Our Lady of Mount Carmel celebration

Our Lady of Mount Carmel celebration

Bishop Dennis Sullivan stands with Father Joseph Capella and his father, Joe, in front of the new Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel commissioned by the Mount Carmel Society in Hammonton.
Photos by Alan M. Dumoff

Above, Kenny Cinkowski, a member of Saint Mary of Mount Carmel youth group, carries a statue of Saint Therese of Lisieux through Hammonton during a procession that is part of the annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel Festival. Next to him is Kim Fahy, the parish youth minister. Below, a festival-goer dances with his grandmother.

A young member of the Mexican Indian Troupe performs at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel festival on July 16.

HAMMONTON — Bill Lambertino remembers the rides, games, food, music, and procession along French Street here as a young boy, during the yearly Our Lady of Mount Carmel celebration.

Ten years ago, he started working at the event’s funnel cake stand in the Saint Joseph Church parking lot. Today, he’s “in charge of all the food stands: the Italian grill, pizza, sweets, Spanish food and, yes, funnel cake,” he says with a smile.

“When I was little, my parents used to drag me here. Now, I’m running it,” he laughs.

Lambertino estimated that thousands passed by his stands last week during the six-day festival that culminated on Sunday with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Dennis Sullivan, and a procession through Hammonton’s streets. “It’s a big event,” he said.

On Friday afternoon, Linda Leeds and her family — daughter Natalie; son-in-law Tim; and grandchildren Nathan and Casey — noshed on roast pork sandwiches before taking on the rides and games.

“It’s always a good, family-oriented time,” said Linda, who, like, Lambertino, would come to the festival as a child.

During Sunday’s three-hour procession, all of the 19 saint statues that made the trek with the faithful through the town were set on wheeled carts — except one.

Kenny Cinkowski, 18, a member of the Saint Mary of Mount Carmel Parish youth group, held high the statue of Saint Therese of Lisieux, the “little flower,” who made her festival debut.

“One of the youth group members, Crystal, was struck by the statue of Saint Therese in the church and wanted her to be a part of the festival,” explained Kim Fahy, the parish’s youth minister.

After permission was granted to allow the two-and-a-half foot statue to join the procession, Kenny volunteered to carry her. “She deserved to be carried,” he said. “I made sure she didn’t touch the ground.”

In the festival’s early years, all of the statues were carried in devotion through Hammonton. In recent times, the age and ability of the participants necessitated the need for the wheeled carts. Cinkowski’s efforts were much appreciated by the older festival-goers, he said, who remembered the times past.

“They seemed to love it,” he said.

The youth group had their own booth all week, to paint faces, sell popcorn and engage with their peers in the faith. Their youth minister knows their efforts demonstrated a young and vibrant church.

“The booth was a great opportunity for community youth to see our presence, interact with us, and know what we represent,” Fahy said.

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