They came from across the Northeast, including one family that traveled to Brooklyn from Delaware, according to Rev. John Heyer, the Sacred Heart & St. Stephen church event coordinator.
If the 500-strong procession is any indication, the port community formed by Italian immigrants over a century ago remains bound by tradition.
With a statue of Jesus Christ carried in a glass coffin, a 20-foot-tall likeness of the Virgin Mary, robed altar girls waving censers, and elderly women in black singing the rosary, the parade looked much as it did 60 years ago - but with LED lights inside old lanterns, and a steady barrage of camera flashes.
“New people came in,” honor guardsman Gianvito Bottalico said, from his post at the front of the parade. “Now these houses cost $1.5 million. It’s nothing like the old neighborhood.”
Bottalico, a retired bridge and tunnel worker, immigrated from the Sicilian island of Stromboli in the 1960s. The 63-year-old recalled a childhood spent watching girls in front of the ice cream parlor on Court Street and, later, strolling with his wife down the same block.
“This was our piazza,” said Bottalico, who has since moved to Bensonhurst.
Among the newcomers to Carroll Gardens are many Catholics, according to Heyer, including young couples who are excited about the neighborhood and the church. But Heyer frets that too many residents are being priced out as their families grow.
Stefanie Starna, who watched the procession from the sidewalk with her young son, hopes to buck the trend. A Canadian immigrant of Italian descent and a partner at the international finance consulting firm Deloitte, Starna, 40, said the church was a big part of her decision to buy a home in Carroll Gardens four years ago.
“It’s something special, I think, keeping the traditions alive,” Starna said. “We’re not going anywhere.”
St. Stephen’s Italian-language mass may not survive the coming decades, but, for now, people seem dedicated to picking up the torch, and flipping the light on.