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Feast of St. Rocco, symbol of healing, celebrated in Glen Cove as family copes with illness

The Feast of St. Rocco is celebrated by the Church of St. Rocco in Glen Cove every year near the end of July, from Wednesday to Sunday. (Credit: Todd Maisel)

Every year since she was a kid, Cristina Cappiello, 24, has sat outside the Glen Cove home her great-grandfather built and waited for a statue of St. Rocco to be carried through her neighborhood.

The Feast of St. Rocco, a celebration of the patron saint of healing, was an event that her grandmother insisted the entire family attend together. But, this year, celebrating the patron saint of healing meant more to Cappiello and her family after her mom, Antoinette, 52, was diagnosed with cancer in April.

“It changed our outlook on everything and warped our world completely,” Cappiello said.

The feast is celebrated by the Church of St. Rocco in Glen Cove every year near the end of July, from Wednesday to Sunday. The five-day celebration, in its 44th year, boasts food and craft vendors, as well as carnival games and rides.

After Sunday Mass, on the final day of the feast, a statue of St. Rocco is rolled through the community by volunteers, as residents young and old come out of their homes to pin dollar bills and jewelry on the statue. They’re making offerings to the saint, known for devoting himself to victims of the bubonic plague, in hopes of healing for loved ones.

“The procession is an old, Italian tradition where the people come out and visit with the saint and put their faith in him and their sacrifices,” feast coordinator Angie Colangelo said.  “It’s about family, fun and faith.”

On Sunday, Cappiello’s family gathered outside the home her great-grandfather built after immigrating to the United States from Italy more than 70 years ago and, together, pinned their offerings to St. Rocco.

“We knew that coming would make us feel normal and at home,” Cappiello said.

The procession ended back at the church, where a small marching band played St. Rocco home with “When The Saints Go Marching In.” Attendees gathered at the door of the church, tossing confetti at the offering-clad statue.

All money and gifts collected go toward maintenance and operation of the 82-year-old church.

The ‘feast’ portion of the celebration is found in the 35 or more food and craft vendors. Italian sausage and peppers, pizza, funnel cakes and more are for sale among the craft booths, funhouses and carnival rides.

But, the main focus of the feast Sunday was the procession of the saint — a symbol of healing at a time when the Cappiello family needed a place to put their faith. The statue moved by the family's home followed by a few dozen of their neighbors. 

"Having the support of our community has made all the difference in this battle," Antoinette Cappiello said.