A large crowd turned out in Stonington Borough on a warm and sunny Sunday, July 31, to continue the time-honored tradition of blessing those fishermen who set out to sea from here.
The Blessing of the Fleet also 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.
From noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, visitors to the pier could learn about the history of Stonington's industrious fleet, grab a bite to eat and listen to live music, as the Blessing returned in large part to the type of ceremonies that took place in years past.
The Most Reverend Bishop Michael R. Cote, Bishop of Norwich, celebrated the Fishermen’s Mass Sunday morning in St. Mary Church in the Borough. The names of the members of the Stonington Fishermen Association who died while doing their jobs were read aloud at Mass. A statue of St. Peter, patron saint of fishermen, was part of the procession through the streets of the borough following the Mass. Marchers included local fife and drum bands, brass bands and students from diocesan schools.
Then Bishop Cote, Fr. Dennis Perkins and 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.
The Bishop said a prayer for the safety of the fishermen and the important but often dangerous work that they do on the water.
After the ceremony, Bishop Cote walked the docks, blessing each fishing boat with holy water and meeting some of the crews. Fr. Perkins 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.
The ceremony concluded there, where a wreath in the shape of a broken anchor, commemorating the deceased local fishermen was cast into the water.
- By Ryan Blessing