St. Joseph's celebration serves up tradition and faith

July 18, 2013

The DES Hall in Los Banos was the place to be for St. Joseph's Catholic Church's Our Lady of Mount Carmel celebration.

Approximately 350 people attended the annual event that is part religious observance, fundraiser, social event and celebration of Italian heritage.

The 80-year-old celebration honors the Our Lady of Mount Carmel statue, purchased by Italian immigrants in the 1930s from Grumento Nova, the Italian town that many of the immigrants had called home.

For many however, the Our Lady of Mount Carmel event is also all about family bonding, community tradition and a good meal.

This year's feast started just after noon on Sunday, after a traditional Mass that included the singing of Italian hymns.

At the DES Hall, families enjoyed a free post-service meal of stew and beans.

One of the many people working to feed the crowd was Richard Gallichio, who did whatever was necessary to serve lunch.

Gallichio, 50, has been participating in the Our Lady of Mount Carmel celebration for more than 25 years.

"We used to go over to the abattoir and we'd cut up 1,200 pounds of beef and haul it over here and cook it starting at about 5:30 or 6 o'clock in the morning," said Gallichio. "It was like a big family thing. Everybody knew everybody. Back then it was cousins, uncles, my father, my grandfather — and we knew everybody. It's still a good group of core people that have been here for a long, long time."

The scale of the meal has reduced a bit in the intervening years. This year about 750 pounds of meat and 100 pounds of beans were used and there was only one feeding as opposed to two that Gallichio remembers.

In addition to a hearty meal, much of Gallichio's enjoyment comes from the familial feel of the event and keeping the old traditions alive.

"I've been doing this for so long. I started out carrying statues," said Gallichio, who was referring to his role in the procession that used to follow Mass.

Until 1993 when the church moved from Fifth Street to Center Street, tradition included members of the church marching up I Street to the DES Hall carrying the Our Lady of Mount Carmel statue.

Anita Giannone noted that there is also a long tradition of raising money at the celebration.

"Whatever money we get is used for the church," said Giannone. "Like, we bought the organ — that cost $75,000. We also used to go house to house. We knew where the Catholics and where the Italians are and we used to ask for donations."

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