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Mount Carmel's annual Italian fest honors faithful

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Published: Sat, July 23, 2016 @ 12:01 a.m.





The Italian game morra was a popular attraction at the 18th annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel Basilica Italian Festival in Youngstown.

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The Italian game morra was a popular attraction at the 18th annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel Basilica Italian Festival in Youngstown.

For Cathy Zack, there’s a continuity in her church, Mount Carmel Basilica, that suits her very well.

Born in 1936, she was baptized there, made her first communion and was confirmed there. In 1956, she and Bob Zack were married there.

And that was just the beginning.

A mother of five, a grandmother and a great-grandmother, she has immersed herself in the parish and now stays busy with close to 10 different groups that count on her, including the Mothers of the Crucifix Society, Bereavement Committee, festival, cook book, and spaghetti dinner.

Zack says she thinks the reason she was chosen woman of the year Friday at the basilica’s 18th annual Italian Festival is because of “all of your involvement with the parish and your love of the church. The church means so much to me.”

The basilica, on Via Mount Carmel Drive near Choffin Career & Technical Center downtown, hasn’t changed much since it was built in the years before she was born, she said.

“It’s very similar to as far back as I can remember,” she said of the Romanesque architectural masterpiece with antique, stained-glass windows. The basilica, which is on the U.S. Register of Historic Places, can be viewed on the inside during parts of the festival.

Zack says the pastor, Monsignor Michael J. Cariglio, and the rest of the church members are what make it the most special.

“The people, the community — you have no idea how wonderful they are,” she said.

Named Man of the year was Lou Fusillo, who has been employed by the parish 41 years as the primary church caterer. But he’s also been the church parish council chairman for four years and treasurer of the Youngstown Cursillo Movement, which attempts to help people become “fully Christian” by living his or her “internal tripod” of piety, study and action.

Like Zack, Fusillo has been at the parish all his life.

Fusillo says he thinks being Man of the year is about “involvement in the parish and community” — making himself available to the parish community. “I do it for the love of the Lord,” he said.

In a short speech after receiving the honor, Fusillo urged those in attendance to use opportunities like the Italian Festival to embrace their heritage.

“Our grandparents and parents came over from the old country and brought a lot of traditions here,” he said. “What I would ask is, teach the traditions to the future generations. Whatever your nationality is, promote it and be proud of it.”

Rocky DePizzo of Cortland, a Youngstown native, arrived with relatives Friday night in time to enjoy some of the festival food, including the cavatelli and meatballs, which is $5 at the catered-food tent.

One of the favorites for John Dugan of McDonald is the fried greens, which are $4. One of the most attractive dishes was the polenta, which consists of corn meal and grated cheese, with sausage sauce, for $4.

Throughout the grounds, food booths offered pizza, pepperoni rolls, pastries, shaved ice and elephant ears, for starters.

For kids, there’s a bounce-house and train ride. Golf carts and buses help visitors get to and from the festival from parking lots, in some cases, several blocks away.

The festival has perhaps the largest basket raffle in the area, with over 300 baskets to be raffled off over about two hours Sunday night. There are 13 baskets with a value of over $200.

Admission is $4, but free for children under 12 with their parents.

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