Despite the Heat, Worshippers Return to St. Ann’s Novena

SCRANTON, Pa. -- This stretch of hot weather coincides with an event that draws thousands of people to Scranton this week. The 95th solemn novena to St. Ann kicked off Wednesday morning.

Many of the masses at the solemn novena to St. Ann are celebrated outside and inside the basilica in Scranton. It's clear to see that inside in the air conditioning was the most popular option.

People who choose to worship in the sunshine come with provisions.

"It's a nice, peaceful thing to do," said Annabelle Tallo. "I do enjoy sitting outside once a year, I don't go in, and it's just something I pass on to my children and my grandchildren."

For many, the solemn novena to st. Ann is a family tradition that goes back generations. And since the 10-day event honoring the grandmother of Jesus always falls in mid-July, the heat is a part of that tradition.

Water is provided to worshippers, and you'll sometimes see people retreat to their car's air conditioning.

But the hottest place at the novena is inside the food stand. The volunteers who work there say while it may be pushing 90 degrees outside, it's consistently, about 20 degrees hotter inside the stand.

"We plan for that," Nancy Tora said. "We know we're going to have a heat wave and then horrific rainstorms, so water, water, water, constantly. And I tell the kids, 'please drink water, put a wet towel around your neck.' It's going to be hot and we're going to be cranky, so have patience with us if we're cranky!"

The food stand feeds the thousands who visit the novena and is a major fundraiser for St. Ann's Basilica. It's hard work in this heat, but the volunteers say it's all worth it.

"We have a great time down at the food stand, but we also remember what it's about. And it's about St. Ann and celebrating St. Ann and the ten days of the novena and it brings us all together on a different level," Tora said.

The novena is observed over nine days and culminates on the tenth day, that's next Friday, which is St. Ann's feast day.

To help out in these hot temperatures, a team from Pennsylvania Ambulance will be on hand the entire time.

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