Blessing of the Fleet's 90th anniversary in Pirie

Memories of the characters of the sea will come alive at the 90th Blessing of the Fleet ceremony in Port Pirie at the weekend.

The ceremony links back to Molfetta, Italy, and symbolises the blessing of the fishing fleet that once docked in our harbour.

Organisers of the event say it is a chance for young people to reflect on the lives of their forebears.

It marks a milestone since the ceremony was first held in Port Pirie.

"It is always a big occasion, but just a little bit bigger this year," said president of Our Lady of Martyrs Port Pirie Italian Community Philip Amato.

"It is about our ancestors to keep the memories alive. My main intention is to relate to the young.

"I encourage our children to listen to their grandparents and ask them about their experiences in World War II and how they were involved or affected. They may be surprised with what they find out."

He said 400 would attend the Blessing of the Fleet Ball at the Northern Festival Centre on Saturday.

Debutantes will be presented with their involvement making the ball so much more worthwhile for those who organise and attend it.

The statue of the Madonna will leave St Anthony's Church, Solomontown, in a procession to St Mark's Cathedral on Thursday night. On Sunday, a High Mass will take place at the cathedral at 10.30am followed by a procession of the Madonna to the Solomontown boat ramp.

After arriving about 1pm, the statue will be taken to sea and blessed on the waters by Catholic Bishop Greg O'Kelly.

"It is called the Blessing of the Boats. All the fishermen would gather their boats together and the bishop of the day would perform a blessing that they would be prosperous in their catches and keep safe," Mr Amato said.

The Madonna will later be carried to St Anthony's to finish its journey.

Celebrations at the foreshore will include Filipino dancers and a choir performance.

"It is becoming more of a multi-cultural festival because now the Filipinos are involved," Mr Amato said.

He paid tribute to the work of Cr Dino Gadaleta as previous president and for his involvement in the Italian fishing boat museum.

"The museum is now cemented at the foreshore for years to come in memory of our ancestors and their stories of hardship to allow us a fruitful life," he said.

Bishop O'Kelly said his participation in the Madonna dei Martiri celebrations in the past few years had been a highlight for him.

"The presentation of the debutantes each year is a further celebration, one of youth and hope for the future," he said.

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