By Rosemary Ford
---- — People come to the Feast of the Three Saints in Lawrence for many different reasons.
First and foremost, they come as an expression of devotion to the saints — Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino. These these brothers, ranging in age from 19 to 22, faced torture and death in the third century — as their mother did before them — rather than renounce their faith in God.
Many also come to celebrate their Italian heritage — through music, language, food and the cultural activities the feast has become known for.
Yet, there’s also a third reason that many come for the feast, and that is for reunions with friends, family and former neighbors. It’s a giant block party for people who used to see each other every day.
Thus, tens of thousands are expected on Labor Day weekend for the latest Feast of the Three Saints, the 90th in Lawrence.
The Feast traces its roots to Sicily, the region where these three young men lived and died and where many miracles were credited to them after their deaths.
For centuries, Sicilians have held religious festivals honoring the three saints. When Sicilians began to emigrate around the turn of the last century, they brought the tradition of the feast with them — to places as diverse as Lawrence, Nebraska and even Australia.
Those immigrants who came to Lawrence founded the Sts. Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino Society, better known as the St. Alfio Society, in the early 1920s. Then, the society served as a social welfare organization, helping Italians in tough times, as well as organizing he Feast of the Three Saints.
Today, the society continues to help a variety of local charities, as well as organize the feast every year.
And 90 years after the first feast, you will still hear these words during the torchlight parade and the procession with the saints (always in Italian):
:Con vera fede: With true faith.
Con il tutto cuore: With all your heart.
Viva Sant’Alfio: Long live St. Alfio.