St. Ann’s Novena Off To “Refreshing” Start

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SCRANTON -- An event that draws thousands of Catholics started Thursday in Scranton.

St. Ann's Novena brings crowds several times a day to the Electric City's west side.

St. Ann Street and the surrounding neighborhood in West Scranton becomes a parking lot leading up to the five masses that are held each day of the novena.

The novena is a lifelong tradition for many Catholics but something about the first day today wasn't so traditional.

Some Catholics say the first of the nine days leading up to St. Ann's feast day is the most refreshing. Hundreds started off the novena in West Scranton with early morning masses.

"This is very enlightening, it's just wonderful. I don't know how else to put it. It's a great, great inspiration," said Jean Haffner of Scranton.

Many said they gain a motivation only St. Ann's services can bring.

"It's moving, it's just moving. I call it a shot of B12!" said Carolyn Nardelli of Jessup.

As the mid-July day and the services go on typically, Vitamin D becomes a problem. Sometimes unbearable heat has become a trademark of the nine day event. But, temperatures were barely in the 70s for 11:45 mass.

"It is very refreshing, it's the perfect day. Let's hope we have nine days of this weather, then we'll all be happy."

The folks at St. Ann's Basilica are always prepared for the typical heat. Lackawanna Ambulance has a tent set up every year with extra water for folks if they need it. But, EMTs said they haven't given out any water so far today, so they'll have more on hand than they typically do.

"You're going to get rain one or two days. But, it happens, and we're here whether it's rain or shine," said Phillip Kolatis of Scranton.

The sometimes unruly weather has become as much of a tradition as the novena itself which brings in thousands of people, many who came as kids and now bring their own.

"We used to come with my grandfather, and go to Bershel's Dairy that used to be down there, because we only came for the ice cream. Now we come for something more," said Mary Kate Culkin of Clarks Summit.

Whether you've come to the novena all your life, or for the first time like Victoria Baracarola, the novena is refreshing in more ways than one.

"It really is amazing, it really is, because you just see all these cars and all these Catholics, non-Catholics, just coming here to pray."

The solemn novena to St. Ann will continue through next week, leading up to July 26, St. Ann's feast day in the Catholic Church.