Praying for a safe and bountiful fishing season

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Fr Chris Slattery blesses a vessel as Sydney's fishing community prays for a safe season at sea. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Fr Chris Slattery blesses a vessel as Sydney’s fishing community prays for a safe season at sea. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

A statue of Madonna processed through the Sydney Fish Market on 27 September atop the shoulders of fishermen praying for a safe season at sea.

Fr Chris Slattery, parish priest of St Martha’s, Strathfield, led the procession which culminated in the annual blessing of the fleet.

Like many Sydney fisherman, Paul Bagnato can trace his family back to Calabria in south-west Italy.

“Every time a fisherman sets out on their boat, they hope for a safe passage and return, and Santa Maria watches over us,” he said.

“It’s an important part of who we are as a fishing community.”

The centrepiece of the event, the statue of St Maria of Porto Salvo, is a replica of the statue venerated in Bagnara Calabra, a Calabrian fishing town.

The Sydney statue was commissioned by the founding president of the Association Bagnara Calabra Sydney, the late Salvatore Bagnato, who oversaw its installation at St Martha’s.

Santa Maria Di Port Salvo, protector and guardian of seafarers and fishermen, roughly translates to St Mary of Safe Harbour.

More than 25,000 people turned out for a day at the fish market, which included musical performances, cooking demonstrations, and a spaghetti eating competition.

Sydney Fish Market general manager Bryan Skepper said: “The Blessing of the Fleet is a significant cultural event for our local fishers who are the lifeblood of Sydney Fish Market.”