned with a Saint Anthony medal before leaving and miraculously they all returned alive. Almost on cue, I met John Cervini, a veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge and one of the lucky lads who came home. Incidentally, the society’s statue of Saint Anthony hails from Germany before America’s involvement in that terrible conflict.
Relocating to Elmont after the race riots of the 1970’s, the feast continued to prosper until about the late 1990’s. Like so many other traditional societies and confraternities, the systematic breakdown of our community, secularization and aging memberships remain daunting challenges.
(L-R) Marcantonio Pezzano with John Cervini
Because I don’t eat meat on Fridays, I couldn’t partake in some of the southern Italian delicacies they had to offer (e.g. trippa alla Napoletana), but I had no problem finding something delicious to eat. In addition to Coney Island Joe’s Zeppole and Calzone Stand and Lisa Ann’s Sausage & Peppers Stand, there was a hot buffet with a variety of dishes inside the society’s Hall. We enjoyed our meal outdoors under the big tent in the cool night breeze, while listening to the festive sounds of Melodia.
Sadly, all good things come to an end and we had to say farewell. However, before leaving we returned to the chapel to visit the beautifully decorated shrine to Saint Anthony. Flanked by the Madonna del Carmine and San Michele Arcangelo, we pinned our donations on to the saints and said a prayer. On our way out, we were generously given loaves of blessed bread for our family and friends.
I want to thank Marcantonio and all the members of the Saint Anthony of Padua Benevolent Society for their hard work and dedication. It was an honor and a privilege to celebrate our faith and culture with you. Viva Sant’Antonio!
A wonderful tribute to the society's past
Members sold religious items outside the society hall
Joseph and Joe from Coney Island Joe's churn out batches of delicious zeppole
Cyrus and Stefanie provide service with a smile
Melodia kept the festivities rolling
A look at the beautiful shrine inside the chapel
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