Crowds gathered to celebrate the eighth annual Blessing of the Fleet at the Sydney Fish Markets on Sunday 29 September.
The celebration called for blessings and safe passage for fishers throughout the year and a bountiful catch during fishing season.
The centerpiece of festivity was the procession of a replica Madonna, Santa Maria Di Porto Salvo (Our Lady of Safe Harbour), guardian of seafarers and fishermen.
“The image of Our Lady of Safe Harbour is at the centre of a religious tradition stretching back through the centuries, imploring the mediation of Our Lady for the safety and wellbeing of our maritime brethren,” Said Fr Greg Morgan FMVD, parish priest of Ryde-Gladesville Catholic Parish, who presided over the ceremony.
“These are the people who brave wind and waves to feed not only their families but our own nation,” he told The Catholic Weekly.
The blessings of vessels included a firefighting boat from the Sydney Port Authority.
The original Madonna is found in the Calabrian fishing village, Bagnara Calabra- where many of Sydney’s fishermen find their heritage.
The replica Madonna, residing in St Martha’s Strathfield, was commissioned in 2012 by the late Salvatore Bagnato, founding president of the Association Bagnara Calabra; an association that represents the heritage Bagnaresi-Calabrian Australians.
A spokesperson of Association Bagnara Calabra spoke of the significance of the day for her community.
“We reflect on the lives and memories of our seafaring ancestors- many who had a life at sea that was fraught with danger and sacrifice,” she said.
The symbolism of fishing in the Church has Biblical roots with the twelve apostles being fishermen by trade.
Celebrants of the event all emphasised the importance of asking for God for safekeeping given the risks of the industry.
“Blessings such as these may not be as frequent or as sought after as they were in years gone by, but they are still very necessary,” said Fr Morgan.