Ask Joan: It’s time for Feast of the Three Saints
August 28, 2023
Joan Hatem-Roy, CEO of AgeSpan

Each year, as August winds down, it means more than just a new school year. Labor Day weekend means it’s time for the Feast of the Three Saints, a beloved annual celebration here in Lawrence.

This year, the Feast will hold special meaning for me. Not just because it’s the 100th anniversary of the event, which is remarkable itself, but because in the spring my husband, Jack, and I traveled to Sicily, the site of the original celebration, to partake in the festivities.

What an incredible experience that was!

Just a few years ago, my husband had some health issues and I did not know if he’d ever be able to make the pilgrimage. To be with him in the village of Trecastagni overlooking Mount Etna last May was a truly emotional moment I will cherish forever. I know these same feelings will spill over into the upcoming celebration in Lawrence this Labor Day.

In Italy, the celebration of the Feast of the Three Saints is on May 10.

The three martyred saints are Alfio, Cirino and Filadelfo. The Feast attracts people from all over Sicily, some of whom walk many miles carrying heavy votive candles to the church in Trecastagni on the eve of the celebration.

The devotion of these pilgrims is unbelievable as many of them, the “nuri” or naked devotees, make the trip barefoot. They believe the Saints have the ability to heal the sick, grant continued good health, and perform miracles.

Some offer up paintings or even artificial limbs after they’re healed as tribute. These relics line the walls of the sanctuary.

The faith in this small town was truly amazing. We both grew up in the Lawrence area, so this Feast of the Three Saints, as well as others like the Lebanese Mahrajan, have been a part of our lives since we were children and are now part of our children’s lives as well. Those who attend have many generations of their families involved in the ceremonies.

I’m sure many families in the Merrimack Valley feel the same as we do about this fabulous tradition put on by the St. Alfio Society and have been involved since its inception in 1923. Festivals like this are important to building community pride and bringing people together. While many have disappeared from existence, this one just keeps getting stronger.

This year’s theme is “100 Years of Faith, Family, and Fun,” three things close to my heart.

The Feast opens on Friday, Sept. 1, with a procession to the Holy Rosary Shrine at 6 p.m. There will be a torchlight procession starting from the corner of Common and Newbury streets at 7:30 p.m. and fireworks on Saturday, Sept. 2. The mass in honor of the Three Saints takes place on Sunday, Sept. 3, at the Holy Rosary Shrine at 10 a.m. and the feast concludes at the bandstand on Sunday at 11 p.m.

Of course, there will be tons of music, food and fun things to do in between. Check out for a full schedule of events. I hope to see you there.

Are you caring for an older adult or need help locating healthy aging resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at for more information. You can also call us at 800-892-0890 or email Joan Hatem-Roy is the chief executive officer of AgeSpan.

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