June 22, 2012

Prayers are answered as storm hits right after festival’s annual Marian procession

Italian Heritage Society board members, from left, James Divita, Salvatore Petruzzi and John Acceturo of Indianapolis carry a statue of Mary during the religious procession on June 10, 2006, that has been a traditional part of the Italian Street Festival at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis. Heavy rain drenched festival-goers immediately after the Marian procession entered the church with the statue of the Blessed Mother. (File photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Italian Heritage Society board members, from left, James Divita, Salvatore Petruzzi and John Acceturo of Indianapolis carry a statue of Mary during the religious procession on June 10, 2006, that has been a traditional part of the Italian Street Festival at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis. Heavy rain drenched festival-goers immediately after the Marian procession entered the church with the statue of the Blessed Mother. (File photo by Mary Ann Garber) Click for a larger version.

By Mary Ann Garber

Dark, ominous clouds fueled by strong winds quickly turned the brilliant blue sky into a threatening gray mass as the summer storm rolled closer to the twin bell towers of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis.

Thunder rumbled on the western horizon not far from the historic church at 520 Stevens St., warning people that lightning and rain were imminent.

Clearly, the fast-moving storm would soon drench everyone enjoying the near south side parish’s 23rd annual Italian Street Festival on June 10, 2006.

As they waited for the start of the traditional Marian procession down Stevens Street to the church, festival-goers cast worried looks at the wall of angry clouds coming their way.

Food vendors hurried to secure their tents or awnings, and cover steaming trays of spaghetti, linguini and ravioli as the wind blew harder by the minute. Carnival workers shut down their rides as required by safety regulations.

Of immediate concern was the pending Marian procession, a parade of adults and children dressed in brightly colored costumes to pay tribute to Mary, the Mother of God, whose statue would be carried by four Italian Heritage Society members and escorted by Fourth Degree members of the Knights of Columbus.

Even the children looked concerned about the inclement weather as they patiently stood at the front of the line a block east of the church.

Msgr. Joseph Schaedel, then pastor of Holy Rosary Parish and vicar general of the archdiocese, watched the sky as he and Father Michael Magiera took their places in the line behind several altar servers and seminarians standing near the Blessed Mother’s statue.

With faith in God’s loving Providence, Msgr. Schaedel prayed that rain would not fall on Mary’s procession nor dampen her image.

Finally, as if nothing was amiss, the church bells tolled and the festive parade began even as the wind pulled at the knights’ feathered hats and red capes, and buffeted clusters of red, green and white balloons held tightly by the children.

Down the street they marched—first the children and adults, the knights and then the statue bearers proudly carrying Our Lady’s statue followed by Msgr. Schaedel and Father Magiera.

People along the curbs snapped pictures as the windswept parade passed by them and moved up the steps, past the open doors and into the ornate church.

Festival-goers breathed sighs of relief as the procession with Mary’s statue disappeared into the packed worship space for Mass and the church doors swung shut.

Then they gasped and ran for cover as the angry sky instantly opened up, and a waterfall of rain poured from the heavens.

In seconds, they were all soaking wet, but thankful that Our Lady’s statue was safe and dry on a marble pedestal inside the church named in her honor.

Now the pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, Msgr. Schaedel recently reflected on that moment during his years as pastor of Holy Rosary Parish.

“I always felt that the success of our festival was because we were honoring Mary,” he said, “and that—as Mary blessed our parish—I felt that her Divine Son would protect his dear mother and not let the statue get rained on.” †

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