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SoHo Religious Procession Just Like Scene in 'The Godfather,' Priest Says

Father Joe Lorenzo of the Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua evoked the "Godfather" movies, his favorites, to explain the Feast of St. Anthony street procession.
Father Joe Lorenzo of the Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua evoked the "Godfather" movies, his favorites, to explain the Feast of St. Anthony street procession.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

SOHO — Parishioners of the Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua will observe the feast day of their patron saint starting Saturday. To explain its signature street procession to the uninitiated, its pastor, Father Joe Lorenzo, evoked his favorite films.

"If you've seen 'The Godfather' movies, you know exactly what we're talking about," said Lorenzo. "The scene in 'The Godfather [Part] II' when Robert De Niro kills the Don in the procession, it was filmed here." 

Looking ahead to the 62nd annual Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua — which will be celebrated with Masses, food and a procession of a statue of St. Anthony — the pastor of the 154 Sullivan St. church recounted the order of Franciscan friars' filmic history. 

St. Anthony's was part of the first "Godfather" movie, too, Lorenzo said. A longtime priest of the church who is now deceased, Father Carmelo Medaglia, performed the Latin baptism near the end of the film. 

St. Anthony's had recently been renovated and looked too new to the filmmakers, so the scene with Medaglia was shot in St. Patrick's Old Cathedral on Mulberry Street instead, Lorenzo said. 

"When Father Carmelo went over to Old St. Patrick's, the story goes, he thought he was doing a religious film," Lorenzo said with a laugh.

"When he saw the movie, he was a little surprised about how they interspersed the baptism with all the murders." 

Lorenzo, a Brooklyn-born Yankees fan who entered seminary at age 13, said the church's famous procession honors the saint of "lost items, people and relationships." 

"People come to St. Anthony with all kinds of requests and leave intercessions to him — little notes," he said. 

The procession, which more than 1,000 people are expected to attend, will be held Wednesday after a solemn Mass that begins at 6 p.m. The group will sing Italian religious songs behind the statue of St. Anthony, which will be driven through the neighborhood on a truck, Lorenzo said. 

The hour-long procession will travel north up Sullivan Street, head east on Bleecker Street, turn right to head south on Thompson Street and turn right again onto Broome Street before heading back to the church. 

In another custom of the procession, ribbons will be fastened to the statue, to which people can pin cash. 

St. Anthony's 750-family parish will prepare to observe the feast day with Masses at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday. 

Italian food, including 1,000 of "the best meatballs you've ever tasted," made by one of the 15 friars who live on Sullivan Street and Thompson Street, will be for sale in the church's basement Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and all day Wednesday. 

Despite the procession's silver screen appearance, Lorenzo said he wants the ceremony to be more than a spectacle. 

"I hope it means something spiritual to people, rather than just cultural — that they would grow holier in their lives."