Holy Rosary Parish and Cleveland city officials said that the annual four-day Feast of the Assumption street festival, which has taken place for the past 121 years in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood, is canceled this year due to the ongoing health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus.
Father Joseph Previte, Holy Rosary pastor, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin released a joint statement on June 19 announcing the cancelation.
Mass celebrating the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary will take place, Father Previte said, but since the feast day occurs on a Saturday this year, it is not a holy day of obligation. No decision has been made yet about the procession that traditionally takes place after Mass. “If possible, given all safety and health considerations, Holy Rosary will hold a procession on that day. A final determination regarding the procession will be made at later time,” he said. Since the public celebration of Mass resumed in late May, parishes throughout the diocese are following state health guidelines including reduced capacity in churches, social distancing, recommending that people wear masks and the frequent use of hand sanitizer.
According to the joint statement about the Feast, “This annual tradition brings together many in Northeast Ohio as well as visitors from around the country who return each year to celebrate our Lady’s Assumption. Like many, we have monitored the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, discussed the viability of holding the Feast with city of Cleveland officials, and considered actions taken by other special events in the area.”
Father Previte, Jackson and Blaine added that they reviewed the available data and made what they called the “difficult but necessary decision” to cancel the street festival this year. They said the health and safety of volunteers, vendors and attendees is their highest priority. The festival takes place in a confined space on Mayfield Road in front of the church and on the grounds surrounding the church, which would make it difficult to follow safety recommendations from the state for safe distancing in order to ensure public health and safety, they said.
“We appreciate and thank all those who have celebrated with us over these 121 years and look forward to continuing this celebration and tradition in 2021,” the statement said.
Traditionally, huge crowds pack the historic brick church for Mass on the solemnity of the Assumption. Parts of the Mass are recited in English and Latin and Deacon Bruce Battista, who serves at Holy Rosary, reads the Gospel in Italian. Many notable clergy members including bishops and archbishops have celebrated or concelebrated the Mass. Last year’s celebrant was former Cleveland Bishop Nelson Perez, now archbishop of Philadelphia. He was joined by Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries, Bishop emeritus Anthony Pilla and Archbishop Timothy Broglio, a Cleveland native, who heads the Archdiocese for the Military Services. The Feast is a celebration of the Gospel of life, faith and family, Father Previte said.
After Mass, a procession including hundreds of people moves through the neighborhood while participants, many in native dress from various regions of Italy, members of the clergy, community and parish organizations sing and pray. Focal point of the procession is a statue of the Blessed Mother. After the procession, the statue is returned to a special shrine area on the east side of the church where the faithful can light votive candles and pray throughout the festival.
The celebration, which includes music, vendors, food, carnival rides, games and more, attracts thousands of people each year. It closes with a prayer service.
Watch the Holy Rosary website for updates on this year’s celebration of the Assumption.