Stonington, CT, July 18, 2013—The 60th Annual Blessing of the Fleet will be celebrated on Sunday July 28th, 2013 in Stonington borough to honor and remember those who have died at sea on our local commercial fishing fleet, as well as to honor and bless the vessels—along with their captains, owners, crews and families—that will go out to sea in the year ahead.
The festival commences with a 10:30 AM Catholic Mass at St. Mary Church, officiated by the Bishop of the Diocese of Norwich, the Most Rev. Michael R. Cote and local pastors. They will then be part of a procession to the Town Docks, along with Connecticut, Stonington Town and Borough officials, Southern New England Fishermen and Lobstermen’s Association, and a statue of their patron saint, St. Peter, the fisherman, Portuguese Holy Ghost Society and their Ladies Auxiliary, Our Lady of Fatima Society, Knights of Columbus, Stonington Men’s Walking Group, the Weterly Band, Stonington Firemen, Capt. Kidd and the Free Men of the Sea, NESS, representatives and other organizations and community members.
Marlissa McLaughlin and Alisha Smith, granddaughters of the late James “Jimmy” Henry will be the Grand Marshalls. Jimmy was one the original founders of the Blessing.
The Blessing ceremonies begin with the laying of commemorative wreaths at the Memorial to Fishermen Lost at Sea, located at the end of the Town Dock. Bishop Cote will then walk the line of quays conferring the blessing on every fishing vessel and their captains, and crews. After boarding the flagship, they will put to sea and once outside the harbor entrance, the Stonington Fishermen’s Association will place a wreath in the shape of an anchor on the water in remembrance of those gone before.
The Blessing festival continues at the Town Dock from noon to 4:00 PM, with good foods and live music provided by the band “Double Play”, all of which is open to the public.
The Blessing of the Fleet is modeled on similar events that occur in countless seaport towns and cities throughout Europe, Australia and the British Isles for over a thousand years, and some legends even have its beginnings originating BC in the Greek Islands. It is a commemorative as well as forward-looking festive occasion, open to tourists, town residents, and families who depend on the fishing fleet as employment.
The professional fishermen of Stonington were predominantly, but not entirely, Portuguese—originally from the Atlantic islands of the Azores. During the first half of the twentieth century, the Stonington commercial fishing fleet grew in number, and in size and capacity of the vessels, from smacks to one-lungers to bunker boats to 36 foot draggers to larger 60 foot boats, until the industry experienced limits and restrictions imposed by the government. New rules squeezed virtually all profitability from smaller and mid-sized commercial fishing family enterprises in Southern New England.
All are invited to join this ceremony, to reflect and pray for our fishermen’s safety, their continued success and evolution, and in thanksgiving for having them here in Stonington as a vibrant element of our community.
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