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January 24, 2021
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News + Views

Carroll Gardens Sacred March

By Lisa M. Collins

Photos by Joshua Kristal

Sunday, Sept. 14 at 3 p.m.

Procession begins at Sacred Heart – St. Stephens Catholic Church at Summit and Hicks St.

Followed by fireworks at 7 p.m., and a mass at 7:30 p.m. by the Bishop of Brooklyn

Every year, the Italian-American community travels from far and wide to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn for the procession of Our Lady of Sorrows, Maria SS Addolorata, the patron saint of Mola di Bari, Italy. The Fellini-esque, candlelit march through the streets of Carroll Gardens. The 66th annual march for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows takes place Sunday, Sept. 14, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Sacred Procession CopyThe local Brooklyn Catholic community prepares for months for the march, enlisting the help of the younger generation to carry the heavy statue of Mary, in full funereal garb with a dagger through her heart, and the coffin holding Jesus. The hand-carved statue of Maria SS Addolorata has been used in Carroll Gardens since 1948, when it was brought here from Italy on a boat. The statue is held year-round at Sacred Hearts & St. Stephens, along with other patron saints from towns in Italy where Brooklyn immigrants hailed from.

To see the route, go to and for more info, visit this link.

Negotiations are tense for John Heyer II

Scotto Funeral Home Director John Heyer is a main organizer of the Good Friday procession.

The march ends with a dramatic event, as Mary kisses Jesus in front of the church, accompanied by fireworks. Good Friday marks the day Christ was crucified. The procession symbolizes a funeral march to Christ’s tomb. Sometimes, for the Sacred Hearts – St. Stephens event, an opera singer serenades the crowd from the steps of the church at the conclusion of the procession, for a truly heart-tingling experience.

The Carroll Gardens procession is more than 60 years old, and includes a funeral band and women singing traditional hymns in Italian. The march mirrors the event that takes place every year, on the same day, in Mola di Bari, a beautiful fishing and beach town on the Adriatic Sea in southern Italy.

A historic photo from the Good Friday procession from Sacred Heart-St. Stephens Catholic Church in Carroll Gardens.

A historic photo from the Good Friday procession from Sacred Heart-St. Stephens Catholic Church in Carroll Gardens.

A similar march takes place every September, for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, which used to take over Carroll Gardens and even saw Court Street shut down every year for the community to share in a large feast and festivities.

The video at the beginning of this article shows the 2011 September procession. It’s the only such event in the United States as Old World Europe keeps hold in our pocket of Brooklyn.

A few years ago, a Brooklyn woman launched a competing procession, with an alternate statue of the Maria SS Addolorata, in Bensonhurst, sparking a war of the sexes — and a war between Italian social clubs. The Brooklyn bishop had to intervene and enlisted the help of John Heyer, funeral director of Scotto Funeral Home on Court at 1st Place, to negotiate a peace deal.  To read our stories and see a photo essay on the Brooklyn Mola community, click here for the local men’s story, and here for the women’s story.

Allegrino Sale, owner of Good Food grocery on Court and 4th Place, which closed in late 2013, is one of the lead organizers of the event. In interviews he’s said the community’s big challenge in recent years has been to keep the young people involved.

From about the 1940s, people from Mola di Bari began to immigrate to Carroll Gardens, with a large wave of men coming to work on the docks in the 1960s. Many still live here, while many moved to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Staten Island and New Jersey, in the 1980s.

The hard-working hands of a local Molesi man, a former longshoreman, from the Van Westerhout Cittadini social club on Court at 4th Place.

For another account of the procession:

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