Notre Dame Vice Chancellor presents Blessing of the Fleet with WA cross

27 Oct 2022

By Michelle Tan

President of the Fishing Fleet Festival Association John Mintiullo announcing the cancellation of the procession due to bad weather. Photo: Michelle Tan.

The annual celebration of the Blessing of the Fleet is a well-established tradition in the City of Fremantle.

The celebration observes the age-old Mediterranean practice to call on Mother Mary to intercede for the safety of seafarers, bless the fishing industry with bountiful catch, and to provide for the families who rely on fishing for survival.

It was first celebrated in Fremantle on 8 September 1948 by fishermen from Molfetta to venerate their patron saint, La Madonna Dei Martiri.

Monsignor Michael Keating with UNDA Vice Chancellor Prof Francis Campbell. Photo: Michelle Tan.

In 1952, they were joined by fishing families from Capo d’Orlando (Messina, Sicily), who brought along with them La Madonna di Capo d’Orlando.

This year’s Blessing had attracted hundreds of excited locals of all ages who were dressed up and ready to take part in the procession.

However, rain forced organisers to cancel the procession at the last minute, much to the disappointment of all who were involved.

President of the Fishing Fleet Festival Association John Mintiullo said “Unfortunately, we have to cancel the procession as we want to ensure the safety of everyone.”

In 1977 and 2001, the procession was also cancelled due to bad weather and in 2020, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The cancellation of the procession did not stop the community from celebrating the important and sacred elements of the festival. A triduum of Masses were celebrated by Fr Giancarlo Lollo OMI, from 18 to 20 October, in the lead up to the big day.

One of the boats taking part in the 2022 Blessing of the Fleet. Photo: Michelle Tan.

Mr Mintiullo said “I am sure that you would all agree with me that he was able to enlighten us all on the history of both statues and the true meaning of the word blessing. Father, you did good, very good!”

Mass was celebrated Sunday 23 October at St Patrick’s Basilica Fremantle Parish by Monsignor Michael Keating and concelebrated by Parish Priest and Rector of the Basilica, Fr John Sebastian OMI, Fremantle Assistant Parish Priests, Fr Giancarlo Lollo OMI, Fr Angelo Wijewickrama OMI, Fr John Patrick John Mary OMI and Fr Anthony Colbert OMI.

This was the first year that the University of Notre Dame Australia participated in the celebration, putting on a Family Fiesta, attended by UNDA Chancellor, the Hon Chris Ellison, Vice Chancellor, Prof Francis Campbell, Fremantle Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge, Member for Fremantle, the Hon Simone McGurk and Minister for Transport, Planning; Ports, the Hon Rita Saffioti.

Dignitaries pose with Msgr Michael Keating, fifth from left, UNDA Vice Chancellor Francis Campbell, far right, UNDA Chancellor, the Hon Chris Ellison, and President of the Fishing Fleet Festival Association, John Mintiullo and the 2022 Regina Christina Manuele, fourth from left. Photo: Michelle Tan.

Although the procession was cancelled, priests and committee members of the Fishing Fleet Festival Association drove to the UNDA fiesta where Prof Francis Campbell presented President John Mintiullo and the 2022 Blessing of the Fleet Regina, Christina Manuele, with a Notre Dame Cross, made from beautiful Western Australian jarrah wood. 

The party then drove to the harbour, where Mgr Keating and dignitaries boarded the boats to bless the fleets, before returning to St Patrick’s Basilica for Benediction. Perth Consul of Italy Nicolò Costantini was present and participated in the important spiritual activities of the day.

At the conclusion of the Benediction, Mr Mintiullo thanked the 18 Committee Members who had prepared for the event over the past year as well as the following individuals and groups for their support:

  • Angie and Stefani
  • Aquinas College Schola Cantorum
  • Organist Andrew
  • Soloist Bonnie
  • Nancy and the Amato Family
  • Carabineer Association
  • Christian Brothers College Fremantle
  • Seton College
  • Iona Presentation College
  • Flag Bearers
  • Fremantle Council
  • WA Police
  • Notre Dame University of Australia
  • InCasa Aged Care

Mr Mintiullo closed the festival and hoped that everyone will look forward to the 75th Anniversary of the Blessing of the Fleet next year.