Many people will attest there’s nothing quite like “Padre Peter’s Parties.”
That theory was again upheld Saturday when Rev. Peter J Gower hosted “The Feast of St. Joseph” at Our Lady of Grace Church in Johnston.
“This is a major celebration for Italian Catholics in Johnston,” Father Gower offered. “Our Lady of Grace Church lays claim to the largest St. Joseph Table with volunteers spending weeks baking homemade food items.”
Saturday, though, was an exception to any rule.
A total of 231 proud parishioners showed up at Fioretti Hall for the 2023 event, which was sponsored by the parish’s St. Ann Sodality and Holy Names Society and may have set an all-time attendance record.
In the middle of it all was Mike Lombardi, an accomplished chef with years of experience under his belt, who put together what countless people called “an absolutely phenomenal feast” consisting of specially-mixed salad with dressing, Italian wedding soup replete with mini meatballs and lasagna — all served family style.
For dessert, there were delicious homemade zeppole made especially by Executive Chef Marvin Carter, and donated for the night by the Bridge at Cherry Hill, per Executive Director Maryann Grace who is a long-time OLG supporter and neighbor.
Finally, members of the Confirmation Class went table-to-table offering the famous pizzelles that drew as many rave reviews as did the mega-raffle which was coordinated by “Mr. OLG Joseph Andreozzi” who proudly wears many hats for the parish.
While more than 50 OLG parishioners made the St. Joseph’s celebration so successful, Father Gower issued a heart-warming “thank you to the 25 members of our confirmation class who waited on and cleared each and every table.”
To which Lombardi added: “All the kids did a great, great job tonight. I also want to thank my son (Jordan) who volunteered to wash all the dishes.”
As Father Gower, who has a knack for organizing events, said: “It’s friendship that brings us together; the young, the old, we all know each other, and we get together this time of year … everyone looks forward to this celebration.”
Father Gower explained that OLG has been hosting the St. Joseph Table since 2013, held smack in the middle of Lent and has since evolved into a fundraiser for the parish.
However, the St. Joseph Table came to a halt suddenly in 2020 because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Then OLG skipped 2021 and offered a pared-down version last year.
But as Father Gower said Saturday: “This the first year we can welcome visitors back to the St. Joseph’s Table. It’s everybody coming together, eating together. The whole tradition is beautiful, and the good thing is everything goes to help our parish.”
He also explained that St. Joseph — husband of the Virgin Mary, earthly father of Jesus Christ and the patron Saint of Sicilians — holds special significance for people with Italian heritage in OLG.
“According to the Catholic Church, the original St. Joseph Table (or altar) originated sometime in the Middle Ages when the Island of Sicily was suffering from drought and famine. After praying to St. Joseph for intercession, rains came, and their crops prospered. To thank him, the community gave offering of food — and shared with the poor.”
On Saturday, they celebrated the St. Joseph Table during a special supper featuring food, drink, music and classic camaraderie and one of OLG’s all-time best super, special suppers.
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