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109th Annual Velika Gospa Returns to Armour Square

By Ed Komenda | August 12, 2015 5:27am
 The 2015 Volika Gospa Festival at St. Jerome Church kicks off Aug. 15.
The 2015 Volika Gospa Festival at St. Jerome Church kicks off Aug. 15.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

ARMOUR SQUARE — Velika Gospa, the neighborhood’s old-school, Croatian street festival and holy ceremony kicks off Saturday — and, yes: There will be plenty of roasted lamb.

The day begins with two masses — at 7:30 and 9 a.m. — at St. Jerome Croatian Catholic Church of Chicago, 2823 S. Princeton Ave., followed by a religious procession at 10:30 a.m.

The 109th annual procession of Velika Gospa celebrates the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin, a ceremony rooted in the small, Croatian town of Sinj, where, on one summer night in 1715, the townspeople prayed to local Church's painting of the Virgin Mary to help fend off approaching Turkish soldiers.

Since that night, Croatians in their home country have made a pilgrimage to the church every Aug. 15 to pay homage.

Locally, Croatians celebrate with an hour-long procession including busloads of marching band members, bagpipers, worshippers and folklore enthusiasts. Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th Ward) is expected to attend.

The procession route begins in front of St. Jerome’s Catholic School, winds its way around the block and through Bridgeport and returns to the school.

The ceremony’s Solemn High Mass starts at noon.

After mass, the church holds a festive street party with live music, dancing, fireworks, traditional Croatian desserts — including "povitica” (walnut roll) and “fritula” (fried dough) — barbecued hog and roasted lamb.

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