Fishing boats in Stonington’s fleet headed out toward the harbor’s breakwater on Sunday, July 25, after a brief rain shower so the fishermen could complete a tradition that they have observed for decades.
The Blessing of the Fleet remembers local fishermen who have died at sea and honors the vessels -- along with their captains, owners, crews, and families -- that will go out to sea in the year ahead.
The blessing is the culmination of a weekend of events surrounding it in Stonington Borough. There was a 5K race and walk on Friday in the Borough, followed by a gathering with food and music Saturday at the Portuguese Holy Ghost Society.
The Fishermen’s Mass took place Sunday morning in St. Mary Church in the Borough. The Very Reverend Dennis Perkins read aloud the names of the 41 members of the Stonington Fishermen Association who died while doing their jobs. He asked for the intercession of St. Peter, patron saint of fishermen.
Following the Mass, Fr. Perkins, and Deacon Jacob Ramos, along with local and state officials, joined the families of fishermen at the fishermen’s memorial, at the end of the pier that is home base to the fleet.
Through the whipping winds and a steady downpour, Fr. Perkins said a prayer for the safety of the fishermen and the important but often dangerous work that they do on the water. The great-grandchildren of George Roderick, who perished at sea, laid wreaths at the fishermen’s memorial. The Mystic Highland Pipe Band was on hand to play “Amazing Grace” and “God Bless America.”
After the ceremony, Father Perkins walked the docks blessing each fishing boat with holy water. Then, he and Deacon Ramos joined some of the fishermen and their families on the fishing vessel Heritage, which steamed out past the breakwater. Other boats from the fleet followed in procession.
There, Roderick’s descendants cast a wreath in the shape of a broken anchor, commemorating the deceased local fishermen, into the water.
In prior years, the blessing involved a procession from the church to the docks, where a tent was set up and food and refreshments served. However last year’s ceremony was truncated because of COVID-19; this year, a large gathering was not planned, and rain led to a smaller crowd than usual. Organizers hope to bring the full blessing back for 2022.
- By Ryan Blessing