Against the backdrop of games, rides, music, food, faith and fireworks at this year’s St. Mary’s Feast, a well-known family in Knightsville will be remembering and celebrating the life of Kathleen Manzi.
Kathleen, who passed away earlier this year, was a founding member and past president of the St. Mary’s Feast Society Ladies Auxiliary, serving with the group for 27 years. Her devotion to the Blessed Mother was immeasurable.
This year, the St. Mary’s Feast Processional will be held in Kathleen’s memory, and the St. Mary’s Feast Society Ladies Auxiliary has had special T-shirts made for its float.
Kathleen’s daughter Maria Manzi now holds the title of president of the Ladies Auxiliary.
“It is a distinct honor and privilege to carry on my family’s Italian heritage and traditions, and to always honor the Blessed Mother,” she said. “We need Her blessings, especially in today’s day and age.”
Born the youngest of five children in the Corona section of Queens, New York, Kathleen worked as a secretary for Bennett Cerf, the founder of Random House Books. She took one train and two buses to work every day.
Kathleen met her future husband, Frank, when her sister Angela began dating his cousin, who was also from Rhode Island.
“Kathleen was a devoted and faithful individual … at the center of her life was our Blessed Lady, who guided her to be a faithful wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother,” said the Rev. William J. Ledoux, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Cranston.
In addition to her husband and her daughter Maria, Kathleen leaves behind her children Joseph F. Manzi Sr. and his wife, Barbara, and Camille A. Egan and her husband, Michael. She is also survived by five grandchildren and one great-grandson.
Kathleen and her husband have long played a vital role in the St. Mary's Feast Society and the Ladies Auxiliary. Both served for many years on the board and initiated many great programs and events.
“She never spoke a bad word about anyone,” Maria said. “Every family get-together included playing board games, eating seafood and having many laughs. She made everyone feel loved and welcomed.”
Among her many contributions, Kathleen instituted saying the rosary at the beginning of each monthly meeting of the Ladies Auxiliary, a tradition that still takes place to this day. She and her husband were also instrumental in the construction of the Civita building located at 15 Phenix Ave.
“My mom made a hook rug depicting the Madonna Della Civita holding Baby Jesus,” Maria said. “We still display this every year at our house on St. Mary’s Day.”
“Growing up in Knightsville meant the St. Mary’s Feast was a huge part of our lives,” Camille said. “Feast week meant open house to all family and friends. Music, food and drink was always flowing. I still don’t know how she did it. Mom was truly amazing and the perfect hostess.”
Camille added: “I have so many memories of mom and the feast. But the one constant memory every year was the look on her face when she looked at the statue of the Blessed Mother being carried out of the church … the look of such adoration on her face was mesmerizing and showed her dedication to the Blessed Mother.”
The Manzi family would begin cooking days in advance for their family’s huge celebration. Their yard, just like so many other yards in the neighborhood, became an “open-house” and all were welcome.
The day was all about family, friends, traditions, Italian heritage and most importantly, paying homage to the Blessed Mother. To this day, all of the feast family traditions are carried on by Kathleen’s children and grandchildren.
One week before the feast would have been Kathleen and Frank’s 57th wedding anniversary.
“This year will be the first feast without our mom, so it will be tough I’m sure,” Maria said. “But I know mom will be watching from up above with great pride and happiness for her family and friends that always continue to carry out our mission.”