NEW BRITAIN — For most Americans, Columbus Day means one thing: A day off from work or school.
But, for members of St. Ann’s Church, Columbus Day is a time to celebrate Christopher Columbus and his achievements. They did so with a three-part event Monday that included a bilingual Mass, a procession through the streets and a wreath presentation.
“It’s important because it’s a man who discovered the new world,” Father Thomas Walsh said of Columbus. “It’s a reminder to us that we benefit from [his] achievements.”
About 50 people attended the 10 a.m. Mass, which featured Walsh seamlessly alternating between English and Italian throughout the service to cater to the Italian-Americans in the crowd. The majority of the parishioners were able to participate in the Italian prayers as well as the English ones. For others, there was a bilingual prayer guide provided.
Italian-Americans were pleased to be celebrating the Italian explorer.
“God bless Columbus Day,” said city resident Maria DiPietro. “He helped a lot of people.”
Following the Mass, there was a procession from North Street to Lee Street, where a statue of Christopher Columbus stands in McCabe Park. The procession was led by Walsh and two flag bearers, one carrying an American flag and the other holding an Italian flag. The Mass attendees followed behind enjoying the warm weather during the three-block walk. Members of the New Britain High School Golden Hurricanes band marched at the end of the procession.
Walsh opened the wreath presentation with a prayer, thanking God for Columbus and for his sense of adventure. In addition to the church members, many local officials made appearances at the event.
Attorney Nicolas DeNigris of Januszewski, McQuillan and DeNigris addressed the crowd at McCabe Park emphasizing the importance of the holiday to locals with Italian heritage and spoke out on the debate about whether or not the holiday should be celebrated.
“To eliminate it as a holiday would be a tragedy,” he said. DeNigris later added, “What he has contributed will never be forgotten.”
The Italian Fraternal Society, Angelo Tomasso Sr. Lodge Order Sons Of Italy Foundation Inc., and the New Britain UNICO Foundation along with other local organizations each placed a red, white and green — the colors of the Italian flag — wreath in front of the Columbus statue.
Members of the NBHS marching band began the presentations with the “Star Spangled Banner” and ended with a rendition of “We R Who We R” by Ke$ha.
Following the event, there was a reception held in the church basement with sandwiches and other refreshments.